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This Is a WE Thing

Jun 3 2020
Photo by
Courtesy of Caron Butler
Photo by
Courtesy of Caron Butler
Jun 3 2020

To whoever’s reading this, we about to have an uncomfortable conversation, so get ready.

But this letter will hopefully also lead to a realization of our truth.

And when I say our truth, I mean ALL people — not just black people. This is our collective truth as a country.

This is OUR America.

As long as I been on this Earth, America been telling black people to turn the other cheek. My grandparents turnt the other cheek. My great grandparents turnt the other cheek.

What else do you want us to do at this point?

It’s time to STEP UP. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and say that this shit is not O.K.

And I’m tired of people calling and texting saying, “I don’t know what to say right now.”

Man, just say something.

I don’t give a fuck if you gotta issue a statement, send a tweet, record a video, quote someone smarter than you, make a T-shirt, whatever — but you have to say something. You can’t just sit by and be quiet right now and play the PC shit. No more PC shit. No more politics.

Just what’s real.

Anyone without something real to say by now, as far as I’m concerned, that means they’re part of the problem.


Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

When I saw brother George Floyd being pinned down and kneeled upon … a whole lot of images flashed through my mind.

These memories came back.

And I’m gon’ tell you like this, as someone arrested more than 15 times in my life: I almost never had a positive interaction with the police.

Not just coming up, either. Shit — I got pulled over when I was in the NBA already.

This was the early 2000s. Still living in Wisconsin. I got pulled over on a fucking BICYCLE at an intersection because they said I ran a red light.

Riding a bicycle.

You get what I’m saying?

As someone arrested more than 15 times in my life: I almost never had a positive interaction with the police.

And they tried to diminish me and embarrass me in front of the community by having me out there for more than two hours.

I was like, “Just give me the ticket.” They’re like, Yo, where else do you have properties at? Just using their “authority” to give me the third degree, the whole nine of seeing how much they could make it this public embarrassment.

I’ve been targeted by police and treated over-aggressively in many situations.

I grew up in Wisconsin, which is predominantly white. I think as black people we made up around 6 or 7% of the population. And back then, they wanted you to look a certain way, act a certain way. I remember going to jail numerous times — getting arrested for just dumb shit.

They’d lock you up for anything. Loitering, or coming out of your house, pants sagging.

They had these laws where if your pants were below your waist, they could fine you and arrest you for that shit. If you were black and in a group of more than five, they’d have everybody getting picked up on the sidewalk.

Driving up and down the streets in my neighborhood, I’d get pulled over for “suspicion.”

What exactly is so “suspicious” about me? Well, I fit the description.

And what’s the description? “A black male. White T. He had on jeans.”

Shit. That’s probably everybody in the neighborhood.

Now you’re getting jumped on and stretched out.

It’s the most degrading thing EVER when you’re arrested.

It’s like being stripped of your human rights. I don’t know what it looks like from an observational standpoint, but I can tell you this — being that person in police custody?

It just fucking deflates you.

After they got you, all of a sudden they start talking to you reckless. In corrections, they’re not calling you by your name anymore. I’m not Caron Butler anymore. I’m a number.

It’s the most degrading thing EVER when you’re arrested. It’s like being stripped of your human rights.

The most degrading thing ever, ever, ever is when they strip you naked. When you’re going through the transition process of going to the holding tank, they strip you. Tell you to bend over, spread your cheeks and cough. You can’t tell me that’s not the most degrading shit ever. And I had to go through that multiple times.

Now, you’re in the system. They’re reading you your charges. Nine times out of 10, you’re not even guilty of all of these things, but they’re going to charge you to the maximum extent of the law, no matter what you did.

You think it gets better when you get in a courtroom? Nahhh.

That DA on the opposing side going to try to overprosecute you, because you are just a number. You are from a “certain” community. So, they’re going ALL the way in.

They already know that you don’t have resources to protect yourself. They know that the system isn’t designed to protect you.

