The musings and meandering thoughts of a crotchety old man as he observes life in the world and in a small, rural town in South East Nebraska. My Pledge-Nulla dies sine linea-Not a day with out a line.
30 April 2021
Fr. Wannabe Victim
A 'culture of victimhood' has grown up in our society, It's always the 'other guy' that's at fault. And the Jesuit rag 'America' pushes it for all it's worth.
I read articles like this and think about how dishonoring it is to people who have actually been a victim of racism, poor policing or horrible police conduct. I’m so tired of people wanting to be victims. It’s like they feel left out or it’s somehow a glory they don’t want to miss out on. It’s envy taken to a whole new level. It’s damaging to our country and, first and foremost, to our faith.
A cop pulled me over when I was a Catholic seminarian for driving while Black. Thank God I was with white friends.
April 23, 2021
As you will see, there was a little more to it.
I watched the parents of Daunte Wright speak about the moments that led to his killing by a police officer. His mom was on the phone with him when he was pulled over. I watched her relay a heartbroken response, realizing that her son would be dead in 10 minutes, because former officer Kim Potter shot him in the chest, allegedly mistaking her gun for a taser.
OK, there’s a bit more to this story. Just a bit. Yes, bad policing, completely. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an officer mistake gun for taser, but the idea that Daunte Wright was pulled over simply for “driving while black” and ended up getting shot is not even close to the whole story. There was, indeed, a warrant out for his arrest, which the officers knew about at the time of the shooting. The charges were weapons possession and fleeing the police, and probably an added bench warrant for failure to show to a hearing. Oh, and the shooting was precipitated by a struggle with police when they tried to bring him in.
It reminded me that I could have been Daunte Wright. In 1980, I was pulled over in Worthington, Ohio, after a cop saw me pass his parked car. I had Illinois license plates. He asked why I was driving through the town at 11:30 at night and told me that I had been driving erratically. I told him that we were on our way to a 24-hour restaurant and that we were students at the nearby seminary. He then looked into the car and saw two white men, my fellow seminarians, riding with me.
Really, Father? Did you have warrants out for your arrest? Did you struggle with police and then try to flee?
The stop ended with him handing me a warning slip, telling me to be careful. On the slip it said “single Black occupant in vehicle during suspicious behavior.” My friends couldn’t believe that “we” had been pulled over for doing nothing. They just didn’t understand. But I did.
I knew that by the grace of God a racist cop had been stopped from giving me a ticket, or worse, that night because he saw two white males in my car. I cried later that night after we got back to the seminary.
I knew that by the grace of God a racist cop had been stopped from giving me a ticket, or worse, that night because he saw two white males in my car.
Seriously? Again, SERIOUSLY?!
I’m gonna tell you a personal story. When we were young newlyweds, we went out late to take in a meteor shower. We came to an intersection and I saw a police car. I just had a feeling he was going to pull us over. Why? It was after curfew, we were driving a car teens would be driving and we could easily pass for teens. I even told my husband, “I bet we get pulled over.” When the light changed, we proceeded through the intersection and, sure enough, he fell in line behind us and pulled us over. We all got some surprises when he strolled up to the car. He asked us my husband what we were doing out so late and then pointed out that we were missing our front license plate. We didn’t even know it was missing. But the biggest shock was when he finally leaned down to see the passenger was an 8-month pregnant woman. Clearly, he used the missing plate to pull us over because he thought we were teens out after curfew and, well, we were indeed missing the front plate. He wrote us up a fix it ticket (wish I had been lucky as Father Wilkinson) and we asked him if he knew where a good dark place was to watch the shower. Did we think “Ageist!”?
