Thoughts on the death of Philando Castile
I never met Philando Castile. But I cried for him today. I am a Caucasian American man in his late 50s. I have enjoyed a happy, comfortable, relatively peaceful life. I have had the privilege of teaching chemistry at universities in Oregon and Delaware during the last 32 years. My life would seem to have very little to do with Mr. Castile’s life. But I cried. Here’s why. The news this morning was grim. Five police officers killed by a sniper in Dallas. The connection to the police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota was obvious.
How many similar news stories have we Americans seen or heard in recent years? I’m as numb to the horror as anyone else is by now. So why did I cry this time? Because as I listened to “Good Morning America”, I learned some of the details of Mr. Castile’s life. I learned that he worked at a Montessori school, helping to provide meals for the children there. I was told that he knew the names of all 500 children who attend that school. And their food allergies.
And that’s when it hit me, and I cried.
Because Philando Castile was me.
Some people have called me a good teacher. Maybe part of that is due to the fact that in the course of working with approximately 400 students each semester, I try to get to the point where I can call as many of them as possible by their first names. Now that I’m pushing 60, I’m not as good at this as I once was. But I try.
This is merely a pleasantry for me, part of being cordial. Lubrication in the machinery of life.
What Philando Castile did was vital.
What would happen if the wrong child got the wrong lunch? Perhaps a situation involving a rescue inhaler. Maybe anaphylactic shock. Possibly even the death of a child.
Philando Castile knew that. And he cared enough to make sure that that wouldn’t happen.
I care about my students. All good teachers do.
Philando Castile cared about the students at the school where he worked.
And now he is gone, and with him went his knowledge of the students. And those kids are the worse for it.
Did I say “Philando Castile was me?”
Scratch that. Philando Castile was whom I aspire to be. Black lives matter. So do blue lives. All lives matter. We’ve heard all the slogans.
You know whose matter?
Black police officers. I can’t imagine how torn they must be by all this.
My next-door neighbor for 18 years was an AfricanAmerican woman who was a member of the county police force. She helped my wife and me on several occasions when “situations” involving our teenage daughter arose. And on the night my wife died, my neighbor stayed with me in the hospital.
My neighbor’s life matters. It matters to me.
Philando Castile’s mattered.
It matters more to me now, since I’ve figured out that Mr. Castile and I had lives life caring in common. Once Mr. Castile and I became “we” in my mind, his life mattered to me.
You know whose matter? We The People. Americans become so passionate during election years. But this is far more important than any election result.
Democrats or GOP — we are nothing if not “We.” And together we must put our weapons down.
(Are you listening, NRA? I didn’t think so.)
After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I thought, “Surely this will make us do something about gun violence.”
It hasn’t happened. I’ve lost hope.
But it’s good to know that others haven’t. Others like Philando Castile, who worked every day to make life better for kids.
I’m willing to wager that the students at the Montes- lives sori school in Minnesota represent a diverse population.
Red and yellow, black and white. All were precious in his sight.
This is why I cried for Philando Castile today.
I’m a liberal, and proud of it. I like the way my heart bleeds.
And I don’t think I’m done crying yet.
I hope the day will come when none of us has to cry.
Because the shootings will have stopped.
Because we will have finally realized that we cannot judge the content of someone’s character by the color of his skin. Or her skin.
But until that day arrives, I will cry. Unashamedly. For someone I never met. I never met Philando Castile. But I cried for him today. And if I have to do the same again, I will, my friend Philando.