Last night about 9:30, a black man in his 30s was shot by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune today:
A St. Paul man died Wednesday night after being shot by police in Falcon Heights, the immediate aftermath of which was shown in a video recorded by the man's girlfriend as she sat next to him and which was widely shared on Facebook.
The girlfriend started the live-stream video with the man in the driver’s seat slumped next to her, his white T-shirt soaked with blood on the left side. In the video, taken with her phone, she says they were pulled over at Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street for a broken taillight.
The “police shot him for no apparent reason, no reason at all,” she says.
Friends at the scene identified the man as Philando Castile, 32, cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori School in St. Paul.
Castile’s cousin said on her Facebook page that he was dead. Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, who was at Hennepin County Medical Center with other family members, said Philando died at 9:37 p.m., a few minutes after arriving at the hospital.So why am I posting this here, apart from highlighting just another incident in what is becoming a stack of stories so commonly reported now that they have turned into just so much nightly noise on the news?
Because, apart from my own sense of remorse for the family of this young man and a desire to know the truth behind the tragedy, wherever it leads, there's another reason. Philandro Castile's uncle Clarence is a District Deputy Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Minnesota. He and the young man's mother appeared this morning on CNN, and at one point in the very long interview he said the words no Mason ever wants to hear anywhere, at any time, for any reason. And no, I'm not going to post them or a link to the interview. You just need to trust me on this. He did.
So, what to do?
I have reached out to try to contact RW Castile. And I suspect he didn't do it as some call for the usual "thoughts and prayers" everyone always offers up during these times. Those are certainly comforting and give people reassurance that there are plenty of others who are offering what they can from far away. But I suspect he was pleading for help in a much larger sense.
This was the second one of these types of shootings in two days (the first was in Baton Rouge on Tuesday). I am not in the least proclaiming that the officer was in the wrong without a shred of any evidence in either direction. I don't know. NO ONE KNOWS. Maybe there's a bodycam that can be looked at. But maybe not. Certainly there will be investigations of the police to determine if rules were broken, and the usual calls for calm will pour out. Accusations will fly in all directions, and the usual parade of politicians, activists and "experts" will all get their three minutes of fame on cable. And then, it will all fade.
I don't ascribe to the notion of squads of dumb, racist, white cops with a Wyatt Earp syndrome ruthlessly gunning down innocent black and brown people during trumped up broken headlight stops. Certainly the war zone statistics from an average weekend in Chicago alone show that plenty of black Americans are killing each other without any cops involved at all. And there are plenty of figures that can be trotted out to dispassionately show how many white suspects are killed every year by police, with comparisons of black crime rates, etc., etc., etc. And I know that police are resigning all over the country because they feel they can't win no matter what they do. They put on body armor every day of their working lives and head out with the full knowledge that at least a third of the people they run into during their shift probably would like to see them dead. To be frank, I don't know how they get up and clock in every day with that knowledge.
But I have known too many people throughout my lifetime with stories of being pulled over for "driving while black." It's not just something Geraldo Rivera tosses off as a casual quip or as "common knowledge." It's a very real phenomenon.
So maybe RW Brother Clarence's call was really to his brethren on police forces and in government everywhere asking for help on a much grander scale than just thoughts and prayers or a few dollars tossed into an offering basket. Or just to anyone else who might be able to make a difference, wherever they are, or whatever color they happen to be. I don't know. But I find myself asking a question today that I'll bet many of you are, too.
A Brother has asked for help. My obligation says I must fly. Now what do I do?
(Please note: I have been informed that RW Clarence D. Castile is a District Deputy Grand Master in his jurisdiction, not a PGM as I originally posted. That does not change anything, but I have corrected the message above. )
UPDATE at 11 PM 7/7:
The following information has been posted tonight on the Facebook page of Palestine Lodge No. 7 PHA in Minneapolis:
Good Evening Brothers, I spoke with Brother Clarence Castile and let him know that many of his brothers are deeply concerned and sent their condolences to his family and that many are asking how they can help. He wanted me to inform you brothers that he and his family are thankful for all your prayers and support. If you would like to help aid and assist, you can do so this Saturday at Palestine Lodge No 7 annual BBQ. 3836 4th Ave S. Minneapolis MN. Your donations will go directly to the family. Thanks to all.UPDATE at 1:30AM 7/8:
RW Brother Clarence Castile from Minnesota has noted on his Facebook page that a GoFundMe site has been set up for online donations that will directly assist his nephew's family after last night's fatal shooting. I am aware that several fraudulent sites were taken down by GoFundMe earlier on Thursday, but this site is verified by his family. CLICK HERE
I ask everyone to act by their conscience. The Brother went on national television yesterday morning and asked for help from his Brethren. Not donations. He's not even asking that on his Facebook page, but is responding to those who want to send money, because that's the first natural impulse that people have.
But I can't help but feel that he was asking for help on a much bigger level, that can't be paid for in cash. I took it to mean help for all of our society that hasn't seen divisions this glaring in decades. And if indeed that is the help he is seeking, I'm just not sure where to start.