Last night, Dr Marry and I were taking our girl, Lilly, for a walk. It was a glorious spring evening and we were enjoying a new block that we hardly ever walk down.
Suddenly, and from seemingly out of nowhere, a huge German Shepard came charging at Lilly, teeth bared. He knocked her over and was biting at her so fast I could hardly comprehend what I was seeing.
Lilly did everything “right”: she immediately collapsed; she didn’t fight back. She didn’t even utter a sound. In short, she was compliant. And I stood and screamed until my throat was raw.
This monster dog’s family got to him and pulled him off her, but he was relentless and attacked again. And again, Lilly was a passive victim, drawing absolutely no attention to herself or doing anything to incite this attack, except for the mere fact of simply being a dog.
And as we walked away, both Lilly and I shaking but physically unhurt and Dr Marry assessing his small wound from where the leash had been ripped out of his hand, I had this sinking, horrible dawning that this was a metaphor for what it must be like to be Black in America.
And I am still shaking a little this morning as I write this because I don’t want to diminish the history and reality of a group of people whose stories I am in no position to tell. And I don’t want anyone to read this as me comparing one experience of my dog with the centuries-long lived experiences of an entire race, and in particular an entire gender from that race of people.
But the parallel remains apt for me, and I hope it might make some sense to those of you who join me in living our super privileged, White, safe, midwestern lives.
Lilly’s only “crime” last night, the only reason she was targeted by that dog, was because she is a dog. He didn’t come after Dr Marry or me; he was fixated solely on Lilly. And she did nothing to deserve this attack except be in a place this larger dog deemed unacceptable for her to be. And she didn’t fight or defend herself when he came after her. And I couldn’t protect her, and it was terrifying.
And as I watched his teeth and powerful front paws dig into her neck and other soft parts, I thought of George Floyd whose only crime seems to be that he happened to be Black.
He complied despite the unfairness of the initial stop; he didn’t fight back when they took him out of the car. He remained calm, even as life slipped from him.
I have lived an incredibly privileged life, and I have never felt physically threatened by people who are tasked with keeping me safe. And I have never feared that my son, now a young adult who zips around in his convertible in Los Angeles, would be suspect for driving a nice car, for being in an upscale neighborhood, for filling his tank up with gas, for playing in a park, for walking down a street, for jogging or any number of activities that all people can and should be able to do without the specter of murder, or even just a wary distrust, hanging over their heads.
And now, those who are left behind, those who witnessed and have endured this killing and all the others, are standing on the sidelines screaming until their throats are raw. And I know that it’s long beyond time for me to somehow join their ranks and scream for justice, too. Until my throat is raw.
Please watch this interview from PBS Newshour; it’s the most powerful, honest and raw conversation I have ever seen (not sure why I can’t get it to embed). https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-response-to-george-floyds-death-reflects-accumulated-grievance-of-black-america
And then there’s this brilliance from Langston Hughes:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
J. M. Lilin
My heart was racing as I read this. You made a really good point and I couldn’t agree more with your choice of words.
Dayna Del Val
Thank you for reading and responding! It was quite a moment, for sure.
J. M. Lilin
I’m sure, but I am glad you both came out with thoughtful thoughts and no injuries.
Dayna Del Val
You and me both!