G. Marcus Cole, Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law | June 10, 2020
Over the past several days, I have received numerous messages of care and support from friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, each of whom simply wanted to express their concern for how I might be feeling in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. For many, I am perhaps one of the only African-American men in their social or business circles. Others, especially those who know me well, are cognizant of my own personal experiences with racial violence. Their expressions of love and support are rooted in the fact that the circumstances surrounding the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery are strikingly similar to my own accounts of an attack on my father over fifty years ago, one I witnessed as a little boy. What my friends may not know, but surely suspect, is that each report of racial violence at the hands of a police officer or group of men brings to the surface the vivid memories of that terrible night.
On a hot summer Friday evening, my little sister asked my parents for strawberries. We lived in a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and so all of the stores were closed. But my sister wanted strawberries, and my father wanted to get them for her. So, he loaded me, my sister, and my baby brother into the back seat of our car, and drove to another neighborhood to get strawberries. As we returned home, my father noticed that we were being followed by another car. Suddenly, that other car swerved in front of us and stopped, forcing our car to halt at the curb. In an instant, three white men, all in their twenties, jumped out of their car and rushed to ours. They dragged my father out of the car, and began to beat him with tire irons, a crow bar, and a baseball bat. They did this in full view of his three little children. When neighbors came out, the three men jumped back into their car and sped off, leaving my father for dead on the hood of our car. I can still see his hand reaching for me against the windshield covered with his blood.
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