Mr Wright is Shot Dead. Age 20

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On the afternoon of April 11th, in Minneapolis, with the trial of officer Chauvin under way for the death of George Floyd, Daunte Wright is stopped by police while driving his car accompanied by his girlfriend.

He’s commanded to step out of the vehicle and does so. Three officers are present. Two African American males and a White woman.

Officers determined that there was an outstanding warrant for Mr Wright’s arrest.

Mr Wright exits his car as he’s asked to do and an officer begins to apply handcuffs but has difficulty.

Then Mr Wright, inexplicably, pulls away, gets back in his vehicle attempting to leave the scene.

In the tussle that follows a gun is pointed at him as the word Taser! Taser! is shouted. The video shows the gun held steady. Then a shot is fired. Mr Wright drives off anyway but is able to travel only a short distance before he dies from the gunshot.

The police department reviewed the video and concluded the shooting was a mistake. The lady officer had pulled out the wrong weapon when she had meant to use the Taser instead.


Anything is possible.


But I don’t get that a seasoned officer – the lady has been an officer for 26 years – would get confused which side she carried the Taser on and which side she carried the gun that kills people.

I don’t get that an officer would not have been responsible enough to double and triple check each time they came on duty, which side is the Taser on, which is the gun that kills people.

I don’t get that an officer would forget to do that, knowing that, in the heat of the moment, things happen very quickly and thus you will not have time to ask, ‘Now, where is it that I carry my Taser?’

I didn’t understand, either, why the cuffing of Mr Wright was so difficult and could not be completed. And why the Black officer wasn’t talking to Mr Wright as he did so. Simple talk. Like, ‘Hey man, don’t do anything crazy, we have to take you in, we have a warrant for your arrest, be cool, okay?’

Mr Wright could have been the officer’s younger brother.

Is this asking too much of the officer? Maybe. But not far away the trial of officer Chauvin was under way for the death of George Floyd. And during that horrific scene, there was at least one Black officer present, one Black officer who did not go right up to officer Chauvin and say, ‘there’s no need for the knee, let up. The man is down, he is handcuffed and no threat to anyone. Get your knee off.’

Back to Mr Wright. As he got back in the car and the gun is drawn, no one asked, ‘Is that the Taser or a gun?’

Too much to ask?


In the lockers of every officer back at the station, a sign should be posted so that every time they open it they read, ‘Do you know which side is your Taser, which side is your gun?’

Too late for Mr Wright but others will benefit.

Now, to the role Mr Wright played in his death.

Why did he pull away from the arresting officer?

Why would anyone want to do that when you have officers – with guns that kill – trying to handcuff and arrest you for an outstanding warrant?

Was Mr Wright trying to prove something?

He won’t be here to tell us but it is madness.

Why would anyone want to do something like that?

Is Mr Wright an isolated case of reckless defiance in dealing with the police, or is it part of a trend? A right of passage? ‘To assert myself I have to defy a gun pointed straight at me?’

Something is wrong here.

I have not heard African American leadership calling for all their brothers and sisters, children and parents, to be cautious in dealing with the police.

But maybe I missed it. If I did, the call wasn’t loud enough or persistent enough, so try again. Please.

Try again and remind all Blacks and all of us that, yes, there is much work to be done to achieve equality of opportunity in this land but there is now, as we speak, at the helm of this country, people who are working very hard to act responsibly.

Let us all join in the effort.

Thoughts on Reparations for African Americans

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Is there a need for it?

What purpose would it serve?

Can such actions exonerate our guilt, or that of our ancestors?

Big questions.

What price can you put on the life of a person, the damage done to forebears, the pass-on negative effects, generation after generation?

Say that a given amount we’ll call X is awarded to an African American. Does that really undo the damage? Can we then say the problem is solved, the damage has been undone?

No, we cannot say that.

The danger is that if amount X is awarded, core beliefs would not change and neither would the behaviors. Compensation without thoughtful reflection will be for naught.

On the recipients’ side, there’s the very real possibility that if monetary compensation is given, they will not use the funds properly, thus negating the intended benefits.

Should benefits then be managed by the government, as in the form of grants to educate, to house, to provide medical services, childcare?

This general direction I find more appealing.

For instance, all African American would be given subsidized access to whatever high school, vocational center, college or university they applied, provided they met certain requirements which themselves would be adjusted in consideration of hardships the applicant may have struggled with. The amount of the subsidies to depend on the preexisting financial wellbeing of each family.

This would make more sense to me.

And what of those who have no desire to attend a learning center? Shouldn’t they too have access to reparations of another form?

