to GLENN.BRAND, edward.foster, Tom, race, Jennifer.Bryson,
Dear Superintendent Brand et al,. I’m grateful for the opportunity to follow up as promised. I am hoping to de-politicize this conflict with a quick analogy:
Imagine that e.coli-tainted lettuce killed so many people that it led to hundreds of marches and protests in the country in every state in the nation….….Including one right here in Wilmington, MA .
Imagine that a Wilmington public school then posted a sign at its doors reading “THIS SCHOOL SUPPORT DOLE BAGGED SALADS!”….would THAT seem inappropriate, insensitive, and kind-of-digusting-the-more-you-think-about-it?….would it be less kind-of-digusting-the-more-you-think-about-it if a surrogate for the school had posted the sign, instead?
(I haven’t looked into it personally, but I’d venture to guess that frequent contact with bagged salads has a more consistent correlation with positive outcomes than does frequent contact with the police, no?)
And while it is important to try to de-politicize, it’s also important not to trivialize:
The Black Lives Matter protests didn’t start because e.coli was killing anyone; it didn’t even start because covid-19 was killing Blacks and minorities at disproportionate rates. They started because the POLICE murdered ANOTHER Black man.
Thanks again for your attention and consideration on the matter.
Anti-racist resources and specific requests regarding June 18 sign
Kendal Vaughan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Aug 3, 2020, 4:13 PM (3 days ago)
Dear Superintendent Brand:
I am the woman who objected to a yard sign steeped in racism—the one planted in the yard of the PTO President for the West Intermediate School, where WPS administrators directed parents and students to go to retrieve end-of-year items.
I am the woman who was ignored by yourself and the principal on multiple occasions.
And, as you know, I am the woman who was arrested for protesting this sign.
I would like to follow up again with you about the sign-related incident on June 18, 2020 and to inquire about which organizations or individuals I should contact instead if this is not within your purview.
I may not have been specific enough in my previous correspondences, and I apologize; what I am asking of you and WPS leadership, specifically, is the following:
– to review the resources and materials provided herein;
– to examine the body of information available on systemic and institutionalized racism; and
– to condemn the racist sentiment in the sign and the venue in which it was displayed.
To summarize the context of my letter and the incident at hand, on June 18, 2020:o West Intermediate tells families of 5th graders to go to PTO President’s front steps to pick up West Intermediate yearbooks and West Intermediate School shirts;o I go to designated address, directly past their posted sign reading “This family supports our police and first responders”I emailed Principal Shaw about the racism in the sign; o I received no reply by the time it started to get dark;o I returned to the street in front of the address provided by the school, played a YouTube Black Lives Matter playlist from a bluetooth speaker;Without approaching or addressing me, the President of the PTO and her husband simply called the police;The police arrived, asked that I turn down the music, and I immediately complied;I spoke with officers for probably 40 or so minutes; when one officer told me I would be arrested for disturbing the peace [long after having attenuated the volume of my music], and I asked how I was violating that law or ordinance, one officer said “it’s really vague” and the other said “you’re under arrest.”
As it pertains to the thinly veiled racist sentiment underlying that sign, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to explain again why this is racist:
“This family supports police…”—particularly in the aftermath of George Floyd’s, and Ahmed Arbery’s, and Breonna Taylor’s murders–inextricably conveys “This family supports the institution that killed these Black people [and hundreds more–with impunity].”
If this PTO President had a sign that read “This family supports Nazis and systemic racism,” no one would be arguing that she had a right to her personal signage in her role designated by the school for yearbooks, etc.;
(…and, in deference to the first responders within this analogy, it wouldn’t be any better if that sign read “This family supports Nazis and cute, cuddly bunnies.”)
If that PTO President had a sign that read “All lives matter,” you’d face a deluge of articles and papers from experts explaining appropriation, marginalization, and the inherent racism therein.
If that PTO President had a sign that read “Blue lives matter,” you’d face something similar, perhaps with the added scrutiny of the statistics that reveal roughly 50 police are killed annually, while they kill about 1,000 people per year (killing Blacks at a 2.5-3x higher rate than whites).