Now, Father assumes he was pulled over by police because he was “driving while black”, but it could have very well been that he was driving poorly (he never actually cleared that up) and that it was late at night when people are out doing stupid things. We’ll never know why the cop wrote “single black occupant, but I do know most traffic tickets ask for a description of the subject and event. Just for fun, I pulled up a ticket from Ohio. https://www.columbusoviattorneyblog.com/files/2015/12/Uniform-traffic-ticket.png Could this officer have written that description before he ever got out of the car while he was waiting for plates to run and never changed it? Could it be that’s all he saw, just as the officer didn’t see the super pregnant mom when we were pulled over? Sure. The officer Father was dealing with probably saw a guy out late, driving in a manner he thought weird and decided to check it out. Upon investigation, he determined the guy what not under the influence and let him off with a warning, yet it has emotionally scarred him for life? Sheesh! This is a man who now spends his life counseling others. Kind of scary.
Over the past few years, many in America have come to see that some Black men and women never make it home after a traffic stop.
How many would that be, Father? And what kind of traffic stop are we talking about? The kind where an officer walks up, asks for license and registration and then whips out a gun and shoots a black person for no reason? Please, tell me where that was the case? You can’t because it didn’t happen. If you’re going to make this assertion, back it up. The fact is, there’s case after case of officers not making it home after routine traffic stops. Oh, you didn’t say “routine”? Well, you should have, because when any traffic stop becomes UN-routine, all lives are in danger, no matter the color of the driver.
Yet many still do not see the emotional scars carried by so many more Black people who have had a bad encounter with the police. My seminary friends did not understand that another wound on my soul had been created that night during the encounter with the police officer. I knew that once again I was seen not as a “regular” person just out doing regular activities but as a “Black occupant” doing something suspicious.
Well, those friends went from shocked to unable to understand mighty quickly. Which is it, Father?
Too often in our country I have been made to feel like simply living and acting like anyone else might live or act is suspicious or dangerous because of my skin color. The emotions that I must too often carry—of worry or cautious fear or heightened alert—drain me and rob me of the ability to just enjoy living as an open, loving human being.
Yes, racism exists. Duh. Nobody denies that. Systemic racism is a whole other ball of wax. That said, I have a healthy fear of anyone acting strangely or looking menacing, but it usually has everything to do with demeanor and very little to do with skin color. But I’ve got a great solution for you, which isn’t an option for others: wear your clerics!
Recently a popular television series, “This Is Us,” highlighted the tragedy of the divisions and emotional scarring that happens because of racism and the failure to have an honest dialogue about the pains this has created in our societies and in family life.
Two adult brothers, Randall, who is Black and was adopted, and Kevin, who is white and feels lingering resentment that his brother received special treatment from their parents, become estranged from each other. Kevin says that he regrets the day Randall was brought home to be a part of their family because “everyone” thought Randall should receive special attention. Randall responds with sadness that he never wanted any “special” attention. However, because he was a Black person in a white family, he was seen as different even though all he wanted was to be treated as an equal. Randall says that no one ever asked him how he felt about being seen as different; no one ever asked him if he was in pain or scarred because he was Black.
Not gonna lie. I like this show. I don’t agree with all the solutions they come to. I don’t agree with every moral aspect of the show but it does show a lot of common themes in families. Father forgets one episode long before the “BLM/COVID” season which hit the nail on the head. They were so on track with it. Each family accuses family members of some not so great things, not realizing that everyone had different perceptions of why and how things happened. It’s the same with everyone in this world. It’s important to understand there are different perceptions and we all act on ours, but so does everyone else. So, here’s a script clip from that particular episode after their family therapy session (we’d already seen scenes from a part of their childhood and why family members acted as they did). Father might want to watch it. Here’s the siblings’ conversation:
– You know what would have been sweet? If we had someone documenting our entire childhood, Boyhood style. – Mm, I hate that movie. – Never saw it. – I really loved it. I’m just saying, if we had someone filming our entire childhood, objectively, then we’d never have to debate about anything. Whenever we remembered things differently, we’d just say, “Let’s go to the videotape,” like Warner Wolf and then see what was really up. – Who’s Warner Wolf? – Sportscaster guy, when we were growing up; used to always say: “Let’s go to the videotape.” Then they’d play the highlights. – Warner Wolf. – Oh. Oh, yeah. – I remember when they were fitting me for glasses as a kid. I never actually realized just how blurry everything had always been, until they stuck my face in this weird thing they called “The Better Machine.” FEMALE DOCTOR: Is this better? Or is this better? The… first one. Is this better? Or is this better? So many variations, so many lenses… each one sharper or blurrier. My view of the entire world shifted like times in less than a minute. I think everyone sees their childhood with different lenses. You know, different perspectives.
