Jay Gilmore is a Black man, a son, and a father who fears for his teen not just driving — but leading his life.
In an emotionally raw and open letter via Cafemom — Gilmore penned his call to action following Daunte Wright‘s wrongful and unjust death after an officer shot and killed 20-year-old Wright during a traffic stop.
Upon further research, Wright was pulled over due to an expired tag. He had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, and he resisted. An officer alleged she thought she deployed her Taser and shot him by accident. He is now dead.
Gilmore reveals how Dante’s death is just one more Black man too many that died wrongfully by police — a death that reminds him of how his Black teen son who will soon be driving himself.
“Regardless of her reasoning, another Black man, a son and a father, is dead and gone, killed by those charged to protect and serve. This is a gut-wrenching reality. Will charges follow? Is a conviction coming? It feels like a movie marathon where everyone knows the ending. “
“As my 15-year-old approaches driving age, I don’t have the words to articulate my concern. It’s overwhelmingly exhausting. What if he laughs out of nervousness during a traffic stop? What if he reaches for his inhaler because he can’t breathe? As a Black man and father to Black children, a police encounter can easily turn deadly. It’s sad and sickening!”
Gilmore reveals that some have argued in the past that he doesn’t have anything to worry about and how he should “just comply.”
But as a Black man, Gilmore understandably attests it is never that simple — especially when looking at America’s history surrounding count, after count, after count of racial injustice.
“But even that can end in death. I’ve been driving for more than 20 years. By all accounts, I’m a law-abiding citizen. But as a Black man, that frankly doesn’t matter. When I see the police, despite knowing I’m doing nothing wrong, I go into survival mode. I always check my speed, and I don’t let them get behind me. I’ll take the first detour to allow them to pass.”
“I’ve survived all of my traffic stops. It’s a good day when the penalty is a $300 ticket. My closest call happened at home in a prestigious neighborhood.”
Gilmore goes on to reveal a harrowing night where cops beat on his front door after a neighbor called in a “domestic disturbance,” at his place of sanctuary.
That very same neighbor had called the police years ago when Gilmore’s mother parked on their grass.
“Cops beat on my door late one winter night. I had been asleep for hours and my first thought was to grab a gun as I went to the front door. I was so out of it, I just rushed to the door because I wanted the noise to stop. I didn’t know who was pounding on my door. I now wonder what would have happened if I went to the door with a firearm hidden behind the door.”
“Turns out, the police thought I was assaulting my wife because they got a domestic disturbance call from a number linked to my house. That number was a neighbor’s cell phone — a neighbor who called the police on my mother years earlier because she parked on my grass. I had every right to be upset and instinctively protect my home. But considering what happened to Breonna Taylor, I could see myself getting shot and killed had I returned the same aggression the officers offered me that night and I had a gun in my hand — even inside my own home.”
“I’m alive to tell my story, but I very easily could not have been. And it is a fear Black parents carry with us daily, especially when it comes to our young Black children.”
Gilmore goes on to highlight how “talk” isn’t enough when it comes to Black men and women being protected — and calls upon white parents to step up and be outraged.
“It’s my responsibility to keep my teenagers safe. How do I accomplish that when “the talk” is pointless? The news cycle and trending topics make the talk necessary, but what do you say? They can show their gun license and get shot and killed. They can go for a jog and end up dead. They can lay under the knee of a uniformed officer and then have their background blamed for their death. They can put their hands out of the windows to show compliance and get pepper sprayed.”
“As long as Blacks live in their skin, there isn’t a place on Earth where Black lives matter and they are safe. Unarmed Black people are dying in police custody. Kyle Rittenhouse was armed, and police gave him water. White parents, we need you to take heed to what’s happening and become outraged.”
Gilmore emphatically calls for white people to rise to the occasion — while also setting a clear boundary that Black people are not responsible for solving this problem.
“Don’t tweet about your latte options while Black people are dying. Don’t private message your Black friends offering support if you aren’t publicly going to bat for us. Don’t condemn riots before you condemn the root cause of the riots.”
“Realize that your voice is powerful. Realize that silence is complicity. And most importantly, don’t look to Black people to solve this problem. Step up and speak out. Admit Black lives don’t matter right now and become part of the solution that makes them matter.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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