If that PTO President had a sign that simply paraphrases “Blue lives matter,” though……….. why would you give your stamp of approval–or even tacit approval?
“Because the flag has also been associated with white supremacist groups, some say it symbolizes a blatantly racist agenda. And since it has also been adopted by the “Blue Lives Matter” movement, which launched in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, many believe it connotes opposition to the goals of ending police brutality and systemic racism.”
“If you feel like there’s nothing wrong with saying “Blue Lives Matter,” you’re privileged. It’s inconsiderate, it’s insensitive, it’s distasteful, and it’s racist.”
What if that PTO President had posted a sign that more plainly read “This family supports A SYSTEMICALLY RACIST INSTITUTION”?
…Would it be okay to remain silent then?
…Would it be okay to give tacit approval then?
How much data, how many peer-reviewed articles, how many acclaimed writers’ publications would I need to cite for you to see that, because policing has such historically racist roots; continually introduces and enforces racist policies and practices; and perhaps most importantly, consistently delivers outcomes that demonstrably and predictably target, disenfranchise, brutalize, imprison, criminalize, and murder Black people, it is an inherently racist institution???
“More specifically, African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet comprise 40 percent of those incarcerated. Statistically, 1 in 3 African American males born in 2001 will go to prison at some point during their lifetime… African Americans are also 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts. In their interactions with law enforcement officers, young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot by a law enforcement officer than their white counterparts”
“When we apply the threshold test to our traffic stop data, we find that police require less suspicion to search black and Hispanice drivers than white drivers. The double standard is evidence of discrimination.”
“Police kill, on average, 2.8 men per day. Police were responsible for about 8% of all homicides with adult male victims between 2012 and 2018. Black men’s mortality risk is between 1.9 and 2.4 deaths per 100 000 per year… and White risk is between 0.6 and 0.7”
“the source of worry for Black communities may lie in the historical brutality and poor relations between themselves and the police, as suggested by Hagan et al. (2005)…. Rather than forming a gradient by falling midway between Blacks and Whites, Hispanics’ worry about police brutality more closely reflects those of Blacks at more than four times that of Whites, suggesting a racial/ethnic divide. These findings thus assert that worrying about police brutality is an emotional injury that minorities disproportionately experience”
“In the 50 years after the passage of major civil rights legislation in the country, Blacks are still stereotyped, stigmatized, dehumanized and blamed for many of the social ills that this nation confronts… Being a young Black male is to be associated with criminality, deviousness, and violence and to be considered innately inferior, violent, and animalistic… Given the rise in excessive force on Black men by police officers…perhaps now is the time to fully address this problem.”
“Stanford University social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt, PhD, and colleagues analyzed data from the police department in Oakland, California, and found that while black residents make up 28 percent of the Oakland population, they accounted for 60 percent of police stops. What’s more, black men were four times more likely than white men to be searched during a traffic stop, even though officers were no more likely to recover contraband when searching black suspects (Stanford SPARQ, 2016).And in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, where cafeteria worker Philando Castile was fatally shot by a nonblack officer in July after being pulled over for a broken taillight, statistics released by the local St. Anthony Police Department showed that about 7 percent of residents in the area are black, but they account for 47 percent of arrests.”
I understand that Wilmington prides itself as supporting an educated constituency, divorced from ignorant, backward views.
It might be reasonable, then, to compare ourselves to our neighbors–whose “progressive” town still uses a Native American as its mascot whilst still calling them “Indians“–who have a more comprehensive anti-racism curriculum proposal (generated by high school students) prepared than does our town’s cast of grown-ups charged with providing our youth with an anti-racist education. Link provided.
“The handful of students came together in May after Nakirayi a 15-year old rising sophomore, created a Change.org petition which asked Billerica Public School administrators to incorporate more lessons at all grade levels on systemic racism…. after working through the idea in a group-chat, the seven [students] … Nakirayi said while race is addressed at the high school level — currently, there is a course for juniors — she said the reach of the topic should be wider, integrated into all areas of learning.”
