The image of young Elijah McClain playing his violin for rescue animals in a shelter won’t leave my brain lately. I can’t stop thinking about his last walk, listening to his music and dancing as he went. I can’t stop thinking about his last words, recorded by the cops who killed him. “I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry.”
“I’m so sorry.” He’s sorry that he was noticed as he danced down the street. He’s sorry that his difference made him an object of fear. He’s sorry that for absolutely no goddamned reason someone called the cops on him and for no goddamned reason, the cops are hurting him. Killing him. He’s sorry. What I want to know is what about the person—almost undoubtedly the white person—who saw this young man dancing down the street doing absolutely nothing to hurt a soul. “Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies!” Who saw this lovely, slight young man—5’ 7”, 140 pounds—and saw something to fear. Something that had to be squashed. And why? And how do we stop that?
Yes, by all means the cops who killed this young man, who killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rubain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Sean Reed, Steven Demarco Taylor, Ariane McCree, Terrance Franklin, Miles Hall, William Green, Samuel David Mallard, James Johnson, Antwon Rose, Stephon Clark, David McAtee, and on and on and on and on—those cops killing unarmed men and women and children must be held to account. They must. But the people who called the cops on all of these victims? What about them?
Yes. Police have to stop seeing every Black or brown person as a threat. But how do we stop the first instance of that perception? How do we stop making Amy Coopers? At least we can put a name to that walking example of overactive white privileged imagination, thanks to a smart phone, and she’s been held accountable. She’s lost her job and her poor nearly strangled dog. How do we do that with all the people hiding in their homes, anonymously dialing 911 when they see melanin in their vicinity. Because, goddammit, something has to be done about white people calling cops on Black people living while Black. I don’t have answers. I can be responsible for my actions and reactions. I can check myself. I can talk about the problem here, with my friends. But I don’t know how to fix this society. Fines for people making nuisance 911 calls on innocent people? I just don’t know. But making everyone hear Elijah McClain’s last words might help. Might wake people up.
"You all are phenomenal,” Elijah McClain told his torturers. “You are beautiful. And I love you. Try to forgive me. I'm so sorry. Ow, that really hurt.”