In North Miami on Monday, unarmed behavior therapist Charles Kinsey was shot by police as he lay on the ground in the middle of the street, hands up in the air. Mr. Kinsey had gone into the street to coax an autistic patient to return to his group home. The police had been called by a neighbor who said there was a man with a gun in the road threatening suicide; as the autistic man sat in the street playing with a toy truck, Mr. Kinsey worried that the police might shoot the poor guy playing with the toy. Mr. Kinsey never thought the police might shoot him instead.
But an officer shot Mr. Kinsey in the leg, and then police handcuffed him and left him bleeding in the road until an ambulance arrived. Afterwards Mr. Kinsey asked the officer why he had shot him. The policeman said: “I don’t know.”
A follow-up question Mr. Kinsey could have asked, that people all over the country are asking today, is: “Would you have shot me if I was white?”
I am an old, dispassionate, middle-class white woman, a Vietnam-era Army veteran living in a predominantly white area of Whidbey Island, Washington. My middle-aged, middle-class children—a mailman and a software engineer—are also white, as are my grandchildren. Charles Kinsey’s shooting does not immediately affect my family or my neighborhood.
But for me, this incident is the tipping point, the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am so filled with rage over this I can hardly speak. My face flames with anger. My hands shake as I write this letter. My vision is blurring with tears, as it has been all day, and my closed throat aches to scream:
Black Lives Matter.
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Today I ordered signs to plaster my yard and my car: Black Lives Matter. I will wear and carry placards that say: Black Lives Matter. In this election year I will give money to and vote for people who say: Black Lives Matter.
I invite the rest of you old middle-class white women and men to join me. This is America. And this unconscionable behavior has to stop.