26 Jun

Throughout history artists have used their artwork to depict their truth about religion, love, war, politics, and social injustice. I’ve even produced a few paintings myself inspired by the dark side of American politics and love, or . . . well, the loss of romantic love.

In those cases, the impetus for painting my passion was the feeling of being powerless to address the unsettling root cause of other people’s decisions. I had no voice in situations that directly affected my life. These decisions – in my view – were unreasonable yet I had to accept them. The best way for me to do that was to paint out my distress over the raw turn of events.

Since mid-April a new passion has been welling up in my heart – not for me, but because of the blatant disrespect directed at a dear friend. We’ll call her K.T.

My friend, a beautiful Black woman, lives alone in a small farmhouse on 2½ acres in Bastrop County, Texas. She is a quiet person, loving, unassuming, a responsible citizen, friendly, and extremely funny. Since we met over a dozen years ago, we have grown to love and trust each other. I treasure her friendship.

Fearful, K.T. called me last spring to say that a white man had been standing at her fence line every night from 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. watching her house. She knew how long he had stood there because her video surveillance cameras caught his every move. Needing help, she called the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Department (BCSD) – an action that has become routine.   

On separate occasions various deputies have responded to her numerous calls. The first deputy – a male – completely blew her off. Somewhere along the line of deputy sightings, a woman deputy arrived with compassion and interest in K.T.’s safety. She, however – like all her predecessors – had arrived in the dark night with her patrol car lights flashing. She might as well have instructed the perp over her loudspeaker to run for his life which apparently he has a habit of doing. 

Early in this torturous process, K.T. went to the sheriff’s office to deliver video footage. She was directed to an office where the intake sergeant did not acknowledge her presence. He did not speak to her or ask any questions. Rather, continued working at his computer. That is, until her neighbor – a white woman, who had seen, confronted, and chased the stalker away from K.T.’s property – entered the office and sat down beside K.T. (Later the intake sergeant denied knowing anything about the witness’s account.) 

After this meeting, it was another couple of weeks before an inspector was assigned to K.T.’s case. In the meantime, the stalker religiously showed up at her fence line to spy on her. Again, K.T. called 911. Again, the sheriff’s deputies showed up. Again, no resolution.

On one occasion when I was there, a deputy pulled up – lights flashing. He looked around the property but found no stalker. Big surprise. At the end of his visit, I made two requests: 1) please turn off your flashing lights when approaching K.T.’s house, and 2) please go across the street and talk to the neighbor who has seen the perp. Thankfully, the deputy did drive up to the neighbor’s house as I was leaving. 

A couple of nights later, the stalker was back. K.T. called 911. The same deputy responded with lights flashing. Again, he looked around K.T.’s property and then returned to us to talk it out. He admitted, “When I was here before, I did not believe you. Then I talked to the woman across the street. Now, I believe you.” He actually said that. 

Allow me to clarify any possible confusion about the identity of the woman he’s referring to. The woman this deputy spoke to is the same neighbor who went with K.T. to the intake sergeant’s office. This woman neighbor is white and as such apparently more credible than K.T., the victim. 

Clearly, K.T.’s situation is bad, but what exacerbates her fear is that if she were to kill this terrorist – even in self-defense on her own property – this person who has been stalking her and trespassing since mid-April – her fear is that as a Black woman she would not get a fair trial if it came to that extreme. 

God knows, I hope that is not true, but it’s real to her and BCSD has legitimized her fear by disrespecting her and diminishing the importance of her physical and mental protection.

In this lifetime, I will never know. I will never be able to guess – nor will any other white person – what it feels like to be Black and need protection from law enforcement in Bastrop County – dare I say, even in the State of Texas. 

The best I can do for my dear friend is remember how powerless I felt when I had no voice and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her until this crazy man is apprehended and slammed behind bars. 

With all that in mind, I painted K.T. vs. Bastrop County Sheriff’s Department, hoping to exorcise ill feelings I hold for what appears to be systemic racism in that office. 

As in all situations, however, not all people treat others with such disregard. We are pleased to report that the inspector who is working K.T.’s case has expressed kindness toward her. He has listened to her and given her sound advice. This man alone is our glimmer of hope.

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