Dear President Biden,
Last night my brother texted and then called to tell me that Wednesday night when he was walking his roommate’s dog a police car rolled up alongside him. He said the officer was friendly but that he conveyed the message that someone had called the police reporting that a Black man was wandering around the neighborhood, describing my brother, including what he was wearing. It was 9:00 at night. He was walking a dog. He’s lived in his same house for over 10 years.
It shouldn’t matter that it was 9:00pm and not 1:00am or that he was walking a dog or that he has lived there for over 10 years or, for God’s sake, that he’s Black. But all of those pieces matter in this country of ours, and the one that matters the most to US is the fact his skin color signals to many of US that he is a threat, that he doesn’t belong, that it’s a good idea to call the police to make sure he gets the message, and that if something horrible happens to him as a result of that call, there might, maybe, be a tut-tut of ‘oh well’ while in the next breath an effort to find some way to blame him.
We are a despicable lot. And don’t resort to the “this isn’t who we are” bullshit – this is exactly who we are. It’s who we are now, it’s who we’ve been since White people landed here, and it looks to be who we will be in perpetuity.
Last night my brother recounted a small fraction of the times that he was challenged by police and by neighbors in our neighborhood growing up. We grew up in a very White part of NE Portland and he was an anomaly. There was the time he was putting his bike away in the garage after dark when a policeman confronted him, telling him a White family lived there and what was he doing and where’s his ID. Apparently as well as the officer thought he knew the neighborhood and the families that lived there, he somehow missed the fact that my brother is part of our family and lived there in that house with us. Then there was the old White neighbor guy who insisted on calling my brother ‘Leroy’ no matter how many times my brother told him his correct name.
My brother said that when he was a child he didn’t understand the racism behind all of this and that as he reads more, sees more, learns more, and experiences more, he understands more, and he is frightened and angered more. He’s been holing up in his house pretty much all day everyday since the self-coup, except to take the dog for walks….. Sigh.
We talked about the shitty parallels between being Black and being a girl or a woman and never getting to feel completely safe, never getting to count on not being harmed by another human. He told me how when he used to live in downtown Portland and had to go to work before dawn he’d always cross the street if he saw a woman coming so as not to scare her. He’s that kind of person. He’s gentle and thoughtful and kind. And he doesn’t deserve to live scared. And neither do I. None of us do.
In the wake of the release of the body camera video of Adam Toledo’s execution by police, the Chauvin trial, and Daunte Wright’s recent murder by police, Laura’s Twitter feed this morning featured a 2019 article by Edwards, Lee, and Esposito entitled “Risk of Being Killed By Police Use of Force in the United States by Age, Race–Ethnicity, and Sex” that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors used data from 2013 to 2018 to estimate the risk of being killed by police for different racial/ethnic groups by gender. Here are excerpts from their Significance statement:
Police violence is a leading cause of death for young men in the United States. Over the life course, about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police. Black women and men and American Indian and Alaska Native women and men are significantly more likely than white women and men to be killed by police. Latino men are also more likely to be killed by police than are white men.
This is US. We are a despicable lot.
Please look at every single one of the figures in this article and please see my brother and all the other millions of BIPOC women and men who risk their lives every damn day just trying to exist in this America. Their lives matter and they should get to live their lives without being afraid for their lives every single day
May we all be safe and free from harm.
May we all be happy and content.
May we all have what we need to be healthy and strong.
May our lives all unfold and intersect honorably, humbly, and peacefully.