How Did He Not See A Family? And Other Questions in the Wake of Philando Castile
Today’s post is written by my husband. For those who don’t know, Mr. S is a middle school teacher and former flag football coach. When the news of Philando Castile’s death came out, he felt a connection to the man who was in a car with his family and who served his community in the same way. These are his thoughts…
How did he not see a family? What is it that makes a man not see a family when confronted with one? What makes a man see danger in that moment? A man, woman, and child to me is a family*. That is what I see no matter what the situation. What changes that for a man? A man with a gun and the authority to do anything. Literally. Is it race? Is it hate? Is it social conditioning brought on by a culture of racism that has existed and grown in this country before it even was one?
Honestly, none of these causes will satisfy me. No answer will erase what that young girl in the back seat of a car in Minnesota saw when police murdered a man she knew in front of her. No reason will instantly heal the woman who loved him but could not grieve for him because she knew her documentation of the incident could be the only record of the truth. No rationale will subdue a population that has watched day after day members of their communities murdered with little more than an afterthought.We have been blamed for our own victim status for the duration of the abuse. We have been told that if only we are complicit with directives of police then our lives would be spared. What do we do when fear and bigotry force that officer to give directives that place us in the center of his crosshairs? What do you tell a teenage boy that has lost his father to the cowardly and overly aggressive actions of police officers? Nothing will console him.
As a black father of a black boy, I feel powerless. How can I ensure my safety and that of my family in an environment that accepts the brutalizing and murdering of black bodies as a daily occurrence? How can I feel as if I am part of this country when I can’t even exist without the fear of losing my life at the hands of a police force that sees me not as a father or a husband, not as a teacher or coach but as a threat? If I can’t rely on those who have been entrusted to keep me and my family safe in an often times violent world, what is my recourse? I may not have one and that is the most frightening fact in all of this.
What type of political activism could I engage in that would make a dent in 400 years of systematic oppression designed to vilify and degrade a strong and resilient people? Which elected official’s office do I flood with emails and calls to change the reality of death by police in the black community? Who do I march with? Where do I protest?
One thing that I have learned as a teacher, coach, and father is that consistent consequences work. When done right they are immediate and they are felt by the perpetrator. They are an effective deterrent to behavior that is unwanted and unacceptable and that is not to be repeated. Interestingly consistent consequences have been absent from each incident involving police murder of a person of color in America since the killing of Mike Brown. No indictment. No jail time. Instead, a vacation paid by the very people being terrorized and a GoFundMe page full of monetary support from those in this country that justify these killings using bigoted and fear-laced dogma.
The most effective way to begin to heal the festering wound of systematic racism and brutality in this country is to begin to seriously hold the officers accountable who commit these heinous crimes against black and brown Americans. The most immediate way to restore trust in the police forces across the country is for those in uniform, who know that these criminals are amongst them, to speak out against them and stand with the protesters. Prosecutors and police officers need to use their power and privilege to help repair our country.
But now, as I write this post, everything has changed. As I type, police officers lie dead in Dallas in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a protest that both city officials and activists organized as a peaceful response to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Who will bear the blame? Will we be able to continue the work that needs to be done to keep all Americans, black and blue, safe?
*We acknowledge that this is not the only type of family. This is the heteronormative view of a family and one that most people think of when discussing family.*
If you’re interested in working on exposing your own privilege, prejudice, and pride, in order to prevent them from spilling over into your parenting, check out my online course Raising an Advocate 101.