It's Beyond Her Comprehension--That's No Longer A Good Enough Excuse.
Photo attribution from Pioneer Press. Falcon Heights, the small suburban municipality where Philando Castile was shot by during a faked traffic stop, for Driving While Black and Legally Armed, has had it's second town hall meeting, and did they get an earful from residents and visitors of color.
According to the Pioneer Press, "black residents and neighbors told horror stories of frequent, frightening traffic stops while some white residents confessed they witnessed unequal treatment but did nothing about it."
But some members of the Falcon Heights City council are having a hard time wrapping their minds around what it's like to Drive While Black in their community.
Several people walked out when Randy Gustafson said he still didn't know enough about what happened to take action--perhaps he was speaking about Philando's murder, or maybe he was just telling all those prior speakers to their faces that he didn't believe them.
Council member Pamela Harris said it was "beyond my comprehension" that black people were treated so badly on Falcon Heights streets--despite what she was hearing at the meeting. So, let's give her the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume that this comment was the messy, verbal equivalent of an "Oh, my!" Let's assume that she is thus completely tone deaf and did not realize she had just erased the experiences of everyone who had spoken out about police harassment of people of color under her watch. Either way, it is no longer acceptable to pretend you're living in the 1950's while Jim Crow policing goes on in 2016. I am not a resident of Falcon Heights, but I would happily sign a petition calling for all of them to resign. Fortunately, someone has started one. "If that's how unaware you are, you're not qualified to represent my city," Paula Milke said of her petition.
As always, Philando's mother spoke with grace and calm--much like her son, Phil. Valerie Castile told council members that Phil got a lot of traffic tickets because he was devoted to his job and "his children"--the kids he fed--and he needed to drive to get to work. "It's just unfortunate that this happened in your backyard," she said to the council and then turned to the black men and women in the audience. "Any one of you could be Philando."
She is more generous than I. Given the kind of policing organization that Falcon Heights hired and the racial profiling that Falcon Heights allowed to take place, particularly along that stretch of Larpenteur, I side more with an unnamed Baptist minister who spoke to the group.
"You have permitted a black man to be killed out there," he shouted at the council as he rose to leave. "Get the blood off your hands! You have blood on your hands, every one of you. Get the blood off your hands, mayor!" And he left, followed by most of the African-Americans in his audience.
We all have to get this to change, not just in Falcon Heights, not just in the Twin Cities, not just in Minnesota, not just in the Midwest--in the entire United States of America. We have to get this blood off our hands. We must. For Phil.