The State of Texas informed me a few days ago one of my shooters was re-entering the Parole system, no he hasn’t been granted parole he is simply being considered. I don’t know how I feel about this, I am processing my reaction. I know how people think I should feel, hell I know how I think I should feel, but I have changed, my heart is heavy as I consider my response.
Then, a few days ago, I read this, by Jeff Winbush who I greatly admire. I realized while reading this piece about the mistrial of Randall Kerrick, just how truly great the chasm sometimes is.
When I was carjacked, shot three times and left in the street for dead I was scared. There is no other way to describe my feelings, I was afraid. I did not know how I was going to survive what could have been fatal wounds. I did the best I could; I staggered to the nearest home late at night and pounded on their front door. The couple was older, they didn’t open the door, they told me to go away. There was nowhere for me to go, I couldn’t go further, I slid down their wall and in tears begged them to call 911. Nothing more, just call 911. Once again, they told me to go away; they didn’t want to be involved. At that point, I was so afraid but I was angry too how could anyone turn his or her backs on another human being in need? I didn’t understand, my only response too what seemed a terrible cruelty, ‘I am not going anywhere, you will have to explain a dead woman on your front porch tomorrow if you don’t call 911 now.’
I sat, waiting to die. I didn’t know if they were going to call. Holding the tourniquet, I had made and wrapped around my neck, feeling my warm blood as it dripped through my fingers, I talked to the universe. The one thing I was not afraid of was the police, I knew if they appeared I was not in danger, I knew if they were called and saw me sitting on the porch of these strangers home their instinct would be to help me, they would not see me as a threat. I knew, if they rolled up on me they would not do so with guns drawn, screaming for me to get on the ground. I knew if the police were called they would help me, it would be foremost on their mind, to save my life.
My unwilling hosts must have weighted their options, they made the call. I heard the sirens in the distance and shortly thereafter, the blue lights of police and rescue cars rolled up the street. I was surrounded by men in blue whose first concern was my life and well-being. Could I talk, could I tell them what happened came after. How I got to that house, that porch came as I was laying on the gurney. I told them only part of the truth, not that I had to ask more than once for them to be called, only that I had been shot elsewhere and how far I thought I had walked. I didn’t understand until weeks later why they didn’t want to be involved, why they wanted me to ‘go away’. Even with my intellectual understanding, it would be years before I let go of my fury at their disregard for my life.
This brings me to the juxtaposition of my experience and the mis-trial of Randall Kerrick. If you don’t know who Randall Kerrick is, or why he is on trial I would suggest reading Jeff’s piece that I linked above, or this piece also by Jeff, but in short.
On September 14, 2013 Johnathan Ferrell, 24, had a car accident in the middle of the night. He crawled out of his car and made his way to a home where he tried to ask for help. The homeowner, after seeing a disheveled and bloody young black man on her porch immediately calls 911 and asks for assistance. When the police arrive things go from bad to worse, there doesn’t seem to be a point in time where the police attempt to discern if Johnathan is a threat, instead there is simply an assumption he is. First, as he runs toward them, likely because he is injured and needs help there is an attempt to Taser him when the Taser fails to discharge, Randall Kerrick fires his weapon, not once, not twice but ten times. Excessive? Absolutely.
Does anyone but me see the difference in response? I don’t believe it is getting worse, I believe it has always been this way, the difference is we are seeing it more now, hearing about it more now. We are becoming more aware and having to face just how truly unequal our entire system is. The push back on the demand for equality is both fascinating and heartbreaking. The fear that if we acknowledge indeed Black Lives Matter, we somehow are saying other lives do not yet for centuries we have said through our actions Black Lives Matter Less. How can we now demand inclusion in a movement of recognition?
The other day I saw this and thought it a perfect explanation of what is happening to the conversation, yet was saddened it had to be said.
The last question is important, why are we having these misunderstandings? Why aren’t we able to reach common ground, accept there is a problem and begin to work toward solutions together? What is it about our national psyche that forces us to demand there be winners and losers, rather than all of us working toward common good. Why do we continue to hate ‘other’?
I do not ask these questions rhetorically; rather I ask them because they deserve answers. I look at the very real difference I as a white woman am treated by the police and the way in which Sandra Bland, a black woman was recently treated by the police leading to her death in custody, these questions demand answers. I consider the ‘arrest’ and death of Walter Scott in South Carolina in comparison to the extraordinary protections taken in the arrest of Dylann Roof, these questions demand answers. I watch the press and many others with voices smooth over the actions of Dylann Roof, calling him a troubled youth, but jumping on the horrific actions of Vester Flanagan as a Racist Hate Crime, I wonder why do we allow these definitions to stand.
When do we all start to truly question the systems that keep us apart, keep us from building the necessary bridges toward true freedom and real power. When will we realize it is time for us to find common cause, common ground.
I stare at the letter from the State of Texas, I have the right to respond. I have the right to speak to the Parole Board, through a letter, on the phone or in person. I have done so every time one of my shooters has been up for parole. Three years ago, both of them made parole and both of them were back inside within 120 days. My heart has changed a great deal in twenty-three years, my understanding of the world changed too. I don’t know how I feel anymore, I don’t know if I want to demand more of my pound of flesh in retribution for my pain. I don’t know anymore if I am being vengeful or if my heart simply won’t let go.
I do know my experience is a very different one than that of Sandra Bland, Johnathan Ferrell, Walter Scott and the thousands of others. I also know there is something inherently wrong that needs to be corrected.