Epistle on Race in America Now #Ferguson #NYPD #EricGarner #BLACKLIVESMATTER #ICANTBREATHE

Kenny-

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,

Winston

One Response to “Epistle on Race in America Now #Ferguson #NYPD #EricGarner #BLACKLIVESMATTER #ICANTBREATHE”

  1. Kenny Lazarus Says:

    It was great to hear the President weigh in on things this morning. Dare I say that his comments even brought me a little bit of unexpected and much needed hope?
    “Ferguson laid bare a problem that is not unique to St. Louis,” the President told reporters, describing a “simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.” He called for a “sustained conversation in which, in each region of the country, people are talking about this honestly.”
    Then, after talking about how focus groups and panel discussions had talked about these issues without making much progress, the President indicated that this time would be different by speaking words that reminded me of why I voted for him in the first place! He said, “Part of the reason this time will be different is because the President of the United States is deeply invested in making sure this time is different,” It has seemed that he has been so battered and beaten that he has forgotten about the power he really has. There has been such a disconnect between the voice of Candidate Obama and President Obama. Part of what i loved about him was his willingness to “fight the good fight!” It is really nice to see him pick up the gauntlet again!
    I realize that it is naive to think that progress might be made, But, remember we (for the most part) won the fight against legalized and open racism. By no means is this evidence of total victory, however, one does not see “Whites Only” signs on buses or dining counters that are openly enforced anymore. We have an opportunity unlike any we have ever had to have a conversation about institutionalized racism and the prejudices that lead to statistics like the fact that a young black male is 21% more likely to die at the hands of police that a young white man. (Sorry, can’t remember where I read this. The actual percentage may be slightly wrong, but the underlying truth of it can’t really be disputed.)
    To hear the President talk about this encourages me. Perhaps I am setting myself up for disappointment again. But, when I heard him speak this morning, I heard the same voice that I first heard give the keynote address at the the Democratic National Convention over 10 years ago! His vision of America was then and still seems to be a hopeful one. He finished his speech in 2004 with words that are just as, if not more powerful now, saying,
    “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America….”
    As President, as an Officer of the Court and as a man of color, he has, to use his words, an investment in this issue from both sides! There is always a time in history where things that seemed almost incidental (eventually we had to have a black President!) coalesce with events to create an unprecedented opportunity. (“Only Nixon could go to China!) While many other crises swirl around us, my hope for an improvement in how we treat one another, how we live with one another and for justice in our communities has been bolstered today! Thank you Mr. President for reminding me of the “Audacity of Hope!”

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