And when they release you, they’re going to release you with a leash: probation. A reminder that you are their property. You belong to us. When I was on probation in junior high, they’d pull me out of the classroom and pat me down in front of the entire school.

It’s like they saying: If you do anything, just remember: Your ass is coming back here because you still belong to us.

So, you know what?

When it comes to fighting police violence against black people, I’ve BEEN activated. I’ve BEEN energized.

And I’m glad that our space finally has company.

Courtesy of Caron Butler

America is crying right now. I feel that.

Everybody felt it when they saw that video of George Floyd getting killed in Minneapolis. Everybody felt hurt. Everybody felt the trauma that’s been swept under the rug for centuries. The injustice. And now we’re seeing an outcry of this hurt, universally.

But when you think about all the stuff that’s happened in the past, things like the Tulsa Massacre that destroyed Black Wall Street, and all of that from over the years … you realize this violence against black people been happening.

I think Kareem’s take was best. It’s a lot of dust in the air. And when the sun comes out, you can see it everywhere.

The system is FRACTURED. And it’s been fractured for as long as it’s existed. That needs to be talked about more. The system has never been right. And the things that need to be addressed, we don’t mean soon. We mean immediately.

Right the fuck now.

This is a WE thing.

Some people may be reading this and saying to themselves, “O.K. — but it don’t apply to me.”

Nah. Not O.K.

It DOES apply to you.

Because it’s the result of 400 years of trauma that we’re witnessing. And our kids are being impacted by it.

The system has never been right. And the things that need to be addressed, we don’t mean soon. We mean immediately.

If that shit don’t move you, if that shit don’t make people feel like they should be better, I don’t know what the fuck will.

Y’all done messed up and pissed off a whole new generation.

Now this new generation, along with a mixture of my own era and some older eras, is out there — three, four generations out there — marching and protesting and saying that we’re sick of this shit.

I’m tired of turning the other cheek. It’s like I turned the other cheek, and you hit me on that one, too.

And yeah, there are some people out there looting. I’m not condoning that. But it’s not about the looting. It’s about the message — right now the message is the thing. And the message is PURE.

Everybody, universally, is sick and tired of this shit.

I’ve gone above and beyond to educate myself and my children on these issues. And I’ve been informed over the years by great mentors.

I serve on the board of the Vera Institute of Justice, where we talk about mass incarceration. We talk about the impact of the original Jim Crow laws on the black community, and we also talk about the concept of the “new” Jim Crow.

More than 2.3 million people are incarcerated right now in the U.S., and black and brown people are disproportionately represented. (That’s what I mean when I talk about a system that is fractured.) And that devastation on our communities is only compounded by more systemic shit — the stripping of resources, the wealth gap, and even environmental racism.

When you put all this stuff in perspective, you just become outraged.

The type of “justice” that gets expedited when a black man is on trial — it’s nowhere to be found in George Floyd’s case. It took four days to arrest the officer who had pinned him to the ground. That’s why people are frustrated. That’s why people are mad. Because if it was one of us? Man, you already know. That shit would be on a billboard. It would be an example.

So, I’m calling on the justice system to make those officers in Minneapolis their own kind of example. Let’s make their punishment a warning shot to all the “bad apples” in the police force. Show them that this shit will NOT be tolerated.

That’s the first step to getting equality and justice for the black and brown community.

Courtesy of Caron Butler

To leave on, I’ve got a message for our young people.

I am excited by your voices — and inspired by your bravery.

But y’all have to be smart. I want you to be smart, and safe, and to continue to empower each other. Continue to preach this message.

Because right now? I’ll tell you what — folks are listening.

All the media outlets that used to pivot away from even talking about this stuff — now they’re pivoting toward us. The world we live in is finally talking about racial injustice.

The conversation is finally at the table.

Now, you have to take your seat at that table and focus on the next step: solutions. You have to plan, and be strategic — and most of all, keep on pushing. You have to keep on pushing for the future that you want.

It’s a fight for ALL of us.

I’m all in.

I been in.