Epistle on Race in America Now #Ferguson #NYPD #EricGarner #BLACKLIVESMATTER #ICANTBREATHE
I’ve been thinking about your recent post on fb (which I will not publish here without your permission but if it’s cool with you when you read this please copy and paste it into the comments below for the benefit of the other three people in the room with us). I’m sorry that I’m so busy and that I’m not closer; I know you feel the need to see me and I am drawn to see you and talk and see your wife and meet your son and embrace your mother again. Would I impose terribly if I came down to St Louis between Christmas and New Years?
I feel the need to describe the moment I’m in. It’s Thursday afternoon and I’ve finished at the Clown Factory. I have twenty minutes from eight minutes ago before I need to go pick up Little Tony from daycare. Today I started the day anticipating the return of the American manned space program and felt some disappointment that the launch was scrubbed until tomorrow. It was a good day at work but the mimes remain annoying.
Then I saw the news about the grand jury in New York that decided that Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who killed Eric Garner, shouldn’t be indicted. Eric Garner was a man who was suspected by police of selling cigarettes illegally. Not crates of cigarettes. Not cartons of cigarettes. Just individual cigarettes from a pack he had bought legally. This is the crime that the police were harassing him for. These are his last words on this Earth as captured by a bystanders cell phone:
“I’M MINDING MY BUSINESS, OFFICER, I’M MINDING MY BUSINESS. PLEASE JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. I TOLD YOU THE LAST TIME, PLEASE JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. PLEASE PLEASE, DON’T TOUCH ME. DO NOT TOUCH ME. I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T BREATHE.”
I have to go get Little Dude.
Little Dude is finishing dinner. We stopped at the store and picked up some food. They have these miniature shopping carts and it is so amazingly adorable. He’s finished up and needs a bath. Then snuggles and bed. Give me a little minute; okay, he’s in the bath, the laptops on the toilet and I’m on the floor in-between. We’re listening to the ‘Awesome Mix Vol 1’ from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. We’re burning him a similar mix for Christmas; a CD for my car and a cassette for Julia’s car of all his favorite songs from this year.
Here’s the thing, Brother Kenny Lazarus; I understand your hope.
Sorry. Poopies interrupted. I just finished singing him down to sleep and cleaning up. I’m back home, having some tea. It’s around 10:40.
It’s not that I don’t share your hope on some level because of course I do; but this is because we have wonderful lives of privilege based on our birth that engender hope. It’s not that I think you’re naive but rather that you see the path so clearly that sometimes it is difficult for you to see how obscured the way is for most. The problem is that enough people aren’t feeling outraged; they think that it would be so much better if everyone would just politely settle down and accept the story of the man who referred to the eighteen year old boy he shot as an ‘it’ who he believed was ‘bulking up’ to ‘run through the shots’ at him. The grand jury was a farce. Michael Wilson was nearly half a football field away from Darren Wilson and retreating when the fatal shots were fired; the illogic of how that could possibly be an act of self-defense doesn’t even seem to register with people. Even if Michael Brown made a grab for his weapon, the killing shots cannot possibly be justifiable. I have been twice involved in situations where a disturbed individual made a grab for a police officer’s gun; neither incident was resolved with a summary execution.
Hang on. Julia is here.
It’s 5:30 on Friday afternoon. The NYPD is blaming Eric Garner for his death.
The absence of legal segregation is nothing to celebrate; the bar needs to be much higher than that. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times; history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes. After the brief moment during Reconstruction when black skinned people were allowed to hold political office throughout the U.S. Jim Crow smothered African-Americans with legal Apartheid for nearly a century; Obama’s election was an historical fluke that blindsided people and the eruption of aggressive racism and efforts to disenfranchise African-Americans since his election has a very unsettling familiarity to me. Obama can’t make us better. We have to make ourselves better.
Evil is banal and tepid; it thrives in room temperature apathy and grows large in comfortable indifference. Evil doesn’t want anyone to make a fuss. The truth is rude. Lies are polite. Christ was beaten and murdered by the legal authorities with the blessing of the religious authorities and the whole thing was endorsed by the mob. The only person Jesus ever personally guaranteed He would see in Heaven was the thief hanging on the cross next to Him. It is impossible for me to reconcile my faith with blind obedience to authority or condemnation of sinners and stray souls. Authority must be able to justify itself; anything else is tyranny.
There is a time for overturning tables and chasing thieves from the temple. I want you to keep raising your voice, brother. It’s so much stronger than you believe.
Julia needs me to go over to her place to warm up the oven; I’m having dinner with her, Little Dude and Giant Hippie. This seems as good a place as any to say good night. But then I came back about an hour ago, put on ‘Guardians’ for the fifth time this week (I love this movie. Can’t wait for the Blu-ray) had some tea and played a little Civ. Then I reread this before I push the button and give it teh internets. Then I fell asleep without pushing the button. It’s Saturday morning now.
Some conservatives have been complaining about the media attention to this subject as if the problem is noticing the brutal racism in our law enforcement system; this is why it is important that everyone of conscience wakes up and speaks clearly.
My unlimited love to y’all,