My friend Tquan called me yesterday afternoon just to check on how I was feeling after the events of the past week – the murder of Daunte Wright in Minnesota and the NBC 5 story about virtual “slave trading’ by ninth graders in neighboring Aledo ISD – https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/carter-in-the-classroom/students-of-color-slave-traded-by-other-students-in-online-game-at-aledo-school/2603399/.
I’m so grateful for Tquan and the other members of the Be the Bridge group I’m a part of. Be the Bridge is an opportunity to address issues of racial reconciliation with other folks seeking the same end. I’m grateful that my church has begun to speak openly and more frequently about race and racism, and more importantly, to listen and value the diversity of God’s kids. The relationships that have begun to form are a blessing.
Feelings are still difficult for me to figure out – at least on the spur of the moment. All I could tell Tquan is that neither incident surprised me but left me feeling a deep sadness and perhaps a bit numb – so much so that I’d taken a break from the news for the last two days. However, I hadn’t yesterday…
I hung up the phone and the NPR story came on about Daunte Wright. His mother and his grandmother were speaking. “You took him away from us.” Their words of unspeakable loss and cries of anguish broke my heart and feelings erupted like the explosion of a long dormant volcano. I began to sob uncontrollably as I barreled down I-30 toward home.
I know what it is to lose a child. The pain is indescribable. It cuts so deep that words cannot convey it, nor can the real damage be visible. It slices to the very core of your being. The thought of one’s grandkids without their father, of the coming Christmases, Thanksgivings, and birthdays steals all joy and hope. It leaves you permanently scarred and broken. A piece of your life has been taken away forever.
Still, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to lose a son to murder – especially murder at the hands of those who claim to serve and protect. They call may try to call it an accident, but it is murder plain and simple. The traffic stop itself was an intentional act. The racial profiling and treatment of People of Color by the police was, and is, an intentional act.
News reports have differed on the reasons why Daunte was pulled over. Many are saying it was because of an air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror. The ACLU reported last night that the stop was made because of expired registration. It doesn’t matter. The real reason, the one unsaid, is far more insidious – being pulled over for driving while black…
An air freshener hangs on the mirrors of many of the vehicles I pass every day. I’ve never been pulled over for it. I have been pulled over twice for expired registration. I had simply forgot about it. I was told to go get it taken care of and let go without a ticket. Then again, I’m white…
If Tquan called today to see how I was feeling it wouldn’t be difficult to name the feelings – outrage, anger, and furious. When is enough, enough?
I’ve already begun to hear the excuses made by many of my white acquaintances. “He should’ve just cooperated”. They wouldn’t have pulled him over without good reason”. “He shouldn’t have resisted”. Such responses are expected. Systemic racism runs deep. White privilege can’t possibly understand what systemic racism inflicts on People of Color.
The bottom line is a gun never should have been drawn in the first place. Had Daunte been white it would not have. There couldn’t have been an “accident”. Besides, if a twenty-six-year veteran police officer cannot tell the difference from a 9mm handgun and a taser, they have no business serving as a police officer.
There are no excuses. Enough is enough. Call it what it is – murder. Daunte died less than a year and only a few miles away from where George Floyd was brutally murdered by Derek Chauvin. There have already been over 230 people killed by the police since January 1st, 2021. How much longer, Lord?
Yes, Tquan, I’m mad as hell. That’s how I feel today. Somewhere, buried deep in my spirit is hope that maybe we’ll realize enough is enough. Groups like Be the Bridge are moving in the right direction but there’s much to be done. Ms. Opal Lee, my mentor and friend, reminds us “that if hate can be taught, a person can be taught to love”. I hope and pray that the feelings of anger I have are felt by many others. I hope they’re channeled into positive action that teaches all of us how to love God’s kids better. I hope and pray I don’t hear the anguished cries of mother, grandmothers, and families because another child was taken by police violence.
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” – Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (1994)