And on the topic of local news, NPR writer Tovia Smith wrote of the current situation in Hingham [cited above]: “Because the [thin blue line] flag has also been associated with white supremacist groups, some say it symbolizes a blatantly racist agenda. And since it has also been adopted by the “Blue Lives Matter” movement, which launched in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, many believe it connotes opposition to the goals of ending police brutality and systemic racism.”
I would like to cite this situation, in particular, because it involves a conflict with police and first responders, in that the local police demanded the removal of the thin blue line flag from a town fire truck, and it was the firefighters who stood in defiance even of the police to defend the ongoing use (across the state, in fact) of the thin blue line flag with its known connections to white supremacy. I mean no affront to first responders—in fact I, too, tend to hold them in a separate regard than police in many situations—however, to suggest that rewording “blue lives matter” to “this family supports our police and first responders” softens the anti-Black sentiment implied therein would be irresponsible.
As a taxpayer in our town with two students in its public school system, I have a reasonable expectation that my children receive an anti-racist education.
I should also have a reasonable expectation that pointing out racism within a school-designated arena should not be met with silence from the school, a ‘Karen’-phone call to the police, or a dubious arrest at the hands of those whose racism and power dynamic were the problematic subjects of that person’s sign in the first place.
Finally, I wanted to provide additional resources that you, the school committee, and your teachers and administrators may find helpful going forward:
“The form of anti-black violence with the most striking parallels to contemporary conversations ispolice brutality. As Katie Nodjimbadem reported in 2017, a regional crime survey of late 1920s Chicago and Cook County, Illinois, found that while African Americans constituted just 5 percent of the area’s population, they made up 30 percent of the victims of police killings…. Today, this legacy is exemplified bybroken windows policing, a controversial approach that encourages racial profiling and targets African American and Latino communities. “What we see is a continuation of an unequal relationship that has been exacerbated, made worse if you will, by the militarization and the increase in fire power of police forces around the country,” William Pretzer, senior curator at NMAAHC, told Smithsonian in 2017.
In closing, I would like to reiterate what I am asking of you and WPS leadership:
– to review the resources and materials provided herein;
– to examine the body of information available on systemic and institutionalized racism; and
– to condemn the racist sentiment in the sign and the venue in which it was displayed.
email to team families regarding my arrest for “disturbing the peace” 🙂
REGISTRATION…. TEAM PARTY… DISTURBANCES OF PEACE 🙂
Jul 6, 2020, 8:20 PM
Greetings, Soccer Family!!
I’m reaching out about the fall registration deadline, an end of season gathering…and my arrest the other week featured in the Wilmington Apple 🙂 1. To play the 2020-2021 travel soccer season, YOU MUST REGISTER BY TODAY JULY 6!
2. Tom will follow up in a few days with a survey to gauge interest and availability for a gathering toward the end of July 🙂
3. I was arrested in Wilmington for disturbing the peace on the eve of Juneteenth (for protest in support of Black Lives Matter)
I’m sure everyone is psyched to delve right into the next 3 zillion words here, but before political differences pull us apart, I thought it’d be worth collectively appreciating that a story about someone else getting arrested is almost *always* preferable to descriptions of vague field markings, reminders of arrival times, and/or inclement weather protocols. So at least there’s that…..
PERTAINING TO THE TEAM PARTY I had been truly optimistic about an end-of-year team pool party; however, I’ve become poignantly aware over the past couple weeks that my positions and actions regarding things like social and racial justice are outside some folks’ comfort zone. Tommy had a playdate canceled over it, so I wouldn’t want to convene a Team Family Pool Party only to have some families later feel “blind-sided” by my opinions or activism.
I’d certainly love to facilitate a gathering for players and families if covid-data trends encouragingly, but like I said, Tom will send out a survey in a few days to determine if that’s a real consideration for families or not 🙂
THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO MY ARREST <– I gotta admit that’s not the most comforting phrase to read in an email from your kid’s youth sports coach, but I am grateful for the opportunity to provide an explanation to families directly….
I went to pick up Kierra’s West Yearbook at the address that the school provided to families. Specifically, the school directed all 5th grade families to retrieve yearbooks from this resident’s front steps–next to which the residents posted their yard sign.
