When Dajerria Becton Cried Out for Her Mama and God

When Dajerria Becton Cried Out for Her Mama and God June 10, 2015

“Call my Mama! Call my Mama at home. God!” — Dajerria Becton

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Dajerria Becton, a beautiful black girl with braids running down her back cried out for her Mama and God because she was helpless. An officer, Eric Casebolt, spoke at her and not to her. He grabbed Dajerria, threw her onto the concrete sidewalk before wrestling her to a nearby grass area. He shouted “On your face!” When her body lay flat on the turf, he placed his knee firmly on the small of her back. He shoved his other knee between her neck and collarbone and crushed a section of her braids into the earth. One of his arms rested on his bended knee, casually. Dajerria, her face to the ground, was unarmed.

Dajerria struggled to regain her bearings. She tried to speak even as the full weight of this officer bore down on her slight frame. Though her face lay on bitter grass she told the officer “that he [could] get off [her] because her back was hurting really bad” (KDFW local news; Tom Dart, Guardian, June 8, 2015). Her pleas fell on deaf ears. She insists she was not involved in a fight that allegedly kicked off during an end-of-school pool party in McKinney, Texas.

One of the attendees of the party, Emma Stone, 14, shared that white adults told the black youth to return to “Section 8 housing” (BuzzFeed). Brandon Brooks, the young white male who took the video capturing Eric Casebolt manhandling Dajerria, recalls, “A fight between a mom and a girl broke out and when the cops showed up everyone ran, including the people who didn’t do anything. So the cops just started putting everyone on the ground and in handcuffs for no reason. This kind of force is uncalled for, especially on children and innocent bystanders.” He shares that, “Everyone who was getting put on the ground was black, Mexican, Arabic. [The cop] didn’t even look at me. It was kind of like I was invisible” (BuzzFeed). Brooks’ white invisibility allowed him to navigate his environment on his own terms. This invisibility of privilege shadowed another white male spectator. He stood at the center of this race, gender, and class storm and watched events unfold, unhindered and undisturbed.

Officers did not order this white male bystander to back away from Dajerria. Instead, he hovered over Dajerria while Officer Eric Casebolt swore and shouted at the black teenagers to move away. And when, in a daze, Dajerria leaned back and tried to maintain her dignity, it was the thighs and crotch of this white male civilian that met the back of her head and upper body. When their bodies made contact, he backed away, raised his hands, and did not say a word to her. At one point, he tried to prevent others from getting to Dajerria as the officer wrestled her to the ground. A couple of older black men watched in disbelief as Casebolt threw Dajerria to the ground. She could be their daughter, their niece, friend, or sister. And yet they could not defend her against an armed police officer, for if he was quick to pull out a gun when charging at black teenagers, why wouldn’t he shoot them on the spot for trying to come to this girl’s aid?

As a young adult, I too endured the pain of being assaulted by a white man. My largely white middle-class friends and I were sitting around a table in a bar when this man walked in with his funny looking dog. We laughed at the quirky dog. In response, the man bypassed my friends, leaned over the table, and slapped me across the face. None of my friends came to my defense. They were in shock. Frightened. But their silence and inept response slapped me again across my face. I recall only one friend, my working-class Irish friend, accompanied me as I reported this incident to the police. The officers said there was nothing they could do. They barely looked at me.

A day or so later I told a black male friend what had happened to me. He was enraged. I grew up in a working-class neighborhood where black men protected me, provided for me, loved and treasured me. My childhood friend wanted me to identify the man who assaulted me so he could deal with the matter. I knew if my friend and my brother and his friends traveled to this region to defend my honor they would be arrested. At the time, I lived in a predominantly white region of the country where hostility against “foreigners” and black people was rampant. Weeks later, I saw the man who attacked me. He smirked as he walked passed me.

The privilege of invisibility and safety

There are those whose presence rarely, if ever, elicits suspicion. And there are those whose white skin affords them the luxury of being viewed as an upstanding citizen. They can function as invisible people even when they are visible. They can establish themselves as individuals even as they are held up as an example of the normative standard that those aspiring to occupy any role, position, identity, or experience must observe. Christians who enjoy the advantages that come with invisibility can ask God how he would have them use their privileges for the benefit of the marginalized. For if such privileges remain in the realm of group patronage, self-interest and self-preservation, the individuals who hoard such privileges “declare [through their actions and words] that God in someone else is less than the God who lives in [them]” (Revd Traci Blackmon, Justice Conference, Chicago, June 2015).

