Philando Castile

castile

NY Daily photo credit

I recently told a friend of mine I have sometime wished I was black, and as the words left my mouth, the expression on his face indicated to me he was immediately offended. I knew I’d made a horrific presumption, and felt compelled to find him a little later on to continue our dialogue.  I wasn’t really sure what I was asking, but he sat me down and asked me a question.

He said, ‘as you sit in that chair, do you feel like you would be where you are, as a black man, including your personality and everything you are today?’

I had to think about the question. I had to get past trying to find the right answer and really think about how I was going to respond. I did not know what my answer could possibly be because I have never been a person of color. I have always been white.

This afternoon, when I first heard the news of the verdict in the shooting of Philando Castile, I felt immediately sick to my stomach. For a year I have replayed that viral video in my mind, imagining only one outcome. I believed the officer would be found guilty of manslaughter. I thought it was an easily defined case. I felt like I had come to know Philando through all the news reports and the expose’s of his life and the stories his community had expressed of who he was in our society. But I forgot one simple truth. He was a black man pulled over for a routine traffic stop. He was suspected of being involved in a robbery based upon his description. The only solid evidence that suggested he had been involved in the burglary was the color of his skin.

If that had been me, a white guy, with a gun pointed at my body by a peace officer, I am willing to bet, I could have said everything Philando expressed in the final minutes of his life, and I could have reached with my right arm and found my I.D. without the officer feeling compelled to discharge seven bullets into my body. This officer didn’t simply fire a couple of rounds, He fired seven times at point blank range. And there in that moment, while his girlfriend recorded the whole incident, Philando Castile died.

Justice seemed evident in this case, I didn’t even imagine the jury would take as long as they did to come back with a verdict. I only imagined it would be an open and shut case. That was until I saw the jury selection. I knew that when we had a jury of over 20 white people and two people of color, the case for Philando had taken a dangerous turn. I knew that when the officer was coached to cry in the witness stand, Philando’s integrity was in trouble.

I also knew I couldn’t get out of my car as a white man and express my sorrow and rage to any person of color without coming off patronizing. So instead, I called another friend, and told him he was the first person that came to my mind. Now this friend asked me if I was surprised by the verdict. I think I waffled my answer and said something like, “Well, yeah, I guess, well no, well I’m just sad.”

He agreed with my sentiments, and then began to speak of the systemic failure of our society to recognize the inherent discrimination of the African- American culture. Interestingly, he didn’t blame the cop that gunned down an innocent man. Instead he talked about how our society (his African-American culture) has to become proactive in changing the mindset of how we cope with our discrimination. He immediately prayed that there would be no acting out and a peaceful protest might occur.

I agreed with him and thanked him for letting me listen to his ideals, those of which I have always respected and believed. I finished the call, and sat in my car, and thought about what I would do next. All I could think about was how sad I was with the outcome of the day’s events. All I could do was feel like a white guy trying to wrap my head around this horrific tragedy. I still don’t have any answers, except only to say I’m sorry Philando, I am truly sorry this happened to you.

The Next Day (Why Paris?)

When sun arose to widen sleepy eyelid

A calm begun soon turned memory horrific

We wake shadowed in darkness, a slow embrace

Shattered dreams begun inside stranger despair.

The news however distorted cannot rid

Crying heart, confused eyes, reality’s prolific

Mastery of human nature’s fallible race.

Once thrive her eyes this morning lacking air.

No longer are minds able to disappear

Find shelter beyond the torment of confusion.

Instead again it is sadness, our tears release

That city of lights, extinguished incessant fear

Will rule the day, while gathered in circular motion

We wander, wonder, watchful, gasping for peace.

Sad Lives

These are the strangers, we pass them by,

and teach the children,

while they are still sequestered to hold our hand,

please never speak to the

strangers,

yet, while we stroll by,

look and stare, and judge and define,

like mom and dad,

so that when you grow older,

you won’t nearly have the same trepidation,

toward judging those around you,

because your value system has gradually,

over time,

milkshakes, animated cartoons, muppets,

Sesame Street letter, numbers and cookies,

all lessons bringing our reality together.

~

Forget about what’s inside,

at least while someone is watching,

especially a stranger nearby,

sad lives.

Wanting Peace – Chronology of Hope

I

When I was a child I wondered about Vietnam,

couldn’t wait to see the names scroll by

the evening news, Walter Conkrite’s lovely sigh

would ring in my mind until my later bedtime.

~

I saw the protestors, I lived by their side,

I was the kid the one with dreams and hope,

everyone else jaded with shards of rope,

to me this all seemed rather a cool slide.

~

When Malcolm was shot I was only five

years old, yet young enough to curate

a foundation of wonderment to relate

my own upbringing to his will to survive.

II

Shards of glass tore through the landscape

I remember Bloody Sunday to wit

storms of lost souls with no regret

their master the King slain without escape.

~

I recall my childhood the assassinations

today an older soul was still watching scroll

the names scan across on the idiot box below

the regular news, the stuff of our emotions.

~

In California, a presidential wannabe

gunned down without a moment good bye

where on the ground the nation’s own lie

the world went on, we had needs to see.

III

Instead of losing our nation’s leaders,

we’re taking away those we don’t know

those we have often times told to go,

yet somehow they cannot be seceders.

~

We argue commonality and dated resource

no one really knows who will need defend

a nation in peril of its society soon to upend

ignorance of reasoning, (bare) arms of course

~

I read the news today, heard about the fire

within whose wasteful rage to wallow close

to take a life that matter so to all of those

family that in his life he tried to aspire.

~

What happens in our world today,

such to disillusion the American way.

Fourteen Years

Hard to imagine just yesterday,

and no days further.

I could stand here and pretend this whole thing away,

but somewhere, my deep conscience,

my soul is rattled,

I cannot imagine knowing anything today,

without memory,

without a glass mausoleum in my eyes,

I cannot go forward,

and not recall the day,

my life changed while other lives,

were completely removed.

I remember standing alone,

waiting for tears,

not my own,

they were readily apparent,

I just wanted to cry with another

human soul.

On 9/11 we became a story,

yet we were the less immediate,

we were the onlookers in disbelief,

we were able to return home,

hold our children,

know we were the mom & dad,

the dancer, the politician, the accountant,

the baker, the seamstress, the stock broker,

the philanthropist, the gardener, the lawyer,

the maintenance worker, the copy man,

the executive secretary,

the executive’s secretary,

the executive secretaries,

the fireman, the rabbi, the priest,

the fucking thousands of onlookers,

that suddenly fell through the frame of our world,

and the planet watched,

as real lives burned for the sake of

nothing.

When First I Knew

The disbelief

Torrid Tuesday,

a child’s eye

suggest a fathom

when gods spoke aloud

cloud secured chasms

A city of life

in ashes,

a populace

helpless,

frightened, alone, confused

amongst milions,

the very people

kept us all safe.

Today the skyline burned

when truly hell drove

the world mercilous

concrete fires

burned bodies

lost souls

all

together without

hope.

That ideal we live by,

departed today,

Fire House hell

Ladder Company 3

we spoke to blue

who told a story

of death on carts

six months a rookie,

a face that clearly

showed war horrors

thirty years later

to the day,

Manhattan burned

the world remains

ignorant still today.

We leave our children

nothing in return.

God help us

‘war is not

healthy

for children

and

other living

things’

we still haven’t …

we haven’t …

we can’t …

we ca …

rise above the ashes.