(The date of the pickup, obviously, was in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s murder (and also on the eve of Juneteenth))
When I arrived at the house, I walked up the walkway, past the sign containing a thinly veiled racist sentiment (“MORE BELOW”), up the front steps to retrieve the bag with my daughter’s name on it… then back past the sign etc to my car.
I emailed the school, waited for a reply, and none came (I still haven’t received one).
I expressed my objection to that signage to the residents later that same day.
I played music and speeches from an anti-racist playlist from the street on a small Bluetooth speaker around 9:45/10pm.
Neither adult resident of the home ever spoke to me directly or asked me to turn the volume down — they just called the police
(An adult male did calmly take out the trash while I was in the street, but never acknowledged or spoke to me.)
Immediately upon the request of officers, I attenuated the volume of my music. I asked them if the music was at an acceptable level, and they assured me it was.
After 40 minutes of talking with multiple officers, one officer (presumably having endured 40 more minutes of “liberal propaganda” than he bargained for ;)) threatened to arrest me [for disturbing the peace] if I didn’t leave immediately; when I asked what about the law or ordinance I was violating, one officer said, “it’s really vague…” and the other said “you’re under arrest.”
“MORE BELOW” In the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmad Aubrey, Sean Reed (…and Sandra Bland, David McAtee, Tony McDade… Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Philandro Castile, Jemel Roberson… and Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice…) — and while the country (and purportedly the community) is discussing the cultural and institutional changes needed to end police brutality against black people… Putting up a sign that says “this family supports the police” unequivocally and inextricably conveys “we support the institution that killed all of these Black people–and hundreds more–with impunity.”
BUT THEN THIS ENSUED…. I object/ objected to the school’s role to allow a community member to impose racist social or political positions on students and families within the scope of school-designated activities.
I object/ objected to an individual’s (or residents’) perceived entitlement to force the those positions on students and families–especially within a your-presence-required but your-dissenting-opinion-not-allowed realm.
I did not embark on an anti-police protest (and to be fair, if that were my point, I would have been in front of the police station…)
At the time of this incident, I had felt like the sign and the conditions under which it was displayed said “I’m going to force you to listen to my opinion, I’m under no obligation to listen to yours–and just remember: the police will be on my side if we disagree.”
THEN the individual called the police without ever speaking to me or asking me to play my music elsewhere or anything else.
THEN the police made an arrest without explaining what or how I violated any law or ordinance.
THEN the individual sent a sign-your-own print-from-home form letter to my house threatening arrest if I were “in or around the premises” of the house that I was on the street in front of
….but if you figured “the police would never enforce a sign-your-own print-from-home threat of arrest like they would a restraining order!”
…then you might find it a bit concerning that the form letter was made available on the Wilmington Police website…
MY WHOLE POINT I do feel like the response of the resident and police illustrate a problematic power structure, but obviously at the time, my whole point in emailing the school and protesting the sign (and getting arrested, I suppose?) had been to point out a sentiment that was expressed in response and opposition to Black Lives Matter.
My enthusiasm for–and indeed my dependence on–pickup soccer is no secret… Missing those games and my friends through the quarantine was awful: I became isolated and depressed, and it sucked. The race of the guys I play with wouldn’t even be relevant–they’re just my mates…. But since these are the guys who keep my soul afloat from week to week, it feels irresponsible for me not to say something in some capacity:
My friends and the men I play with are black, most of them first generation African students, workers, and citizens. Among the guys I’d play with every week, there were guys with Masters degrees, a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, marketers, engineers, coaches, players, and healthcare workers…. and I’m telling you from years of knowing these guys, that the men I’ve met have been the most inclusive, welcoming, supportive, kind, and respectful “clique” of people I’ve ever associated myself with…. But all of those beautiful and important things that make up my friends never get seen through officers’ (or individuals’) eyes when they equate black skin with “potential danger” or “a reason to be on alert.”
I hate when someone prefaces a gender equality argument with “as the father of a daughter…” (like girls wouldn’t deserve equal treatment if you personally had only spawned boys?)… Similarly, I don’t want to frame my position like “as a person to whom black people personally matter…” But for better or worse, black men and boys do matter a lot to me personally… and I won’t always have the right approach, but I will never be sorry for committing to the safest possible world for my friends and those who look like them.
