Terence Crutcher, Living and Dying While Black in America

Picture from Terence Crutcher Facebook Page

Picture from Terence Crutcher Facebook Page

Some scary things are happening in the news and your children aren’t immune to the negative imprinting. As a result teachers, you may find some of your students are having trouble concentrating. Maybe some will cause disturbances, or act out inappropriately. Parents you may find your kids having big reactions to little troubles. There may be tears. There may be outbursts. There may be tusselling. There may or may not be a lot of different things varying from normal, but what there will be, no matter what, is stress. Internalized, often non-verbalized, stress.

Yes, there was a bombing suspect arrested in a shoot out with police today. Yes, that may be a source of concern for little ones and big. Definitely worth a conversation. But if you have children of color, what may be striking a deeper chord of blue is the shooting of Terence Crutcher on a Tulsa highway. Terence Crutcher, a well loved father, son, brother and community member, while driving home from night school September 15, 2016, had his car break down in the middle of the road. And what for most people, (read white), would be a stroke of luck, police were in the neighborhood and came up on Terence and his car. However, since Terence was Black there was no luck in this stroke, only deadly consequences. When we think of consequences we usually equate the idea with bad behavior, wrong choices, mistakes. But the consequences that Terrence Crutcher faced on that road were for the crime of being born Black. Because that is what it has become, a crime to try and live in Black skin in America.

Terence Crutcher family Picture from NY Daily News

Terence Crutcher family Picture from NY Daily News

Initially the police officers said Terence Crutcher approached them and failed to obey their commands. From the vantage point of a vulture, (and the attitude of one too), a police officer in a helicopter commented, “that looks like a bad dude”, (Terence Cutcher with hands in the air). They could see that even though they were beyond the treetops, but clearly not beyond reproach.

Officer Betty Shelby shot Terence Crutcher, point blank. And as he lay bleeding to death on the cold, hard road, six police officers immediately started talking amongst themselves, circling around the back of the disabled vehicle, communicating on their radios, moving their cars, consoling (or conspiring with) each other. The one thing they did NOT do for minutes on end, is tend to Terence Crutcher. You would think if they REALLY considered him a threat they would want to search him for the weapon he surely must have had to warrant deadly force. (Ah, but he was unarmed.) Or they would want to cuff him to prevent him from potentially continuing his physically threatening behavior. (Ah, but his hands had been up.) But the officers did neither of those things. They just left Terence Crutcher there, alone and dying on the ground. The Tulsa officers ignored his humanity in death just as they ignored it in life.

But wait, you may ask, how do we know any of this to be true. The police said he was a “bad dude” and he was not obeying commands. Yes, that is what they said initially, but police were forced to address questions  of their account because police eyes were not the only ones that had watched the situation unfold. There were witnesses, other motorists on the same road trying to get home just like Terence Crutcher was. Sure eye witness accounts can be fallible, which is why a picture is worth a thousand debunked lies, and video is hopefully worth an indictment. And there is video, from multiple angles. Tulsa police released the graphic footage on Monday afternoon.

So while some children may have questions and concerns about the alleged serial bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami, those will probably be answered by the suspect himself. They can be as he was taken alive and breathing into police custody, even after a shoot out. But for the kids who want to know what Terence was feeling, what he was thinking as he stood there in the middle of the road with his hands up, facing police, when all he wanted to do was get some help with his car, those kids will have to try and fill in the blanks on their own. They will have to conjure up answers because Terence Crutcher can’t speak for himself, can’t speak with his children, or to his wife. Terence Crutcher can’t ever raise his hand in class again with a question of his own, because Terence Crutcher is dead. Terence Crutcher is yet another innocent Black person dead at the hands of police. Leaving one universal question lingering in the wide-eyed silence of so many children of color, “Will I be next?“. Will they be the next to die all for the inescapable crime of trying to live while being Black? What’s the answer America? Maybe we should take a knee and think about it.

 

Miss Lori

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