I just want to say his name. I want to acknowledge that a family and whole community are hurting. I want the rhythm of my life to be interrupted because of the pain of my community. I want to feel our connection. I want to care.
This past week-end in my hometown a court decision was handed down by a jury that stunned what seemed like the majority of our citizens. A young man was killed over a year ago when he, his girlfriend and her 5 year old daughter was stopped by a patrolman because of a broken tail light. The young man happened to have brown skin, as did his girlfriend and her daughter. This shouldn’t have any consequence on anything, but it seems to be included in the first sentence every time this incidence is spoken of, reviewed or reported.
Philando Castile was killed by the patrolman, shot multiple times through the opened window of his car while still strapped under his seat belt. His 5 year old was in the back seat watching and listening while her mother sat next to him…
The patrolman declared that he “felt his life was being threatened” when Philando told him he was licensed to carry and had a gun in the car, exactly the procedure required of anyone whenever one has a licensed gun and is stopped by law enforcement for any reason. The rules, Philando was playing by the rules.
Philando Castile was a young man and a participating member of our community. He had worked at the local school, in the lunchroom, for years. The children loved Philando. Their parents loved Philando. He was a giver and an asset.
Our community has been waiting, one year, for the verdict: was this killing justified? Did this man deserve to be shot multiple times for driving with a broken tail light?
Finally a verdict. The jury acquitted…”reasonable doubt”. The patrolman was justified. Philando Castile was so threatening sitting behind that wheel, strapped in his seat belt, beside his long-time girlfriend with her 5 year old daughter in the back seat, that he deserved 7 life- taking bullets.
Family, friends, community leaders knew that the only threatening thing about Philando was the color of his skin. “Brown skinned men are scary”.
So What? Why blog about this on a site for Vibrant Old Women? What does it have to do with us at this stage of our lives?
My “so what?” is this:
- Because I care about myself. I have lived more than 70 years and I am still alive today. I want to be vibrantly alive. Vibrancy depends on the condition of my Spirit (see ebook chapter on “Be a Giver”*) and my Spirit thrives when my heart is openly giving to those around me and caring about the lives of others in my world. Seclusion or isolation is self protective and selfish, and will cause me to lose vibrancy and “rot from within”**. I have to care when others hurt…or choose not to and dry up myself.
- Because I care about my grandchildren and their grandchildren. I have lived more than 70 years and know what makes a good community. I know we need good laws that give everyone a fair chance and give everyone protection from harm. I want the future to be good for all our children. When our system fails one citizen it fails to be good. I owe it to the next generation to help expose the failure and help correct the system.
- Because there are a LOT of us Vibrant Old Women and we can leverage change. If we give what we have, i.e. our wisdom, experience, and insights to broker understanding, our prayers, our time to write letters, make calls and show up at marches and demonstrations, our vote and community engagement, and our dollars, we could change some laws and procedures that serve our community unjustly.
I don’t want to keep the rhythm of my small life when one of my neighbors is suffering injustice and sorrow and when we all have to live in fear for the lives of our sons because of the color of their skin.
So! that’s why I’m remembering Philandro Castile today and saying his name. I don’t want to forget.
**Line from poem, Pumpkin, by Connie Wanek