Juxtaposition Shots Fired

OpEdThe 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.images (8)

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.

Jonathan Ferrell_zps6diudjvmOn 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.

BlackLivesMatter2

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.11951145_476709872503362_4356076426194746518_n

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.

Comments

  1. Very well stated. I inadvertently stepped into the whole “black lives matter/all lives matter” debate a few months ago and had my ass handed to me even though my intentions were pure. I wish I had seen a post like this before making my supposedly innocent comment.

    • Mark, I think it is easy to do unless you have some history backing you up. I have some of the history, I have for years so I never questioned what it meant, never felt diminished or threatened. I love though that someone took the time to put it into perspective, so much better than I ever could have done.

      Val

  2. As usual Val, I am awed by your courage in writing what you do, and moved and deeply stirred both by your dilemma and your response to it.
    Whatever you decide will be the right decision because you have considered it with compassion, and have no desire for revenge.
    I support you from the other side of the world in however you decide to act… as long as there are people like you, writing and bearing witness, the world is a better place.
    Thank you for this and your other deeply felt and wonderfully researched posts

    • Thank you Valerie. I am simply going to sit on it for a few more days. Ponder my emotional response and sort it through. I simply don’t know how I feel.

  3. I wouldn’t know where to start with questioning your experience because I haven’t experienced anything close to that. Your “said and misunderstanding” struck me the most. Meanwhile, I’m one who believes Black Lives Matter – simply because Peoples Lives Matter regardless of skin color, ethnicity, or nationality.

    I ask the following question because sincerely I don’t know. By living in an urban area, we hear our share of violence in the news …. far more from what I was aware of growing up in a very rural area. I don’t seem to hear much from Black Lives Matter in Black on Black violence. I ask why not out of ignorance – and to you because I know you will tell me your thoughts. Thanks.

    • Black on black violence is a fallacy Frank. The news tells only one part of the story, just as Dylann Roof is a troubled young person but Trayvon Martin was a thug, do you see a problem with this? Dylann Roof planned and killed 9 innocent people in a church, who did Trayvon kill? We kill what is close to us, Frank. White folks kill white folks in alarming numbers yet you don’t hear the trope White-on-White crime, do you?

      No Black Lives don’t matter because all lives matter, Black Lives Matter because they haven’t mattered before. It is what so many fail to understand, fail to accept. Your life and my life have greater meaning, greater value than the life of a black man or woman today. You and I do not face the same danger from the police just for driving down the street. When we stop trying to juxtaposition ‘all lives matter’ onto Black Lives Matter, we make the first step towards understanding.

  4. Comparing and contrasting your rescue experience to Johnathan Ferrell’s is a powerful way to get the point across. Effectively highlights the unequal treatment doled out in our society. A wake-up call is desperately needed, along with open dialogue that generates solutions.

  5. How difficult it must be for you, every time these men come up for parole. But I don’t see wanting them to stay in jail as a quest for vengeance – I see it as doing your duty to protect others. Let me repeat that. Society is safer when violent criminals are behind bars.

    I have had to abandon my former approval for the death sentence because I realized it was inconsistent with my belief that ALL life is sacred – preborn, black or white, incarcerated or sick and dying. But the one thing I have to say about the death penalty is it is the most effective way to ensure that people who do horrible crimes don’t get out and do them again.

    • I long ago found the Death Penalty problematic, for many reasons. even when I thought to myself, this person should die. But honestly, my speaking to the parole board is never about ‘duty’ or about whether they will do it again. Mine is always personal, as are all Victim Impact Statements, it is always about who we are and how our lives are affected. It is personal, it has always been personal and it will always be personal.

  6. Val my heart goes out to you my friend.. you said “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 read your information on the story about Johnathan Ferrell, 24,.. And when you put it all together what stopped that elderly couple opening their door? What causes someone to shoot first and ask questions later even though they wear the uniform which is supposed to protect .. And what is holding you back even now in your dilemma that only those who have walked in your shoes have the right to make..

    ‘FEAR’ ..

    Fear of knowing have you done right or wrong.. Will they hurt someone else if they go free? Fear as people do not want to get involved. so they turn away… Fear that the prejudices have been ingrained deep within so many just the colour of their skin evokes a response..

    And if you look deeper still within our History as to why all of these Fears are ingrained within our thinking.. Sigh…………
    Val only you can choose to answer those questions, only you have the right to make them.. How would any of us react if in your shoes we couldn’t possibly know unless we lived through your experience..

