Father’s Day not only reminds us to celebrate the men in our lives but commemorate our male ancestors, too. I am looking forward to celebrating my dad, who passed away 15 years ago. He was my Superman, reading to us as young children, taking us on Sunday bike rides with a detour to Dairy Queen and loving us unconditionally.
This Father’s Day, let us honor the lives of American fathers, father figures, and boys who will never have the chance to become fathers because their lives were brutally cut short. Let’s especially remember those fathers and would-be fathers caught in the confusion between occupation and protection that passes for policing in communities of color.
Who knows the fatherhood dreams of Philando Castile, killed by a cop who was acquitted Friday for shooting him at a traffic stop in chilling video evidence streamed around the globe?
My Jewish faith informs my way of honoring my own dad, and in these troubling times of racial and ethnic tensions linked to policing, can provide a way for others. Yom HaShoah (yome-HAH-SHOW-ah), is Holocaust Remembrance Day, which recognizes the Nazi regime’s systematic genocide of six million Jews and millions of other “undesirables” and “enemies of the state”. On this day, which also commemorates resistance to the regime, we read names of millions of Jews the Nazis and their allies murdered. This list is not complete. Yad Vashem has gathered about 4.5 million names, and it is doubtful we will ever know all of the victims’ names. Nonetheless, this day is viscerally painful. It takes all day long to read every name, page by page by page.
We carry the scars of this Holocaust, centuries of anti-Semitism, and fresh wounds of hatred every time our bodies, temples, synagogues, cemeteries, community centers and the community at large are threatened and attacked.
With help from reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish, a prayer, and lighting a memorial candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, our faith instructs us in grief, honor and remembering.
Just as Holocaust-era, data is incomplete, so, too, is federal data on the deaths of suspects and offenders killed at the first point of contact with law enforcement. Data on arrest-related deaths included only about half of the estimated law-enforcement homicides from 2003 to 2009 and in 2011, according to a 2015 study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. While homicide data improved during this period, 31 percent to 41 percent of deaths were not included in 2011 data.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now collecting “a reliable system for law enforcement to report information on use-of-force incidents” through its New Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which includes police officer-involved deaths. However, as Southern Methodist University law professor Jessica Dixon Weaver points out, “Police are virtually assured that they will not bear any punishment for killing a black man, woman or child, regardless of the circumstances. Police have been killing blacks with legal freedom from punishment for over three centuries; terrorism has been a large part of police culture, which has bred anti-black bias.”
The pain of Father’s day is surely felt by the families of Tamir Rice (Cleveland), Michael Brown (Ferguson, Mo.), Terence Crutcher (Tulsa, OK) and Eric Garner (New York), to name a few.
So, too, is it felt by those of us who honor their humanity.
No matter how incomplete the official data is on suspects and offenders, state-sanctioned terror cannot quiet the truth. The database Killed by Police has been monitoring who has been killed by police since May 2013. It reports that in this year alone, police have killed over 530 people.
This list of names is too long to recount here but we must remember their names and say them out loud on this sacred day.
As we say in the Jewish faith when expressing condolences to family and friends, may their memories be a blessing.
-Elizabeth Sobel Blum
Elizabeth Sobel Blum is a Dallas Public Voices Fellow.