I Want to Ride My Bicycle

I’ve struggled with not participating in the marches and protests and mass gatherings of the last 10 days. My health and the health of my partner and my family remain paramount. Since March, I’ve narrowed my circle of contacts to 6, passed on business opportunities and put off properly burying my best friend. I want to see my 87-year old parents next weekend and have carefully planned that visit since May. It’s been achingly difficult but I’ve committed to not taking any chances with my health or theirs.

Today was cathartic on many levels. Today I found a way, on the bike, to try to understand, to begin to affect change. Shane and I joined a small bike tour of what I’d call How Systemic Racism Works in Atlanta: urban redevelopment sites, kick-ass corporate stadiums, broken streets that have never healed, whole neighborhoods forgotten in pursuit of the almighty dollar. But mostly, promises broken.

All of this culminated in riding past the home of Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year old black woman who was murdered in 2006 by 3 members of Atlanta Police Department’s elite Red Dog unit — a vice squad on steroids since disbanded. Expecting a Drug Den, they ran up her wheelchair ramp, sawed through her burglar bars, kicked down the door and fired 39 shots at her. She was armed and defended herself, getting a shot off before being downed by 5 or 6 police bullets.

The cops had the wrong address.

They went on to cuff her when she died, plant drugs in her house and lie about everything afterwards.

For me, Johnston’s death is the grotesque culmination of every aspect of systemic racism. Racism that’s ingrained over generations and perpetrated in education systems and allowed to fester through economic activity ends up with public servants killing old innocent ladies resting in their homes, in neighborhoods no one cares about.

We must do better. Today, I started anew.

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