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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Why Is This So Hard? Philando Castile

 I knew Philando Castile the way we know people in our lives who we see every day. Every school morning, for three years, I saw Phil Castile. My youngest often saw him twice a day. My oldest often saw him once a week. 

In our family, saying hello means taking those extra moments to do more than say hello. When we ask "How you doing?" we really listen to the answers, and when someone asks us, we really tell them-- of challenges and joys that we are facing in our lives. Maybe we don't tell them in detail or in depth, although often we do, but we tell them the truth, and we ask for and listen to the same from them. 

The three year we knew Phil were some of the hardest our family had been through: a special needs child in crisis, a school district refusing any kind of help, a medical system on the fritz. During those years, and even at that school, we found many people--their families working smoothly, their lives trotting along--who listened politely when we spoke about our challenges and then quickly changed the subject or moved away.  

Phil was one of those who listened--without trying to fix us--Phil and his colleague, Vanessa, gave hugs, welcomed my oldest and youngest, did not lecture us on what we were doing wrong (yes, it's true, people do that even when you are in a crisis and everything is falling apart.)  Phil never missed a school day. For three years, he was there. 

We are a Holocaust survivor family. A few of our family survived as children, so they are still around--those who were in the camps still sport tattooed arms. Those who were hidden still carry nightmares and scars. We are extremely fortunate to have photos of several of those who were murdered--including the babies, including the children. We can never forget human being's capacity for inhumanity. 

On top of that, I have spent several years writing a novel about the idiocy of thinking that we are a post-racial society. I thought I was sophisticated and aware and active about racial injustice. 

I was wrong. 

My little one said today, "I'm going to miss Mr. Phil." 


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