How Did We Get Here? #TerenceCrutcher

How did we get here?

On Friday, from multiple angles, we watched a man- a black man, a father of four, a husband, a brother, a son, a musician, a student, a friend, Terence Crutcher, “Crutch” – bleed out in the middle of the road in North Tulsa.

This just a couple of months after watching Alton Sterling bleed out in a parking lot in Baton Rogue. And watching Philando Castile bleed out in the driver’s seat of his car.

The world lost another man this week too soon. Anytime that happens, it’s a tragedy. When it’s at the hands of the state, at the hands of a police officer – one sworn to protect and serve – it is all the more so.

And yet, a large portion of our country can’t find in them the most human and reasonable reaction to the death of someone’s father – grief, compassion, tears, empathy. Instead, they view the video of his death and their first reaction is to search – desperately, fearfully, guiltily – for a justification. For a reason why Terence Crutcher must have deserved to die at the hands of Officer Betty Shelby on that lonely Tulsa road Friday night.

Instead of reacting like actual human beings, they react like numb, disconnected shadows.

How did we get here?

We pride ourselves on our virtues in America: on our compassion, our loyalty, our commitment to justice, our kindness. It’s our enduring American myth. And yet, our public reactions to things like the death of our fellow citizens is anything but compassionate or kind or just. It’s always cold and cruel and dismissive and bloodthirsty.

“He must have been asking for it.”

“He was a thug.”

“He should have complied.”

“He shouldn’t have been wearing a hoodie.”

“He was a big, bad dude.”

“He got what he deserved.”

Terence Crutcher died Friday. He had his hands up. His car had been secured by the officer. He was moving slowly and deliberately. There were four officers there. He was not presenting an active threat. And yet, he died. He died physically. And white America is going to make sure he dies again and again in the coming weeks, so that we have to never face up to the guilt of having constructed a racist system that only works by disposing of black bodies as carelessly as we dispose of old paper towels.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. If Philando Castile – beloved Phil, sitting in his car, following all the orders, as innocent of any wrong doing as a person can be – if he can’t get even get a fair public hearing in this country, then folks like Terence and Keith and Alton and all the others don’t stand any chance in hell.

We don’t have a live feed to Terence’s brain to see what exactly was going through his mind at that moment, so consequently, he can never prove his innocence to so many in our country. So he’s guilty. Cut and dry. He was guilty the day he was born a black boy, and he has been guilty every day since, he was guilty on Friday, and now, he will be guilty for all posterity. That’s American justice at work.

The American myth has been preserved for another bloody day.

How did we get here?

How do we get out?

The Story of Omran and Julian

Mahmoud Raslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mahmoud Raslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This image has hit me like a ton of bricks this week, and I can’t shake it.

I’m not big on praying, but this has brought me to the point of wanting to pray, to pray for an end to stories like this.

This is 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh. Omran and his family live in Aleppo, Syria, one of the most war-torn places on the planet. Yesterday, a government airstrike hit his home in a part of the city controlled by rebels. Omran and his family were buried in the rubble. Fortunately, they all survived, with minor injuries.

Omran was pulled from the rubble, and carried to the back of an ambulance. In the midst of so much noise, he was silent, most likely suffering from shock. He had a cut on his head, and the blood was running down his face. As he sat, he reached up and wiped at his face. Seeing blood on his hand, he tried to wipe it on the seat.

Omran reminds me of my son, Julian, who will soon be four and looks a lot like Omran. Julian, fortunately, lives in middle class Tulsa Oklahoma. The chances that his home will be hit with an airstrike any time soon are nil. There will likely never be a picture like this taken of my son.

But they are so alike. All that separates them is half a world. I imagine if they met, they would likely get along. Omran appears to have some cartoon character on his shirt, and Julian would surely know who it is and they would have lots to talk about. Omran probably likes soccer, and so does Julian, so that is another commonality.

But, while Julian’s life has been serene and safe, Omran has spent all of his five short years living in terror, even if he didn’t know it, of this exact thing happening. Omran’s life expectancy is so much shorter than Julian’s because he lives in Aleppo. And, Omran’s chances of escaping the terror he lives with are small to none, because much of the western world that can help has decided Syrian victims like Omran who become refugees are much too dangerous to give a safe home to.

In my own country, for instance, one of our major presidential candidates has gone so far as to say that Omran, if he were to come here, would immediately be suspect of being a perpetrator of terror, and would need to be detained and then sent back to Aleppo, to the bombs and planes and terrors he was fleeing.

And, all the while, Julian will play and grow and not know fear or need or terror. Julian will almost certainly grow into a well-adjusted, carefree man. Omran’s chances of that are minuscule. Because the world has decided there is nothing to be done for him. He is collateral damage. The leader of his country will continue to target him and his family for violence, and the rebel’s supposedly fighting for his freedom will continue to use him as a human shield.

And meanwhile, the world will stand by, because 13 years ago, we were all incredibly short-sighted and selfish and irresponsible and decided to enter into a war in a country neighboring Syria that we did not need to enter into. And because that war was such a debacle, violence and terror was spawned across the entire region, and the ability of the world to intervene and act in a credible way in that part of the world was hampered and hindered for decades to come. And so Omran becomes another casualty of the mistake that was the Iraq War, and more importantly, of our Western hubris.

And so all of this brings me back to looking at that picture, and having a question pop into my mind:

What is so damn important that Omran has to suffer?

What have we all decided, in our collective insanity, is so much more important than this little boy’s life and happiness and safety? More important than his ability to just be a 5 year old little boy who likes cartoons and soccer?

When and why did we all decide that Julian, as much as I love and cherish him, has more worth than Omran?

What are we all fighting for that has more worth than Omran?

Please enlighten me. Because I can’t think of a damn thing.


“Cristo Roto”, San Jose de Garcia, Mexico

Christ I love you

not because you descended from a star

but because you revealed to me

that man has blood





to open the doors closed to light

Yes! You taught us that man is God…

a poor God crucified like you

and the one who is at your left on Golgotha

the bad thief

is God too!

-Leon Felipe