Saying His Name: Philando Castile

Last week, following the acquittal of the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile, dash cam footage was released to the public. Like many of you, I watched in horror as a calm, courteous Castile did exactly what he was supposed to and died anyway. I choked back tears as Castile’s girlfriend’s daughter begged her mother to stop crying and screaming so she wouldn’t get “shooted.” Seeing the incident in real time is nothing short of appalling. As a teacher, mother, American, and human being, this entire situation breaks me.

My heart is broken for Castile’s loved ones. For his girlfriend who live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting knowing she otherwise wouldn’t be believed. For her daughter who witnessed shocking brutality and at 4 years old wishes her town was safer. For the mother whose loss and anger at the city that killed her son I cannot begin to understand.

My heart is broken for Castile’s school community. For the hundreds of children whose names he memorized so he could greet them by name every day in the cafeteria. For the little girl who continues to give Mr. Phil imaginary high-fives. I recently learned that Castile’s school, J.J. Hill Montessori, received the Welcoming Schools Seal of Excellence. By all accounts, Castile exemplified the Welcoming Schools guiding principles of love, family, and respect.

My heart is broken for this country. For the heartbreaking talks families of color must have with their children and the fear they must feel when they send them out into the world. For a nation so rooted in systemic racism that law enforcement is allowed to be judge, jury, and executioner. For the terrible miscarriage of justice in this case. And the one before that. And the one before that. And the one before that.

I don’t know where we go from here. This is not the first time a Black man has been gunned down by a police officer, but the evidence was so compelling that I was sure the outcome would be different. And then it wasn’t, and it changed me. We have to do better. I have to do better. Because while saying his name is important, it's just not enough.