Commending the conduct of the McKinney Police Department, someone posted on the barrier surrounding the swimming pool where the end-of-school pool party took place, a sign that read, “Thank you McKinney PD for keeping us safe.” Did the individual who posted this sign, and those living in the community, consider that Dajerria and the other black youths attending the pool party needed to feel safe, protected? As 13-year-old Jahda Bakari stresses, the officers tried “to make us leave, but if we ran, they’d chase after us, and if we stayed, then they’d arrest us” (KTVT). These young people are not members of a biking gang. They did not, like the biker gangs who gathered in Waco, Texas on May 17, 2015, kill nine people and put the lives of children, families, and bystanders at risk. The young people who attended the end-of-school pool party in McKinney, Texas, were not afforded the same treatment as these biker gang members who, after their arrest, sat on the curb, texted, talked on their cell phones, and smoked cigarettes uninterrupted, while police officers stood by unafraid, unfazed (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/17/biker-gang-shootout-waco-texas-kills-9/?page=all). These bikers felt no need to cry out to their Mama or God.

Love in the midst of trauma

Amid the furor surrounding the mishandling of Dajerria Becton and the other young people who attended the party in McKinney, Eric Casebolt resigned from his post as an officer with the city’s police department. Still, Dajerria Becton and her peers have been violated and are traumatized. As Joshua DuBois maintains, “raising black children is becoming an exercise in trauma management” (@joshuadubois  Jun 7, 2015). The young black people who were treated so roughly, so inhumanely, need our prayers, and they need to heal. Prayer accommodates venting to the God who is not overwhelmed by our anguish (Psalm 88; Isaiah 1:17). I pray these young people will experience a God who can cradle them through their trauma (Isaiah 42:1-4; Psalm 86:17; 119:50). Jesus understands their pain (Matthew 25:40). Jesus would never throw them to the ground. These young people also need our love (Mark 12:30–31). We must also pray for the parents who witnessed officers treat their children so brutally. Through our actions and words we can convey to them and their children that God adores them, and that they deserve to be treasured and feel safe (Matthew 25:45).

Reflecting on the events surrounding the recent racial, gender, and class storm on her blog, Revd Adriene Thorne shares the following testimony:

I want my child and all children to live their full and whole lives, and that begins with facing ugly realities like what happened in McKinney, Texas. As an ordained Christian minister, however, I struggle to hold the ugly alongside the hope of my faith that says God loves all the people lavishly. I need help with the ugly reality of racism in America.

Still, she contends that, “[e]very intentional action we make contributes to the change we want to see” (revadriene.wordpress.com, June 9, 2015). For me at least, that means that I must also pray that officers will be held accountable for their actions, and will serve and protect all citizens, even as I pray that they and their families will experience the love and mercy of God and convey that love to others.

Will we allow God to transform our hearts in the same way that Jesus, reprimanding the disciples and his followers for trying to prevent the most disenfranchised from coming to him, challenged their perspectives? After all, it was Jesus’ custom to defend and reach out to those considered by many as not being worthy of love, safety, protection, and dignity (Matthew 25:31–46; 1 Corinthians 1:28; Luke 19:1–10). Perhaps author Deidra Riggs’ prayer can teach followers of Jesus how to love others and confront injustice.

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Prayer by Deidra Riggs, https://twitter.com/DeidraRiggs

Swimming pool image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Claudia-May-Professionl-Shot-208x300_optDr. Claudia May is a specialist in African American and Caribbean literature and popular culture, a spiritual writer, poet, and a spiritual director (see  http://www.claudiamay.org/ ). She is a visiting scholar in the Department of African American Studies and African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and a recipient of the Pacific School of Religion President’s award. She is a passionate follower of Jesus, a woman of prayer, and a lover of biblical stories and wisdom. You can follow her on twitter  @ClaudiaMayPhD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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34 responses to “When Dajerria Becton Cried Out for Her Mama and God”

  1. When I read articles such as this one, I experience the emotions of anger, frustration, disgust and a few others.
    The anger and disgust is all about the conduct of these badged butchers of human beings which never ever changes as can be evidenced by the DAILY incidents like this one in texass<a correct spelling of that place.

