Philando Castile: 1983-2016 and beyond

In the wake of recent events which took place here in Saint Paul, first the horrific shooting of Philando Castile less than five minutes from my house, to the outrage following the livestreamed killing, to the lack of legal action taken against the guilty police officer, I felt it necessary to comment on how I, and probably many others, struggle to come to grips with how such an attack could take place.

Let me start a few weeks ago. I was pulled over for speeding in Wisconsin, by a white police officer, yet my first thought was not “will I make it out of here uninjured” but instead “how can I pay for this?” This is white privilege. It was not a choice, but instead something that I was born with, something that has been engraved in my mind. The traffic stop went as expected, asking for my insurance, my drivers license, all of which I complied with. But, looking back, I can’t help but think that if I had been black, the simple action of reaching for my pocket, or the glovebox, could’ve triggered violence from a police officer who may subconsciously associate African Americans with guns. But then I think about my brother, sitting next to me in the car, and try to convince myself that his presence would’ve saved me. But Philando was not saved by the presence of his four year old daughter. His daughter who not only has to live with the memory of seeing her father die at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect us, but live without a father figure in her life.

This story of this shooting was not told through shaky dashcam videos or witness accounts from afar. It was livestreamed to Facebook, where millions saw what happened, unfiltered. Yet, unsurprisingly, the court was still able to find excuses for the fatal shooting. Following in the footsteps of the endless previous convictions (or lack thereof), the officer was let off without any repercussions. Examining the trial further, we see a severe lack of diversity on the jury; of the 12 panel members, only two were black. The jury ended up acquitting the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, by a count of 10-2. Despite complying with the Yanez’s every request, and simply reaching for his wallet, Castile was shot and killed. And this would not have happened if he was white.

How can we fix the system? If Castile was white, and was shot and killed in the same fashion, with the same evidence provided, would Yanez have been let off? Maybe, but the issue lays in the fact that this doesn’t happen. White people don’t fear for their life at traffic stops, or even simply in the streets. For the justice system to be able to differentiate between a sincere use of force to defend oneself and systematic racism is difficult. They are supposed to see things equally, and not insert bias into the equation. But there is a history of killings and acquittals now, and jurors need to be aware of the fact that the police are not always justified in their actions.

There seems to be a lack of action I can take. Following the court’s ruling, for a week I failed to comprehend what had gone wrong. The evidence was there. Everyone in the Twin Cities had heard about the shooting. The livestream video had circulated the internet long enough for anyone with any interest to see it. Yet 10 out of 12 people (including the two black jurors) failed to provide justice for Philando. How could this happen, in my city, in a diverse, liberal, proud city? Is racism that engrained in people’s minds that they can identify with an officer who saw a black man reach for his pocket and assumed that he was going for his gun? If this is true, and this is what the jury proved, than the protesting is obviously not doing enough. It will take more than that. It will take education, a change in mindset. While “All Lives Matter” followers may dismiss the Justice for Philando marches as annoyances, having conversations with them about the obvious discrepancies in treatment of whites and blacks by police may began to open eyes about how change needs to happen. Put them in the shoes of a black man or woman, see how they expect to be treated, and show them how blacks are actually treated. Maybe these realizations could do something helpful.

But I don’t know anymore. I am just another white man in a world where I have all the advantages, and I didn’t have to do anything for it. Now tell me how that’s fair.

-a

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The Importance of Language

There’s something life changing about spending time in a city like Paris or New York City, or any large touristy place. You get to experience a multitude of cultures and people and languages in one center, and if you’re anything like me, you contemplate what others are saying. 

While in France, the importance of communication has really hit me. It’s difficult to talk to my host family in my broken French and we end up having conversations through sign language and a combination of both French and English words. There are some things of utter importance that I need to get across that I just can’t find the words for, so I have to think of universal signs to describe them. They must do the same to me, and it’s nice to be able to finally get a point across. 

While at the Palace of Versailles, I stood in line for two hours waiting to get inside. While waiting I stood with people talking English in Australian accents, a Chinese tour group, an Eastern European group and a small family wearing Barcelona soccer jerseys. I was surrounded by so many people from so many places and I was completely in awe. 