Say a person wanted to start a business. Grants could then be issued, provided the person goes through some training to enhance their chances of success, and which would be part of the package.

Will the rest of us feel that we are doing something special for African Americans by engaging in such an approach or a variant of?

I think we would. We would still have to be very clear that the entire program is only a gesture, a step, not intended to undo but to soften the vast multigenerational damage that has been done.

But here’s the guiding principle. The attainment of a sense of accomplishment by African Americans would be the marker of success.

When a person is able to affirm themselves in life, their field of compassion is enlarged and we become more forgiving.

Now, what about White Americans who have fared poorly in life? Who have not had educational opportunities and thus have always lagged behind?

Would they, seeing how African Americans were being assisted, not complain loudly, in word and deed, that the forces that kept African Americans oppressed have affected them also, and that if given a chance to affirm themselves in life, they too would be more compassionate and forgiving?

That would also be a valid point.

It highlights the powerful role that economic forces have played in the genesis and preservation of racism.

To have reconciliation we must have justice and economic justice is key.

Is it possible, then, to confront the root causes of racism and forge ahead?

Yes. Nation building demands it.

Providing our citizens with the tools to better educate themselves and become full participants in the economy will be central as we move forward.

Racial tensions must be addressed and we start by acknowledging that collective denial keeps us from accepting that there is a problem.

As we do so we must keep in mind that in racial matters there is no purity.

Anyone who believes they have had no racist thoughts in their life, please step forward for all to take a good look because you are a rare find.

Restraint is another important condition. While all of us ought to be vocal in discussing racial issues, all must also be willing to check uncontrollable rage because to have a fruitful dialogue we cannot insult each other.

When I picture Martin Luther King, a giant in the struggle against racism, what first comes to mind is his equanimity, his calm courage, paired with the unyielding belief that hope lies in accepting our humanity. That is where it starts.

And it is in all of us. Sometimes hidden from sight, but often shining brightly.

Consider this. At this very moment, on Mars, lies an immensely complex device able to travel from one point to another on the surface of the planet. A rover they call it, and they named it Perseverance. They called it that to acknowledge that such astounding feat of engineering is the result of cooperation, imagination, love and dedication, the ability to dialogue and trust and experiment and take chances.

So think about it.

If we can do that, surely we can address the problem of racism.

Perseverance travelled 293 million miles over 7 months to get to Mars. And it takes 12 minutes for a message sent from Earth to reach it. What a feat.

And on top of that, on April 11 (approximately), a tiny – 4 pound – helicopter that made the journey tied to Perseverance, will do a flight of its own. The first ever in Mars. It is to last only 90 seconds. And they named it Ingenuity.

What an apt name.

Sometimes it takes picturing up in space – far, far away – all of what mankind can do, to discover that with Perseverance and Ingenuity, we can solve our problems here on Earth.

The Black Book. A Book of Affirmations.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if some of our African American fellow citizens, who have risen to positions of power and influence, would share with all of us some of their experiences in the struggle to become who they are?

I am sure many such individuals have already done so in one way or another, say in the writing of their biographies, but what occurred to me might be useful would be to compile parts of those experiences in a small book that could be carried in one’s side or back pocket.

Every African American citizen would be entitled to one such book, or its digital version, free of charge, courtesy of philanthropic foundations willing to shoulder the cost. The rest of us could simply buy it.

What did Oprah go through in her path to her accomplishments?

What about Obama?

What did Condoleezza Rice or Susan Rice have to battle?

When faced with difficult circumstances, what or whom did they turn to, inside or out, to find the strength to endure and overcome?

Though still underrepresented in many fields of endeavor, there are many African Americans who have managed to push through and beat the odds.

When each person had their backs against the wall, when they felt overwhelmed by circumstances, what restored their energies, what fueled their resolve?

What words did they find inspiring? What people?

What stirred their grit?

Short examples of such struggles may well keep someone who is doubting themselves and about to give up, to hang on instead and return to try again.

In my living room I keep a book of quotations from men and women who have managed to distinguish themselves. Frequently, I read or reread them. It helps.

There is so much to draw from. So much. 

There could be subsequent editions of one such book, filled with other people’s experiences. 

But wouldn’t it be useful if every African American living in our nation today, when doubting their right to be all they can be, could reach into their back or side pocket, or their phone, and find inspiration to fight on, to not lose hope, to remind themselves that they count, that they have dignity, that they have something  to contribute, that they are needed in our nation’s struggle. 

Of course, major changes are required to address existing educational, housing and health care deficits, but small steps count too.

The Black Book of Affirmations might be one such step.

Inspiration matters. 

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon.