I can't seem to get Terence Crutcher's death out of my mind.
The thing that keeps rolling over in my head about his murder is the phrase that the officer in the helicopter said. You've probably heard it. How Crutcher looked like "a big bad dude."
I'm married to a guy who looks like a big bad dude. He wears size 17 shoes. He's 6'3". He has long hair and a goatee. He is seldom in anything other than jeans and a t-shirt, and those are usually covered in sawdust from working in his shop building guitars.
We drive an old van that seems fine, but is old enough that it could break down in the middle of the road any day. And the inspection sticker is expired because the registration card somehow went missing. Which means until just the other day we were driving without any kind of registration in the car as well. Definitely the kind of situation that could attract police.
We also live in West Virginia, a state that allows you to concealed carry without a license. It's also a state where many of the citizens are gun owners. My husband and I are not gun owners, but it wouldn't be a leap to assume that he was carrying some kind of firearm.
But the guy I'm married to is white, so even if police officers stopped to help with a broken down car AND realized the inspection was expired AND realized he didn't have a registration AND suspected that he was carrying a firearm, I don't worry that the police would shoot him. Even though he kind of looks like "a big bad dude," I don't even worry that an officer would make that kind of assumption about him. I assume this because when he's been pulled over before, he's always come home.
I look at Facebook pictures of Terence holding his son or hugging his wife, and I think, "That's not a big bad dude. That's a just a big dude who loves his family." They are the same kind of pictures I'd expect to see on my husband's Facebook page. A dad and his son. A husband and his wife. That's all.
But his blackness makes him a big bad dude. We may not want that to be true, but the longer we ignore that, the more likely it is that another black man will be gunned down in the streets by someone who has promised to protect and serve. My white husband's life isn't at risk if our car breaks down. Terence Crutcher did not have that luxury, and saying that we need more details because we can't prove it happened because of his skin color leads to more black bodies in our country's morgues.
I don't really know what to do with what I'm feeling. I'm glad that the risk for my husband is low, but it grieves me that some of my friends can't say the same for their husbands. I'm frustrated that there's more of an uproar from white people about Batman using a gun than there is about a police officer using a gun to shoot and kill an unarmed black man. I'm frustrated that the kneeling down of Colin Kaepernick is met with more animosity than the standing by of police officers after they shot a black man.
I don't really know what to do about it. I wish there was a way to just FIX the racism that is entrenched in our society, but that is definitely beyond the powers of this white girl here in West Virginia. But I'll try to do some things where I can. I'll listen to the stories and the fears and the anger of my black and brown friends and I'll remind my white friends that listening matters. I'll remind them that the anger of black men and women matters. I'll remind them that the stories of black men and women matter. I'll remind them, and me, that black lives matter.
Maybe when we start to believe that, we'll be able to see a black man as something other than a big bad dude.