Friday, July 7, 2017

A NJ BAT at NEA RA in Favor of Voting For NBI 129 by Carrie Odgers Lax

One year ago, almost to the day, we sat in the convention center in Washington DC and observed a moment of silence for Philando Castile, a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, Minn., who had just been shot to death during a routine traffic stop. We sat, in our silence, with the knowledge that a police officer had fired seven shots into Philando Castile's car, where he was belted into his seat, with his girlfriend next to him, and her four year old daughter in the back.

On Friday, June 16th, whatever small amount of faith I still had that justice would, or even could, prevail in America, was taken from me as Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty second degree manslaughter. Not guilty of intentionally discharging a dangerous weapon. Acquitted on all charges.

As a mother, I mourned. As an American, I was consumed with rage. And then, four days later, the dashcam footage was released. And I forced myself to witness.

And what I learned was that I wasn't ready to watch as a man who followed the law, who obeyed every request that was made of him, and who spoke and acted with complete respect for authority...was shot, repeatedly, as he and his girlfriend desperately tried to reassure the officer that he intended him no harm.

I wasn't prepared to bear witness to the moment when America finally admitted, for all the world to see, that, in the land of the free, it is officially acceptable to fear a man simply because he is black. And the law says that fear justifies murder.

I have a son. He's 19 years old...a sophomore at Rowan University. He's an aspiring musician, a loyal friend, and the most forgiving person I've ever known. And dear sweet lord I love that boy.

I've worried about a lot of things as a parent, but I have never once feared that he would not come home as a result of a routine traffic stop. I have never once told him that it is imperative he keep both hands visible at all times, and that he not move too quickly or suddenly when dealing with law enforcement.

I don't have to. My son is white. He is not going to be shot reaching for his ID during a routine traffic stop. Not even if he looks like a suspect in another crime. Not even if he is rude to the officer. Not even if he has a gun in the car.

Philando Castile was one of us. He knew the names of every one of the 500 children he served lunch every day. He had memorized their food allergies. He was adored by his entire school community. Philando Castile was an educator. Philando Castile was murdered because of the color of his skin.

Desmond Tutu said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

If we are truly the social justice warriors that Vice President Pringle celebrated yesterday afternoon, then we must not remain neutral in the face of gross injustice.

I urge you to vote in support.

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