While I did have quite the thrilling evening in the care and custody of Wilmington’s finest this week—almost as thrilling as this opportunity to share it with the internet—I’m seriously NOT thrilled to still be having the same damn “yeah, that’s f-cking racist” conversation.
really felt like “all lives matter” and its similarly dismissive, reductive,
and appropriative derivative, “blue lives matter,” had been sufficiently
condemned and categorized under the umbrella of “yeah, that’s racist.” I’m not
sure I’m wrong, but I am certain that “this family supports police and first
responders” is a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the known polarity of
“blue lives matter.”
smarter people than I have written volumes on this:
links to such material appear at the bottom of this post as APPENDIX 1.
approach is not dissimilar to dog-whistle politics:
Ø Someone posts a sign (amid a
backdrop of national unrest over the murders of black men and women at the
hands of police) that they support the police;
Ø Many people, particularly those
impacted by police over-reach, brutality, or profiling, recognize that sign in
this climate, as antithetical to “I care to listen to new and different ideas
on how to prevent more and more black men and women being shot by the police”;
Ø The choice of language allows the
idea to propagate, whilst allowing readers to overlook seemingly less
uncomfortable overtones, and also making it seemingly easier to attribute any
objections to the content as hyper-sensitivity.
up the yearbook, and I was incensed not only by the sign but also the school’s
role in requiring everyone to walk past it—and in doing so, forcing those who
were sent to this address to have to weigh, “This is highly objectionable:
should I point this out, or should I overlook it? Am I okay with saying
nothing—with using my silence to give tacit approval?”
But here’s the thing: I AM NOT YOUR SILENT MAJORITY ANYTHING.
a role in a school organization to impose your racist signage on people isn’t
okay. Why would you expect me to stay silent? Why did you think that that was a
because there was no school for the rest of the summer, and no physical
infrastructure to seek recourse? Perhaps because the very nature of your sign
was designed to instill fear of dissent?
can predict several “placating” objections that folks will raise…. You know
those objections? You agree on principle, but you don’t like the discord it
creates among your peer group, so you toss in some relatively specious
objection so that you can reach a middle ground with the people you care
about….? Incidentally, these would be the same arguments that one would employ
to express personal alignment with the signage, whilst, in the name of tact and
diplomacy, never having to own authentic ideological alignment:
example: “I agree racism is bad, but… ‘I don’t like the time of day she
chose’ or ‘She should have taken it up with the school’ or ‘People are entitled
to their beliefs’ or ‘Her approach was too confrontational’…”
you prepare those respective objections, please note the timeline: I retrieved
the yearbook. I was outraged. I paused before emailing the school. I emailed
the school. I waited for a reply. One never came. I voiced my objection on the
day that the school sent students to that address—at a time that gave the
school as much time as possible to respond before I would run into ‘quiet
hours’: I felt that the following day, the individual returned to being a
private citizen, entitled to her own signage; but on that day specifically,
that household elected to serve as an extension of—or substitute for—the public
Below are portions of the email that I sent to the school after retrieving the yearbook:
Dear Mr. Shaw:
I don’t know how to fit ‘outraged,’ ‘appalled,’ disgusted,’ and
‘furious’ into one word, but if I could it would sound like a scream and a
4-letter word mixed together. …..
Dogwhistle signage is offensive enough when you simply
drive by it, but forcing students and families to walk past it to redeem their
yearbooks is beyond deplorable.
“This family supports police and first responders” is
about as subtle as “all lives matter”–and EVERYONE impacted by the
police treatment of minority populations recognizes the abject racism that that
I understand that a school system cannot and would not tell a
parent or community member which signs they can post…… but if that system
cannot be sure that it isn’t sending impressionable children–including black
and brown children and families–to the doors of a woman whose racism no longer
even passes as willful ignorance, then that school system CANNOT in ANY
conscience allow her to distribute yearbooks or ANYTHING else associated with
our schools. ….