Communication is so incredibly important- between those close to you and those whom you’ve never meet before. There are so many different people around the world to talk with and without a shared understanding of each other we’re each just on our own. 

Even between people of the same language, communication is key. I’ve had many a fight with friends and family over miscommunications- texts read wrong or sarcastic comments taken too seriously or a small spat turning into a huge fight because we refused to listen to one another. 

There is  no way we can be good members of the world without being able to communicate- both talking/signing/making contributions, and listening/watching/trying to piece together what’s going on. The lack of this is what brings rifts into our society, a lack of proper communication because each side refuses to listen and empathize with the other. 

So I guess this is just a mini rant about how we need to both talk and listen and watch the world around us and the people in it. How communication isn’t one sided, it’s not “I told her/you/them” it’s “This is what I said. This was the other side of it.” Because listening to others is just as important as talking yourself. 

A IN TARGET (FIELD)

Despite a humiliating loss in the previous game, not even the prospect of thunderstorms or the stifling humidity could dampen the mood (or bats) in Target Field last night, as the Twins had a historic night at the plate, setting a franchise record in hits, with 28, the most in any MLB game since 2007.

As the Liuzzi’s showed up to the ballpark, we were directed to a dugout box, directly behind first base. Equipped with our own personal air-conditioned concession stand, bathrooms, and gloves to catch errant hits, we settled into our unusually luxurious seats. Accustomed to bleachers, we marveled at the view of the field, chatted with neighboring fans, and prepared for a long night of baseball. Little did we know that we would go on to witness history.

The game started poorly for the hometown team, going down 3-0 early, as pitcher Kyle Gibson seemed to be on track for yet another lackluster start. Soon though, the Twins were sparked to life by a Max Kepler home run, and from there, everyone began to hit. After just 3 innings, Minnesota led Seattle 11-3, and this was just the beginning. By the time the game was over, Twins players has crossed the plate 20 times, hit 5 home runs, and collected 28 hits. After a hectic start, our pitching improved, allowing just 4 runs over the final 7 innings, and Minnesota improved to an AL Central best 33-28.

While we failed to snag a baseball (despite everyone around us getting one), the cushioned seats and parade of hits complimented a humid Minnesota summer perfectly, creating an unforgettable night for all the Liuzzi boys.

Hasta luego.

-a

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El en France

Bonjour!

Yesterday (or was it 2 days ago… time difference makes everything so bizarre) I woke up at 7 am in the Twin Cities. I finished packing, said “au revoir” to friends and family, and boarded a plane to Charles de Gaulle. I sat in the wrong seat twice, and ended up in the center seat, which makes me anxious. I could only sleep for two hours on the nine hour flight, and arrived in Paris at 7 am. However, I landed safely and that is what truly matters. 

I’m staying with a family who knows mine through a web of different events, and although they are incredibly kind, I feel terrible when I make them repeat the same phrase three times until they give up and tell me what they’re saying in English. 

On my first day we visited an American cemetery, saw the Eiffel Tower from afar, and the parents of ma famille cooked a veggie burger for the first time. 

Because school is still in session, that is where I will spend most of my first two weeks here. My classmates are very sweet, and have made me feel comfortable. The classes are very different in France, and the days are much longer. However, I am able to go home for lunch and have plenty of time to eat, which is truly an amazing change that Americans should adopt. All of my classmates are incredibly healthy and even without factoring in all of the variables, I am going to credit that to the recess period and the long lunch that lets children eat what’s healthy instead of what is fast.

Along with all of the new phrases and the intro to French driving (very fast, parking on sidewalks, manual cars), I have also learned how truly awful jet lag is. This afternoon at school it was still 2 am for me, and that made it very difficult when the nun read the Bible in Latin (I didn’t understand the Latin at all, and I didn’t comprehend the French language much either), but I have peresevered and I will see what the next day has to bring. 

À plus tard. 

-el 

Elius

Elena & Arius

Documenting a life of long distance relationships, priceless adventures, countless of Arius’ over-edited pictures, and  just the right amount of cups of coffee