Daunte Wright was ‘Accidentally’ Shot and Killed by a Cop and I Couldn’t Sleep Last Night
Duante Wright was 20 years old, my son is 20 — how can we Black mothers ever sleep at night. I am sad beyond words — devasted, Rebecca Stevens A., Twitter
Rebecca’s tweet immediately resonated with me because I am in the “…we Black mothers…” group she refers to, and for a period of time last night, I couldn’t sleep.
I’d gone to bed about 10:15 pm after watching a portion of the nightly news. Earlier I’d watched the live feeds from the protest in Minneapolis and the familiar feeling of exhaustion, anger, sadness, and dread that seems always right beneath the surface of my skin as a Black mother in America was ever-present.
I woke up around midnight to use the restroom when I remembered our 23-year-old son still wasn’t home. On my way back to bed I kept thinking about the new registration sticker for our son’s car that was still in the envelope on top of the shoe storage cubby by the front door. Although I’d reminded him on more than one occasion to replace the old expired sticker, he’d left once again without doing it.
“Dammit”, I thought to myself, I should have been more persistent before he left to go to his second job he recently started. He’s entrepreneurial and has business plans that require funding beyond the wages of just one job. I was glad to see him focused on making his dreams his reality. But last night, I hated the idea he was out working and not safe at home. Especially since I hadn’t asked him what time he’d get off from work when he left earlier. I wish I had because as I stated, it was midnight and he wasn’t home yet.
Should I send a text to check on him to make sure he’s Ok and confirm that the only reason he wasn’t home yet is because he’s still at work? Or, should I wait it out? Either way, I could not go back to sleep.
how can we Black mothers ever sleep at night
The stories about Daunte Wright and 2nd LT. Caron Nazario were still fresh in my mind. Both had encounters with police that were allegedly initiated based on routine traffic stops having to do with their tags. Daunte’s encounter resulted in him being shot and killed and now he’s dead. He’s now become the latest hashtag. #DaunteWright
The officer who pulled the trigger and ended his young life was not a new officer, but a 26-year police veteran. One who according to Brian Peters, the head of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, was “acting as a field training officer, training a new officer…” on the day of the fatal shooting. We can only hope the trainee learned a lesson in what not to do.
According to her superior she allegedly “accidentally” used her gun instead of her taser which was her true intention. I’m reminded of the idiom “ The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It is pure exhaustion.
After I returned to bed I knew for sure I would not be returning to sleep. I grabbed my phone that was lying on the nightstand. I googled his employer to find out what time the restaurant where my son was working closed. After seeing “Closes 12 AM” I realized he must have been scheduled to close. I felt a little more at ease but not completely.
The unanswered questions floating around in my mind were legion.
- If he was closing, how long would it take before he’d be finished and heading home?
- How long does it take him to get home? (I calculated the time using Waze).
- Would he get stopped about the expired registration sticker between Highland village and the thirty-three-minute drive home?
- What if he’d gotten off earlier and went somewhere else?
- If he got stopped would he remember all the “right” things to do?
- If he got stopped would he remember what not to do?
- Would doing what is right or doing what is perceived as wrong even matter if he got stopped?
- Should I send him a text or should I call?
At 12:30 AM I sent him a text.
Shortly after I sent the text my husband woke out of his slumber to get up and use the restroom. When he returned to bed seeing I was wide awake he asked if our son had made it home from work yet? I tried to remain calm as I chalantly told him “No” but I’d sent him a text message that he’d not yet responded to. Now we were both wide awake and making the small talk parents make when they’re concerned about their offspring.
It would be thirty more hour-like minutes before our son responded to the text.
During the 30 minutes of waiting for his response, I’d prayed and invited “hope to stay” since I’d also summonsed my inner Maya Angelou who reminded me that “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space invite one to stay.” I invited “Hope” to stay.
I hoped my son was Ok. Correction I hoped our sons were Ok. We also have a 26-year-old who lives about 30 minutes away in his own apartment. It had been a few days ago since we’d had a wonderful lunch together and now with no indication that he wasn’t in his apartment sleeping, I was hoping he too was Ok. And by Ok, I meant that they were safe and alive.
How is it that my mind had reached this point so quickly? The question is rhetorical. I was clear about the how. It’s the reality of the long list of unarmed black people who’ve been killed by police for one unjust reason or another that does it for me. And now it has happened again. Damn, damn, damn in my Florida Evans voice.
I’d rationalized in my mind that I’d use the power of social media and playing solitaire as a distraction. Of course, I first checked all my son’s social media spaces to which I am privy. There were no new posts or tweets. But I did come across the tweets I’ve shared above from Rebecca Stevens A. and Arturo Dominguez who are two fellow #WEOC writers I follow.
how can we Black mothers ever sleep at night
As a writer, I knew this experience was something I ̶w̶a̶n̶t̶e̶d̶ needed to write about. So as I continued to wait for his response I opened my notes app and started typing notes I’d use to help me write the story you are reading now. It was during this time when my son finally responded to the text I’d sent which I share below. See 12:30 AM.
As you can see in the text, he was OK and still at work. His only concern at the time was knowing what we’d eaten for dinner. I usually respond to his request about dinner with a smart-aleck response like “whatever you’re bringing.” But not this time. The truth is I was overwhelmed with the relief of knowing he was Ok and would soon be heading home. I could breathe a little easier. But I still didn’t go back to sleep until well after I heard the Ring notifying us he’d made it home about forty-five minutes later.
As I write today I think about all the Black mothers or mothers of Black and other racially marginalized children who didn’t get the opportunity to receive one more response from their child because their child was killed. This morning I watched the Robin Roberts GMA interview with Duante Wrights' parents and it was heart-wrenching. There are no words anyone who has not suffered such a loss can offer to alleviate their raw pain, anger, and sadness.
What Can We Do About It?
Of course, there are many elements of major change required within our policing and criminal justice systems to eradicate the number of unjustified killings of unarmed Black and other marginalized people. To be honest, sometimes the plight seems unwinnable. It seems like we go two steps forward and three steps back. Yet giving up will never be a sustainable option. Not when the lives of so many marginalized people are at stake.
We may be exhausted and angry and sad but even so there are things we can do to stay engaged at some level. Whether it be directly or indirectly we can still help Daunte Wright’s family along with the many other families within our communities who have suffered such devastating and unnecessary losses of their loved ones.
Here are three things we all can do. We can:
- Join them in support to demand justice for their son by exposing this kind of injustice in our circles of influence no matter how large or small.
- Make sure Daunte’s name along with the thousands of others unjustly killed by police is/are not forgotten and that the loss of their lives is not in vain. (Click here to see a memorial of the unarmed Black individuals who have been killed by police in the last decade and #SayTheirNames.)
- Demand the perpetrators be held fully accountable for their actions no matter their color. Resignations are expected but in no way enough to rectify the wrongs.
As I was typing this my son announced he was leaving for work. I asked him what time he’d be getting off. He told me. I told him I’d be cooking greens with smoked turkey for dinner. He repeated the menu “greens with smoke turkey you say.” I said “yep”. He said, “Ok, see you later” and walked out the door to get in his car. But today, the new registration sticker is affixed to the windshield of his car because this morning I insisted.
Until the next time…
Much Love & Peace,