    I know what ever you do Val.. you will do so with good intent..

    Love to you my friend..
    Sue ❤

  7. There is no way for anyone to know how they would respond in your situation, faced with fear and resurfaced anger that is compounded by the recent events you cite here. Val, trust your heart. You have a large capacity for forgiveness. Your readers know this. But if for one moment you believe the person who shot you will shoot someone else once he is released, I hope you will feel justified in saying so.

    • I think Honie, I can only speak from my own heart. I cannot speak to what he might or might not do in the future, I do not know. With this in my mind and sitting heavy right now on my soul, I simply do not know how I feel.

  8. Everything you say is powerful and thought-provoking. If I were the one in your predicament, I would try to forgive, but I would also consider the consequences of his parole for other people in our society. Too often the parolee commits another crime not long after being freed and returns to be incarcerated once again. In the meantime, somebody else might be hurt. It is, indeed, a puzzlement, and I send you prayers that you arrive at the decision your heart recommends.

    • I think I am not at the position of considering his next acts. That issue, it is for someone else to consider. I don’t have access to his records while incarcerated beyond knowing which prison within the Texas system he is housed in.

      My views on forgiveness, they are much different than most in our society. I don’t take the Christian view and believe forgiveness is both personal and must be part of a complete circle of remorse and reconciliation. It is not simply an internalized, ‘I forgive him/her’. So, no I have never forgiven in the way most think of forgiveness, I simply do not allow my offenders a great deal of my soul, I don’t hate them as this is active and requires feeding.

      Thank you my friend. I need thoughtful introspection and the karma of others who are sending their support from afar.

  9. Sending you lots of love, my wonderful warrior. xxxxxx

  10. There’s no stronger voice than the one that speaks from experience.

    Val, I’ve read your story, and it is heartbreaking. But one thing that repairs my heart and makes me think good thoughts (about you, not about the system) is how, in spite of the lingering physical and emotional repercussions of that night, your heart shines through. And your wisdom.

    • Elyse, I feel cracked open right now. Uncertain as to how I feel on a very personal level. I know how I feel on a social level and can react to the injustice within the system immediately and I hope appropriately. But right now, I don’t know how I feel on a personal level. Am I adding to the problem, demanding my vengeance or more. I simply don’t know anymore.

      • I’ve been thinking of this question all day. And really, my heart aches for you.

        But the thing is, if you feel (and say) that this man, this man who hurt you and left you for dead and is UNREMORSEFUL should stay in jail, well, that is very different from the other question. The societal question.

        What we have to do as a society is to treat people as people, not as representatives of a race — regardless of what race that is.

        People who commit crimes should pay for those crimes under our laws. But the people who haven’t been found guilty in a court of law shouldn’t have to pay (often the ultimate price) until and unless there is such a ruling by a court. That’s how our system is supposed to work. Police and public citizens cannot/should not be judge and jury. And too often executioner (whether by action or neglect).

        Should you say “I think he should be denied parole” is in no way, shape or form, the same as denying him medical help or taking retaliatory action.

        My heart is aching for you.

        • Intellectually, I know this. Truly I do. But I just look at the compare and contrast and I wonder Elyse, I do. If the roles had been reversed, what would have been the outcome. Remember, I know their histories, I know where they come from. I have said before, they are a result of many of the injustices we, as a society, put in motion.

  11. Dear Valentinelogar,

    I am stunned. I obviously did not know about your close call with our Maker. I am just glad you are here to share in your blogs. No one can tell you what to do. This is up to you.

    However, if it were me, I know that I am capable of forgiveness and letting things go even for horrible events if I believed no one else would be harmed. If I knew these peoples were showing no remorse and would probably be repeat offenders, I would act accordingly to protect others.

    I admire you courage and survivor instincts. You just do what is right for you!

    • I have written about the carjacking before, about my thoughts and feelings and the work I do in Victims Impact since then. I suspect this is part of my journey toward a change of heart.

      I suspect we view forgiveness in a different light. I don’t forgive them, they have never shown remorse for their acts. I don’t hate them, they do not take that much of my life. But as I have said before, they got time I got life; my injuries changed the course of my life forever and did grave harm to my family as well.

      I don’t know who they are today, but it has been twenty-three years. I am perhaps tired.

  12. So strong. Thanks for writing this.

  13. Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

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