Friday, July 08, 2016

Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color

One colleague at the school where he worked called Philando Castile "Mr Rogers with dreadlocks." Others, adults and children alike, referred to him simply as "Mr. Phil." By many accounts he was phenomenally loved by all.

On Wednesday night, July 6, Castile (left), a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori School in St. Paul, was lethally shot by a police officer after being pulled over in his car for having a broken taillight. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, videoed the aftermath of the shooting and live-streamed it on Facebook. Reynold's young daughter was in the back seat of the vehicle throughout the ordeal.

Castile's death comes just days after the police shooting death of another black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, and is the latest in a long list of black lives violently taken by law enforcement in the U.S.

Last night in St. Paul, I joined with approximately 5,000 people at J.J. Hill Montessori School to remember and honor the life of Philando Castile.

Above: A note left by a student outside J.J. Hill Montessori School where Philando Castile worked. (Photo: Ben Garvin)

There was also a call for "justice" for Philando, a call that reminds me of the words of Nancy Heitzeg who, in the wake of the police shooting death of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis last November, wrote:

Justice for Jamar and Mike and Eric and Sandra and Akai and Rekia and thousands would mean they are still alive. With as much love and solidarity and community support for them in the anonymity of everyday life as they have in the glare of death.

I’ll say it again: Stop asking for "justice" from the system that is killing us – Demand Abolition.

Then demand more.

The "system" in the U.S. that is disproportionately killing and incarcerating people of color has its origins in the nation's racist past, in particular the ideology of white supremacy as expressed in the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. The following diagram from shows how the slave patrols that resulted from this Act and which were charged with apprehending runaway slaves, included practices that play out in modern day law enforcement.

Abolitioning this system requires major soul-searching on the part of U.S. citizens and the radical restructuring of both law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Some first steps were put forward in 2015 when the Center for Popular Democracy and Policy Link, two nonprofit advocacy organizations, published a 15-point report, titled Building From the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing. The website Mic synthesizes this report to identify concrete steps that citizens and local governments can take to affect transformational change.

The group Campaign Zero also offers a comprehensive package of policy solutions that is informed by data, research, and human rights principles. The group contends that these solutions, summarized in the graphic below, can change the way police serve communities.

Following are more images from last night's vigil and march.

Above: One of my favorite signs at last night's rally. It says: "My white son will know that black lives matter,"  I think the main reason I like it is because it offers hope. And I say this with something that happened during the rally in mind. You see, at one point, a teacher shared from the podium how she had struggled that morning to find a response to her daughter who told her: "I'm scared because I don’t know what kind of people human beings are."

I hope this teacher got the chance to see this particular sign and was inspired to return to her daughter and say something like, Honey, human beings are actually all kinds of people and we get to choose everyday to be the type that is good and kind and loving to all we meet, no matter what their skin color, how they look, where they come from, or who they love.

Above and below: Phil Castile's mother, Valerie, address the crowd.

"[My son] did everything by the law and he died by the law, the hand of the law," said Valerie.

Above: St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman speaks to the crowd with a signer beside him interpreting his remarks.

“This is not acceptable in St. Paul.," Coleman said. "This is not acceptable in Baton Rouge. This is not acceptable in Ferguson. This is not acceptable in New York. This is not acceptable anywhere in this country. We will not allow this to happen anymore.”

Above: Members of Phil Castile's family lead the march to the nearby Minnesota Governor's Residence on Summit Ave.

Earlier in the day at a media conference, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton spoke about the police shooting death of Phil Castile.

Would this have happened if the driver and the passengers were white? I don't think it would have. So I'm forced to confront, and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront, [the idea that] this kind of racism exists. . . . And it's incumbent upon all of us to vow . . . to do whatever we can to see that it doesn't continue to happen.

Above: With my dear friend Brigid McDonald, CSJ at last night's vigil and march for Philando Castile. Our mutual friend Kathleen took this photo and, when she shared it on Facebook, noted: "Two of my dear ones at J.J. Hill Montessori in the circle of love and outrage for Mr. Phil."

I close with the wise and compassionate words of my friend and fellow Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community member Cathy Heying which she shared on Facebook yesterday, July 7.

Last night in the Twin Cities another brown skinned man was needlessly killed by the police. There are so many things I know and so many things I don't know right now.

• I know that I'm hearing a lot about what a good man Phil Castile was. That's awesome. I hope that has absolutely no bearing on whether or not we believe he should have died in this manner.

• I know that police officers manage to pull over and even arrest many white people every day without killing them.