    The frustration is both because it NEVER changes and with those who do this "praying", expecting it to change that which is not changeable by them.
    When I read of the prayer crowd hoping for something, I have this vision of someone in a burning house siting there doing nothing to help themselves like taking action while someone in touch with the real world TAKES ACTION to help that person get out of the burning house.
    And NO, that person did not show up in answer to any praying.

    In reading what Dr Claudia describe concerning the creep with the dog, I want her to KNOW that there are those of us who would not have been afraid to take the necessary action to stand up to anyone like that.
    Those who you "thought" were your friends are cowards who sold out to their fears.
    THAT is not the definition of "friend".

  2. The US will not have law and order until people that want it believe that a person that resist arrest may be harmed or killed by doing so and if so it is not the fault of the police. If you want law and order you must support the police when they have to use force on those that resist arrest.

  3. Such a lot of nonsense. No one resisted arrest. As the author mentions, the biker gang in Waco, where nine people were killed, were afforded more respect and care than these children. They were attacked sworn at, and treated brutally. The police had no need to use force on anyone, and singled out only minority children – not the perpetrators of the problem, which were white people. They didn’t even ask – just attacked. “Law and order” is always the war cry of oppressors against the oppressed,never taking into account the violence done to the oppressed, only the inconvenience of the oppressor.

  4. I think prayer accomplishes much but, bc of one’s own reason, wisdom, history one can’t imagine it. You are an athiest yeah? What brings you to post on the christian blogs?

  5. Of course you do, your faith is pointless and meaning less without that belief. I on the other hand know that prayer serves only to make the prayee feel better about themselves without actually doing anything meaningful to help those in need.
    Patheos has links to many articles, discussion and blogs religious or otherwise. My views, opinions, work and life choices are based on being aware of all sides to an argument hence now and again a thread leads to discussions such as this

  6. hi tete! when did your faith in your own rancid prejudices and festering assumptions abt other ppl faith in a loving god infect your thinking & behavior? Has there been some abuse by ppl calling themselves ‘christian’ that, perhaps, traumatized you when you were a child? For all I know you may be a former fundamementalist or raised by such or both. I hear you! I’d like to be your friend.

  7. You really need to work on your ‘how to make friends and influence people skills. “rancid prejudices and festering assumptions” is not a good start! And the ‘you must of been abused to hate god’ line is tired, discredited has no credibility. I’m just a run of the mill ex catholic boy who from an early age became ambivalent to the existence of a god or gods much as I did with Santa. No rational or enquiring mind would believe or need to believe in either. I have lived and worked on 4 continents and observed that irrespective of culture, socioeconomics or particular god that religion was rarely if every a force of good. All I see is that it is about money, control and the abuse of power. Now if you need a god/gods then fine, that is you right and I will defend that right but when I see those personal beliefs being used to have social, political or economic control of the lives of alternate or non believers then I reserve the right to object.
    We started this conversation about whether it was more use to pray about improving society by ending hate or to actually do something about it and you pretty quickly got into standard religious abuse/hate thinly disguised as love mode (rancid, festering, abused, traumatized) so you’ll forgive me if I pass on your offer of religious love as to us outsiders the hypocrisy is not all that inviting

  8. Let’s say they did all of that.

    How would you make people comply? And if they don’t comply, what do you do? Call the cops?

    Well, that is what happened, right?

  9. On God. That’s what she said not oh God. She was saying “On God somebody call my mamma”.

  10. And there’s that Christian love again. You just don’t get it do you.? Ah well have a nice life

  11. Claudia, thank you so much for sharing your very moving and powerful writing on this latest awful incident. I was sickened when I first saw the video, but your writing really brought home how horrible racism is for anyone directly affected by it.

  12. …and there’s that athiest troll blaming others for rejecting his rudness! What you expected you got so you don’t haffta reevaluate your prejudice & assumptions. It’s a way I have noticed athiests maintain their toxified world under the bell jar. You think you have control when, in fact, this is not your world. BTW is your name pronounced tay-tay?

  13. My rudeness!!….Christian projection into the bargain. Perhaps you should re read your posts. You opened with insults and ended with insults. I answered your question as to why I was not a believer and put forward my views based on my experiences. But then again a bigot could never see his faults.
    Tay Tay are you really that stupid? Homeschooled were you?

