Stories About Racism at the Race Exhibit at the Old U.S. Mint in the French Quarter

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I woke up uncharacteristically early this morning, so even after fussing around for a couple of hours, I managed to catch much of the morning session of the Danziger Bridge case. I hopped on my bike and headed down to the courthouse, locking up to the Where Ya’ Rack bike rack in Lafayette Square–thanks, YLC! The last witness before lunch was Ignatius Hill, a cop who was on the Budget rental truck that carried the cops and their guns to the bridge that morning of August 6, 2005.

Hill had been on the force for less than a year and a half before that day. He was scared as they sped to the bridge, and he stayed inside the truck until all the shooting stopped. He did discharge his weapon twice, toward the back of a fleeing suspect; he missed. He testified that he knew his shots were not fired in accordance with police procedure–nobody’s life is in danger when a suspect is running away. But he was scared.

And then the questioning took another turn, to the cover up. When Hill got out of the car, he asked where the guns were. Five bodies on the ground, there must be weapons, he figured. He was told the guns had been kicked over the side of the bridge, but no one was ever dispatched to secure the guns, or even look for them. The cover up had already begun, three minutes after the shooting had stopped.

Hill was tapped to write the gist, the summary at the beginning of the police report on the incident. Sergeant Kaufman dictated the gist to Hill, even adding another statement at the end claiming guns were seen. The report said Hill hadn’t fired his weapon. When Hill said he actually had fired his weapon, he was advised to review his statement to reflect the official version. The testimony is so damning, and it is chilling, this bureacratic ease with which so many officers conspire to obstruct justice.

Hill was asked on direct how he felt about his choice to testify. “I feel good about it.” “Why?” “Because it’s the right thing to do for myself, the families, and the victims in this incident.” Back against the wall, indictments threatening, and yes, it’s the right thing to do.

I needed an afternoon off of the trial and an actual bicycle ride, so after stopping for lunch, I headed to the US Mint to check out the travelling exhibit, Race, brought to you by the American Anthropological Association. I snapped this picture of one of the stories left by a prior visitor–everyone is encouraged to tell our stories about race. Racism is so clearly at play in big structural ways at the Danziger trial, but it also shapes our everyday, and our micro experiences stay with us, as they did for this visitor. We’ve got to talk about it.

I rode out to Lake Pontchartrain after touring the whole exhibit, and here I sit at the Robert’s Fresh Market on Robert E. Lee, rehydrating, watching coverage of the Casey Anthony trial on the flat screen TV. The mind boggles.

2 thoughts on “Stories About Racism at the Race Exhibit at the Old U.S. Mint in the French Quarter

  1. Your mind is NOT on vacation!! Great that you are experiencing and learning. I would love to do all those things with you except riding the bike. I know I would hurt myself and you know it too.
    The Casy Anthony trial is the only thing we get here. I didn’t even know about the NOLA trial and it is horrifying.

  2. I can’t stop rereading and thinking about the circus writing you photographed and it brings some tears every time. There are moments that hurt so much in life that none of us forget.

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