Harvard MBA Mama Weighs in on Black Lives Matter — we need more empathy
Approximately one year ago, on July 6, 2016, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was fatally shot by Jeronimo Yanez, a Minnesota police officer, after being pulled over in a suburb of St. Paul.
Castile was driving a car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter as passengers when he was pulled over by Yanez and another officer. According to Reynolds, after being asked for his license and registration, Castile told the officer he was licensed to carry a weapon and had one in his pants pocket. Reynolds said Castile was shot while reaching for his ID after telling Yanez he had a gun permit and was armed. The officer shot at Castile seven times.
Dash cam footage of the incident was released today and clearly shows that Castile posed no threat to Officer Yanez. Personally, I have not watched the footage. After witnessing my fair share of cell phone and dash cam footage of brazen, out of control police officers using deadly violence against black people, I choose to no longer consume this content. My friend Shanelle Matthews — a leader in the #BlackLivesMatter movement — summed it eloquently after the Castile footage made the rounds on Twitter.
Castile was shot point blank multiple times while his partner and a four-year child witnessed this horrific incident. Yanez was acquitted of all charges on June 16, 2017. The response of Castile’s mother, Valerie, went viral as she proclaimed that she was mad as hell that her son’s murderer was not convicted. As a mother, I feel Valerie’s pain and her rage.
On September 16, 2016, Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man, was fatally shot by white police officer Betty Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was unarmed during the encounter.
The shooting led to protests in Tulsa and days later, Officer Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter. Less than one year later, a jury found Betty Shelby not guilty of first-degree manslaughter.
LaToya Marc, a 2017 graduate of Harvard Business School, is a wife and mother to a young son. She wrote the following account after Crutcher’s murder.
Grieving yet again and my prayers are with the Crutcher family. Biases are real — and mixing biases with power is deadly.
We increased my husband’s life insurance policy today — because unconscious biases and institutionalized racism make him a walking target for someone to assume the worst in him — shoot first, ask questions later.
We have been in Boston living on campus at HBS for a little over a year and he has been stopped on campus by security for looking “suspicious” at least twice (praise God that partners also get Harvard IDs), had the door slammed on him to ensure he uses his key to access SFP 2 countless times, and stopped on his bike by Boston Police while riding home from work because someone reported one was stolen in the area (mind you, he had on all his gear making it clear that he couldn’t have just stolen his bike).
I am a key leader here on campus — quite visible and I do feel valued and respected, most of the time. But none of that changes the reality that my husband lives in daily… or that my son soon will as well. My heart is aching. I am so exhausted from trying to get people to understand the pain and fear that I and many live in daily — and how that impacts our experience in communities where we are the minority. I am expected to still perform at the highest levels in school, in recruiting, and in my leadership positions regardless of all this emotional and psychological warfare I am battling.
I lean on God for strength, peace, protection, and guidance. My family is covered and I have faith that we will thrive. While I am blessed to still have my family intact, other families are victims to this systemic injustice and it’s happening so often that people are tuning it out.
This has to stop.
We need more empathy. We need more curiosity. We need more allies speaking out against this to produce real change.