Read more at: https://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org/viewtopic.php?f=718&t=31369
Back to Fr. Wilkinson:
I sadly believe that too many Americans are afraid to ask this question, especially to their fellow citizens of color in the country: Are you in pain or are you living in fear?”
Or maybe the question is, do you feel the need to have victim status? Are you assuming too much about your fellow citizen? Are you participating in or are you buying into fear-mongering? There’s a whole lot of fear being mongered, that’s for sure. We’re constantly being taught that others don’t care about you, negate your feelings, want to see you wiped off the face of the earth. The reality, the VAST majority of people are good people and a small minority really stink. Why is the VAST majority letting the insane, evil minority divide us?
In 1980, during that innocent outing to a restaurant, I was given another scar to carry because I was Black. No one—not my friends, nor anyone else at the seminary who heard of our encounter with the police—ever asked me if I was O.K. after that event. I was not. But like Randall, I still had to go forward in life while wounded and crying inside.
Aaaaaaaand… he’s going with “yes” on the victim status. My friends who knew and marched for their civil rights, who lived through the Chicago and Watt’s riots and watched THEIR communities destroyed, who saw the decimation of their communities and families due to liberal policies, who see their community being targeted for mass slaughter in abortion mills are wondering where Fr. Wilkinson was in their fight to stop the creation of more George Floyds and Duante Wrights who are will tragically die in similar situations.
Bad policing and racism in the United States inflicts many scars on people of color within our society and within our church. I am a victim of bad policing caused by systemic racism, and by the grace of God I’ve never faced a situation in which I might have lost my life because an officer drew a weapon and fired. But too many times, the United States has witnessed the tragic loss of life following a police officer’s decision to shoot now and ask questions later.
One time is too many, but that still doesn’t make for systemic racism. It simply allows you to suggest that it is.
I do not wish for any person to be hated for committing a crime—only that justice be served. I want justice to be served for all the tragic killings that we have witnessed in the past few years when policing went wrong, from the actions of Derek Chauvin, who has now been convicted for the murder of George Floyd, to those of former officer Kim Potter and the devastating pain her family will go through next because of the shooting death of Daunte Wright.
This is a wee bit of lumping here, isn’t it? Chauvin and Potter are two very different people, and the incidents were also very different, too. Are you also suggesting that justice be served by those committing crimes like Floyd and Wright? How about all of the other Floyds and Wrights who aren’t killed committing their crimes?
I sadly believe that too many Americans are afraid to ask this question, especially to their fellow citizens of color in the country: Are you in pain or are you living in fear? We must have an open dialogue if we want to prevent another George Floyd or Daunte Wright or even a Bruce Wilkinson. In order to stop the hatred and violence of racism we must acknowledge the present pain and begin anew to find ways to peacefully change our society.
Oh, I’m not afraid to ask this question. In fact, I have asked it of many people who have lived through actual racism. Your story? That does them a dishonor.
One excellent place for such a dialogue to begin is in our houses of worship. In these places, we are called to a higher morality and way of life based on love of God and neighbor—and we profess to be people of reconciliation. The only question remaining is if we are trusting enough in God’s graces to lead us to open our hearts and be changed.
Well, you got all the talking points in. Congratulations! I would have been totally disappointed if you didn’t lecture the Christians on how not to be racist while at the same time exhibiting shaming and a savior complex. Home run.
Here’s a novel idea, Father. How about you teach your flock not to sin? I realize you’re a little busy watching the White Sox, looking at the stars and riding the rails (sounds kind of like a privileged life) like all of Wrights and Floyds of the world but all of that sin (and I know it’s hard to believe there’s more than racism) just enables more sin to enter the world. Sadly, you and the “look at me” crowd always miss that little fact. I suppose you have to care about souls to miss that.