The teachers have been wonderful in and out of quarantine, and I
attribute everything wonderful in that school to your involvement and
influence. I don’t want to sound angry with the school like it was your/their
“fault” for a student’s parents’ signage, but the way this
materialized is horrifying to me. … I do truly hope someone addresses the
implications that this had for students and families who were forced to walk
language sounds extreme, I’ve been told…. But how would you respond if you
had to engage with a sign on MY lawn that said, for example, “I support the
maintenance of an institution that kills individuals with [insert a
characteristic applicable to your own child] at a drastically higher rate, and
with impunity?” Does it still sound as extreme in that context?)
assumption was that someone who would force their social and political views on
students and families in an arena where they were required to go for a school
item might be amenable to hearing opposing arguments to the signage she had
posted, but I was wrong.
didn’t find that out, though, when I played music (which included old classics
like “Changes” by 2Pac and new favorites like “No justice No peace protest
chant remix”) from the street, and someone politely (or even rudely) came out
and asked me to turn it down. Or when someone yelled from the steps or a
window. That’s because no one did any of those things: they simply called the
minutes, maybe, after the police arrived (the volume having been attenuated
immediately upon their request), one officer started making threats of arrest
because I was asking too many questions related to the offense for which I’d
even be arrested. I asked which law or ordinance I was violating—as to not violate
such parameters in the future; one officer said “the ordinance is really
vague,” and the other said “you’re under arrest.”
More than forty minutes after all disruptions had ceased, I was
arrested for asking what the law was.
That is EXACTLY what that sign was meant to convey: “I can force
my opinions on you, I have no obligation to listen to yours, and the police
will see to it.” And that is exactly what happened.
problem with saying “this family supports police…” is that the current
incarnation of policing in our country kills (and disproportionately imprisons)
too many black people.
our suburban, predominantly white community, it might seem easy to slip into
some dangerously racist thinking—even when it is truly motivated by the love
you have for a person of color in your life:
Does any of this thinking resonate…?
favor law and order, who doesn’t? I follow the laws, and it’s reasonable to
expect that everyone else do the same. I have black friends in town, and they
don’t get profiled (yes,
they do, by the way: it is possible that some individuals may not be psyched up
to try to convince you that a thing you don’t believe exists is happening in
front of your eyes). Besides, if they were profiled,
they’re such upstanding members of my community that they’d never be caught
doing anything actually wrong. And if they were found to have been doing
anything wrong, they should be arrested like anyone else.
that sound dissimilar from what you believe… or maybe what you hear from
relatives at Thanksgiving (but don’t feel like it’s worth contesting at that
trying to compartmentalize the brutal statistics of police violence against
black people, do you ever tell yourself that it’s not the worst injustice that,
if someone who is pulled over or stopped or frisked, had done something
inappropriate, anyway—either before or after garnering the attention of police—that
that stop was okay? Have you heard it suggested that even somewhat aggressive policing
wouldn’t impact your friends of color if they were just abiding by the law?
Our country is obviously full of statistics—but our community is also full of experiences—that are telling us that police are accosting (and following and arresting) black people with drastically disproportionate frequency. The consequence of this constant cycle is the eventual understanding that blackness comes with a presumption of guilt, and cop-ness comes with the understanding of untouchability.
Those dynamics save or end lives, and there is too much undeniable history to patch anything up with an “all lives matter” mentality.
I do understand that causing discomfort for talking about race probably makes people more tense and probably less receptive to new ideas. So in the interest of comfort and contentment and progress, let’s ignore race for a minute:
Instead, we can talk in terms of familiar traits: Do things like these apply to your children: Red-haired? Brown-haired? Curly-haired? Green-eyed? Freckle-faced? A little skinny? A little chubby?
And (we’re also going to talk about you: what were your dumbest adolescent indiscretions? What cannot you not believe, to this day, that you or your friends got away with? Do you remember any of the supremely ridiculous schemes that even teenage-you ultimately chose to abandon?
recall that physical characteristic relevant to your own child. And imagine
that he or she or they are of that independence-seeking age and engaging with
the same ideas and ill-advised activities that you did:
Ø What if blue-eyed teenagers were
more likely to have an encounter with police?
which arrests of blue-eyed teenagers became 6x more likely?
