The police who cornered Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard and shot him down say they “feared for their safety.” They thought he had a gun. He had a cell phone.
I was at the protest the other day in Sacramento. We circled the park across City Hall. We marched through the streets, climbed onto the freeway and blocked traffic, stormed the arena where we blocked the entrance for people coming to the Kings game.
Stephon Clark was a student at Sac High when I taught there. I knew him. Does that matter? I wonder. I wonder about what matters and doesn’t matter in our country.
What doesn’t matter: My white lady tears, my “broken heart,” my “I don’t know what to say.”
At the protest last Thursday, many of the drivers we stopped on the freeway lifted their fists out their windows in solidarity. A white truck driver lifted his fist and blew his horn and invited protesters to wave their signs from his cab.
Several white bystanders and people trying to get into the game showed support for the protest. A lone white woman in a line of white women staring at us from the window of the 24 Hour Fitness stood with her fist raised. One woman about my mom’s age walked up and joined the line in front of the arena. An older white man walked right up to a black woman yelling for Stephon and said, “I support you. I support you. You are right.”
I tell you these little stories because if you are just listening to the news you might get the wrong idea that it was a fans vs. protestors situation. You might think that the drivers on the freeway were against us too. They weren’t, not for the most part. I know what I saw.
There have been incidents of violence I didn’t witness. I have seen video footage of chaos caused by protestors. I’m surprised there aren’t more. The State killed our friend and brother in cold blood. If you can’t see that fact from the snuff film that is the police video, nothing I can say to you will make a damn bit of difference.
I don’t know what to say. I can’t stop crying. My heart is broken. Who gives a shit. A former student is dead. Every day I open my social media feeds I hold my breath in terror. Who is next? Who is next? How will the world be destroyed for another of my beloved ones today?
I fear for my safety.
My friend Patrick Durant (who is also an educator) and I spent a lot of time on the streets the other day holding our former students in our arms. These are young men and women I knew when they were just kids. Some are teachers themselves now. Some are still in school, figuring it out. Some are working, supporting families. Just like you.
I’m sorry, I said to each one. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m sorry.
In my head, I screamed, please God don’t let this one be next. My former students are part of me and when they hurt I hurt too. When they die, part of me dies too. We are all one, and until more of us join the line and show our support, more of our young ones will die. When they die, we all die, whether we realize it or not. Until we are all safe, none of us are safe.
And I fear for my safety.