• I know that my friends who are pro-gun and pro-concealed carry are being awfully silent about this. Reportedly, Phil Castile was exercising his 2nd amendment rights that many hold so dear and I expected/hoped that perhaps, at the least, you might stand in solidarity for that reason. I hope and pray that your silence is not because he is black. (If a white farmer from the south suffered this same fate for reaching for his license and his carry permit, would you be outraged?)

• I know that I fail at speaking out about this all the time. And I know that my skin color allows me to forget about it whenever I want.

• I know that I should be willing to engage in constructive conversation with people who disagree with me on this. Right now I'm not. The sin is so great that I cannot even imagine how anyone can disagree. I cannot meet you in a middle ground.

• I don't know what to say to my friends of color who live in fear every day about whether or not they will live through being pulled over for a broken tail light.

• I don't know what to say to my white friends who continue to insist that this isn't about race. Do you even realize what a privilege it is to say that sentence?

• I don't know how to help change things, to be a strong ally, or what steps to take. But ignorance or fear is not an excuse for doing nothing.

I know that all lives matter, including, of course, the police. But I also know that right now we need to pay particular attention to the black lives among us. Theirs is the house that is burning.

Related Off-site Links:
Thousands Gather Outside St. Paul School to Pay Respect to Philando CastileFox 9 News (July 7,2016).
Night of Protest in St. Paul Follows Shooting of Philando Castile – Kristoffer Tigue (MinnPost, July 8, 2016).
5000 March for Justice for Philando Castile in Saint Paul – Brad Sigal (Fight Back News, July 8, 2016).
Photos Show St. Paul's Passionate Response to Philando Castile Shooting – Matt Ferner and Chris McGonigal (The Huffington Post, July 7, 2016).
Philando Castile: Five Fast Facts You Need to (July 7, 2016).
Mr. Phil – Mary Turck (The News Day, July 7, 2016).
Philando Castile's Co-worker: "Kids Loved Him"Fox 9 News (July 7, 2016).
Minnesota Governor on Philando Castile’s Death: He’d Still Be Alive Had He Been White – Aaron Rupar (Think Progress, July 7, 2016).
What White America Fails to See – Michael Eric Dyson (The New York Times, July 7, 2016).
I'm a Black Ex-Cop, and This is the Real Truth About Race and Policing – Redditt Hudson (Vox, July 7, 2016).
Six Practicable, Real-world Alternatives to the Modern System Known as Policing – Jose Martin (Rolling Stone, December 16, 2014).

UPDATES: Dispatch Audio From Castile Killing Reveals Cop Pulled Him Over for Having "Wide Nose" – Kazu HagaJay Syrmopoulos (The Free Thought Project, July 8, 2016).
No, Philando Castile Was NOT "Wanted for Armed Robbery" – Dan Evon (Snopes, July 9, 2016).
Minnesota Officer Was "Reacting to the Presence of a Gun," Lawyer Says – Mitch Smith (The New York Times, July 9, 2016).
The NRA's Internal Revolt Over Philando Castile – Brian Fung (The Washington Post, July 9, 2016).
Policing Isn't Working for Cops Either – Kazu Haga (Waging Nonviolence, July 9, 2016).
Officer Who Shot Castile Attended Controversial "Bulletproof Warrior" Training – Jennifer Bjorhus (Star Tribune, July 13, 2016).
"A Seed That Has Been Planted": Philando Castile Laid to Rest – Marino Eccher (Pioneer Press, July 14, 2016).
Philando Castile and Cop Who Killed Him Crossed Paths Before, Records Show – Erik Ortiz (NBC News, July 22, 2016).
Officer Charged in Castile Shooting – Jon Collins and Riham Feshir (MPR News, November 16, 2016).
Minnesota Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez Found Not Guilty in Shooting Death of Philando Castile – Merrit Kennedy (MPR News, June 16, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"This Doesn't Happen to White People"
Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
Something to Think About – December 29, 2015
Quote of the Day – November 25, 2015
"We Are All One" – #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation: Photos, Reflections and Links
An Update on #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
"Say Her Name" Solidarity Action for Sandra Bland
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
Thoughts on Prayer in a "Summer of Strife"

Vigil and march images: Michael J. Bayly (except for the fourth image which is by Ben Garvin, and the last image which is by Kathleen Olsen).
Image of Philando Castile: via CBS News


Colleen Cashen said...

I saw you there last night, Michael, and was buoyed by your strength and conviction!

Matthew Clark said...

Thank you! These are wonderful pictures capturing a powerful gathering of community.