Ø Would you be taking additional
precautions for a curly-haired son, if you knew that curly hair meant that a leading
cause of death for him between the ages of 20-35 would be death by police?
thought exercise like that seems ridiculous to you, congratulations on being
born with a shade of skin that the police do not treat as suspicious by nature.
if that felt like some barely conceivable, dystopian reality (who would ever
target a precious freckle-faced or blue-eyed or curly-haired angel like your
baby?!?!), perhaps you’d see the exasperation, disbelief, and horror inflicted
upon parents whose children are black.
don’t know how many black lives are integral to your own—or how that direct
connectivity influences how you value or perceive those lives. But I couldn’t
close this piece without telling you how absolutely essential the friends in my
life are to me:
All of my friends are African, most first-generation in the US. In any given week that we’d play, I’m with guys from Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. Our primary connection is playing soccer together, and, indeed, some of my mates are professional players and influential coaches. Many of the guys I play with are current students, though—in engineering, marketing, health sciences, and criminal justice. If you happened upon one of our pickup games, you’d meet businessmen, health workers, marketers, a real estate developer, and a bunch of guys with boring office jobs that everyone reading this has the experience to relate to 😉
coaching programs and my weekly pickup games, I’m among men with degrees and
qualifications like PhD in education, MBA, Masters in International Relations,
Masters in Exercise Science, and Nurse Practitioner of Psychiatry, and an array
of bachelor degrees—All African, all black.
I need to find a job or to fill one; when I need advice or quiet company; when
I need to get out of the house or when I’m too depressed to leave it… all of
the people whom I turn to are black.
love to convey every unique insight and moral value that my friends have
instilled, but it would be reductive to even try. There is no way that I could
ever capture the beauty and depth that my friends of international backgrounds
have brought to my life—and even if I could, you would never be able to believe
me without meeting them and knowing them.
most fundamental commonality among them is that none of my mates are posing any
threat to the police or their community—but every interaction with law
enforcement treats them as if they do.
when I say “black lives matter,” I’m saying “brilliant, powerful, compassionate,
people—who are targets of police violence at an appalling rate—matter to me.”
in response, you say “blue lives matter”—or this year’s not-that-subtle
facsimile, “this family supports police…”—you are affirming support for an institution
that systematically kills people who look like my friends 250% more often than
it kills people who look like you. And beyond that, you are affirming support
for an institution that is tasked with protecting and serving, but still kills
too many people, black and white, armed and unarmed.
friends’ lives depend on people not being racist—and on people calling out
racism in environments where they may not have the standing to do so
So when I encounter a “we support the police” sign—when the police are not under attack, but men of color are being shot in the street by men carrying a badge—the price of my inaction could be entirely too high.
actions came off as equally necessary to you, though, too. How else could you
more proudly assert that the police whom you support exist to perform your
personal essential services than by summoning 2 cars of armed officers to ask a
woman on your street to turn her speaker down because that driveway of yours was
WAY too long to walk down and ask yourself, and my towering 125-pound frame has
long been hailed as a real paragon of intimidation.
Nonetheless, I believe that the same questions remain:
Would you be as supportive of a
police department who just as readily arrested your daughter or son at a
Would you be as capricious with your
“emergency” lifelines if you thought that I could apply them as liberally to your
child as you did to me?
Would you be proud of the service
rendered by and for your community if your daughter or son were arrested 40
minutes after accommodating the police requests simply for asking about the
statute that they were being threatened with?
level, I wanted to feel sufficient contrition to supply an authentic apology.
then again, I’ll sleep much better knowing that I couldn’t summon genuine
emotion to empathize with racist beliefs and abuse of authority.
I am sorry FOR you, though: I’m sorry that you’ll miss out on the zillion remarkable things that my kids offer to our community because you objected to their mom’s audacity to stand up for lives that matter. That definitely sucks. For you.
Disturber of Peace
APPENDIX 1 – THE UNDERLYING RACISM OF “BLUE LIVES MATTER”