This incident occurred around 1:15pm in the town of San Rafael, California in Marin County on August 25, 2017. The city of San Francisco was scheduled to bus in participants in the “Patriot Prayer” rally from Marin County, over the Golden Gate Bridge, the morning of Saturday 8/26. The rally has since been cancelled but many of the attendees who are affiliated with neo-nazis, white supremacists like the KKK and the “alt-right” were in Marin County already since it was being used as a staging area.
This afternoon I saw a white racist try to kill a black boy with his car. He waited for the young man in a Bob Marley tee shirt to cross the street at a four-way stop, then he turned his wheels, powered up his beaten up white sedan and sped right into the kid. When the kid ran up to the sidewalk to escape the car followed him and jumped the curb to get to him. When that didn’t work the driver reversed into the intersection, swerved around and sped away toward the town center in San Rafael, California.
Like most everyone else at the stop sign I was stunned. I drove home and three minutes later I called the police and gave them a description of the driver, the license plate number and make of the car. I am nothing if not a trained New Yorker. When I see something I say something. But this doesn’t feel sufficient when confronting evil. Nothing ever does.
I thought about my failure. Not to chase down the culprit and bring him to justice but to chase down the young man. To open my doors and drive him somewhere safe–together. The police station perhaps where we would offer a full accounting. Instead I drove home, back to my one bedroom apartment, alone. I called the police and filed a report. I called reporter friends and made as much social media noise as I could. I spoke to newspapers. Someone, somewhere would have a record of this. But ultimately I did it in isolation. I was as vulnerable as that college student.
I received text messages and Facebook comments but no one visited, there were no suggestions to come together. Many people reached out to see if I was okay. I was fine, nothing happened to me and even though I understand how far away I am from everyone it saddened me that I couldn’t be with my people. There was no chance to convene to commiserate or bear witness.
How did we become so alone and yet so connected, I wondered. Why did that boy have to run for his life, then walk away alone?
So much has been made of the political tensions in America in the age of trump. It is good and right to debate with vigor and passionate intellect the utter disaster that is the current administration. The responsibility of the current social climate is theirs. These deaths should be laid at trump’s feet, as he has made it his business to ask his supporters to enact violence on his behalf against anyone he tells them is a “bad” person.
But in the course of this discussion we miss a crucial point: the dangers on the street to the average person are real. Violence is happening everywhere in the name of ideology. Cynics might brush that off as just another fact of living in a dangerous world. After all, one narrative goes, violence happens all over for all sorts of reasons. But accepting political violence is opening the door to history’s horrors and those horrors are felt primarily by people of color, LGBT people and women. Moreso: political violence has historically only ended in genocides, world wars and other massively bad things. When we don’t work to stamp out violence, outrage and grievance we open the door to more pain.
As of the time I am writing this the rally for white outrage that was scheduled to be held at San Francisco’s Crissy Field has been cancelled. The even organizers claim to be frightened for their safety. An absurdly bogus claim but this is clearly a victory for one of the planet’s most liberal enclaves.
When leftists gather, no one goes into the host cities prior or post with the intention of killing. It is hard to go looking for victims in a pussy hat. It is only the neo-nazi, white supremacist, alt-right consortium that murders innocent people. They are the only groups who try to run down black students as they cross the street.
Unfortunately we have to say this again and again. We have no choice. In the age of trump and the tireless propaganda of fox news every sentence, every moment of witness, every time we affirm the simplest of ideas (something even two-year-olds know)–that love is better than hate and hate only leads to destruction–we do god’s work. Each and every time we love one another we create another link in the chain started by our distant ancestors, strengthened by great minds like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, Bobby Kennedy, Jesus Christ and dozens of so many others.
We are that chain and we must never give in to isolation. We are never alone.