  14. w respect, i think if you can ever bc a little less hostile and a little more self reflective you might see how your attitude & behavior is keeping you locked into your no win world of conrtol fantasies. May be by posting on christian blogs a deeper aspiration of
    Your wiser self is trying to reach out to ppl of faith who will see & know the kind of pain you’re in & love & support you while you recover from your early religion trauma (addictions?) I don’t hold any resentments, tete, against anything you’ve said to me. I’m still wanting to be your friend. Dunno why you thot home school for me. i’m 64 so no homeschool. I thot tete rouge might be a cajun name so tete might be pronounced tay-tay.

  15. Not a good example of commentary, to make an allegation with no supporting evidence. How about referencing one of the “reports” which you claim are surfacing? Last I read, her only act of aggression was to tell the officer she couldn’t leave without her glasses.

  16. Even an atheist and a skeptic can appreciate the sentiment behind that prayer. It reflects an attitude that we need to have, whether or not we ever pray.

    It bothers me when people talk about how “we need strong moral leadership to straighten the country out,” because it means they’re waiting for a leader instead of doing something themselves. I can’t help but wonder if your friends in that restaurant were looking around for a leader to come take care of the bigot. Full disclosure: I could have been one of them. I don’t know how I’d have responded at that age; I wouldn’t have believed it was happening, for one thing, because I actually thought white racism was in the past. (Some of us are as blind as we are invisible.)

    Racial prejudice isn’t going to end until we invisibles are willing to let go of that invisibility. On the one hand, Eric Casebolt completely devalued every non-white person on that street, because it was clear his behavior toward them didn’t matter to him. On the other, he knew it was safe to treat the whites as invisible… Part of it was because he didn’t view them as a threat, but how much of it was because he expected the whites to be complicit with his attitude? Would they have been invisible if he knew every white person on that street would report police abuse of authority when they saw it and demand action?

    May I never be invisible again.

  17. Claudia,
    Thank you for this thoughtful piece that speaks the truth in love to those of us who have the privilege of invisibility. As I read your post I found myself confronted by the injustice of Dajerria’s and your own assault, which in turn confronted me with the following questions. As one who has the privilege of invisibility, am I willing to SEE the trauma of those who suffer injustice, experience trauma at the hands of an oppressor, are damned if they run or if they stay with their hands up, and who are marginalized because of the color of their skin? If yes, then will I choose to see them and not only see them but respond with compassion that doesn’t perpetuate my privilege or secure my place as patron, but will I respond with the compassion of Jesus who gave up his privilege and power? Finally, will I be someone who trusts in Jesus’s compassion by entrusting those who have suffered trauma, who are oppressed and marginalized into the his hands? Your link between being prayerful and taking action is helpful. Will I allow myself to be transformed by Jesus’s compassion not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of others who are marginalized and oppressed?

  18. The video speaks for itself. The police chief himself said the force was unwarranted and disgusting.

    I guess you’re reading comprehension isn’t that good.

  19. Cops do not have an absolute right to put their hands on us. And they have no right to stop us when we are not engaging in unlawful activity.

    Don’t pull the race card. I am a 63-year old white woman who has seen the ravages of racism.

    This young woman was not fighting with anyone! There was no reason to take her down. This was just a white cop losing his temper and seeing nothing but black skin. It’s probably a good thing for him to have resigned. I’d fire his ass in a heartbeat after seeing that video.

  20. The video speaks for itself. There was no reason for this young woman to be manhandled. It doesn’t matter if she had been in trouble before.

    Racist much? Yeah, a lot.

  21. I didn’t know commenting on Christian blogs was limited to people who agree with the bloggers.

    It isn’t your blog, so what are you complaining about?

    BTW, I am not an atheist so don’t even go there.

  22. Dude, did you ever hear of Jesus’ commandment to love? You ain’t showing it. Not one iota. You you claim to be his spokesman. I don’t think he’d like you even one little bit.

  23. You’re no follower of Christ, dude. Not by a long shot. A follower of Paul, possibly, not not a follower of Christ. There is no love in what you’ve written in your comments. You’ve just pitched a fit worthy of a three-year old.