Monday, July 25, 2016

Philando Castile: Someone hit rewind!

Lake Superior - Northern Minnesota
I've moved to Minnesota. Before settling in, I took a trip with the family through northern Minnesota - breathtaking.

During this time, our new neighborhood was subjected to torrential winds and rain and downed trees leaving some without power.

Also that week, Philando Castile, an African American, was shot and killed by a white police officer during what initially was reported to be a routine traffic stop one neighborhood over from our new home.

It seems such a shame that the Mr. Castile could not tell the officer who he was: a popular, well-liked cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori School in St Paul before he was shot and killed. I have to believe that would have created immediate understanding  - despite the fact that he was carrying a gun.

I just moved to St Paul, and it would have meant a lot to me.

Isn’t that what many people pulled over in a small town do - stress their credentials or ties to the officer (my girlfriend’s sister is a friend of X who knows Y who knows you) or the town? Aren’t millions of dollars donated each year to police benevolent associations, stickers sent out and affixed to the bumpers of cars for this reason? Isn't it a badge of honor to talk your way out of a ticket?

Or is the whole exercise pointless for a young African American man - especially if he is carrying a gun? Perhaps worse, do some in the African American community feel it is pointless, not worth mentioning or striving to earn the credentials and reputation that Mr. Castile had?

Diamond Reynolds did mention to the office that her boyfriend worked for St. Paul public schools, and added: "He's not a gang member, anything."

Unfortunately, she said this only after he was shot.

What a shame!

Our neighborhood's listserv erupted in a volley of posts including comments from one of Castile's relatives who happily sends her kids to school here. That's not enough. Every American needs to get down on their knees and beg forgiveness of every African American who has and continues to have to experience institutionalized injustice. The police have to be better trained to allow African Americans to speak for themselves so something like this horror does not happen again.