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Medcalf: A letter to Daunte Wright's family

4December 2021

To the family of Daunte Wright:

I’ve been thinking about your first Christmas without him, since I know what the holidays mean for many Black folks.

This is the time of year when you get to hang out with that one cousin who does not come around unless hot food is on the stove.

Black Christmas is the hugs, the kiss-on-the-cheek and the I-missed-yous from those who no longer live in town. It’s the gossip in the room as people arrive with new — and old — significant others. It’s an auntie’s “Why are you still single?” directive and the awkwardness that follows. It’s the uncles arguing about something the rest of us had long forgotten. It’s the children buzzing through the house in a sugar-fueled frenzy.

I wonder if you’ll set a place at the table for Daunte. Maybe he had a special chair. I wonder if his 2-year-old son might eat where his father once did as you all reflect on the fullness of that young man’s life.

In your first Christmas without him, I’m sure you all will talk about Daunte’s goals and his big dreams. At the trial for former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter, who is charged in his killing, you will mostly hear of his missteps.

That’s what happens to unarmed Black men and women who are killed by police officers.

Potter’s attorneys will say she made a mistake: a veteran officer who picked a gun over a Taser. And they will call him a threat. Not just as he jumped back into the vehicle on his final day but long before that. We are often judged by our worst days and denied the right to growth.

In this holiday season, I do not know how you all will process what’s ahead: the trial, the chatter around it, the verdict and the void. In the Black community, our holidays are usually a marriage of joy and pain, but I cannot imagine the burden attached to this loss, a high-profile trial and the replaying of a video we will all see too many times in the coming weeks.

I hope you all feel supported in your fight to protect the narrative around a young man who deserved to live. Daunte should have been alive to call his mother again that day.

Regardless of the trial’s outcome, I know you all will continue to tell his story and highlight those chapters in his life only your family will understand. Those days when you think about the time Daunte said that one thing that made everybody laugh. By all accounts, he was a jokester filled with a sense of humor that could change the vibe wherever he went.

I’ve been thinking about his friends and the stories they will tell one another during the holidays. I wonder if they’re OK. I’ve also been thinking about the family members who will balance the tears with the delight attached to their favorite memories of him.

I recently heard someone say, “The preservation of our joy is an act of protest.” I believe that and I hope this place never steals your family’s smiles.

I did not know Daunte but I wonder how he laughed and how he cried. Or maybe he was still learning what I learned later in life, that it was OK for a man to do both.

I wonder how he saw the world as a 20-year-old. What were his visions? What made him feel validated? What were his fears? What were his regrets?

I also wonder how often Daunte talked about his future. I know he wanted to build a life for his son. He desired what any parent craves: better opportunities for his child. I hope that’s the young man — the one who cherished his tomorrow —his son will meet through you all and the memories you share with him. I hope he learns about the man Daunte might’ve become before his dreams weredashed.

At Christmas, we are always confronted with everything we’ve gained and lost. I cannot comprehend what that will mean for your family. But I hope you all know there are people in this community who don’t believe Daunte was defined by his last day or his mistakes, but by the days that were to come, the love he gave to those in his life and the family that surrounded him.

I keep thinking about his son. I wonder if Daunte had a nickname for him. And I wonder if, whenever he called his son by that nickname, the boys smiled at his father the way toddlers do when they are still waiting for their last teeth to arrive.

I hope he gets spoiled on Christmas with gifts, love and laughter.

He will never get another Christmas with his dad. But I hope, whenever he thinks about him at the family table with that vacant place-setting during the holidays, he will find joy in knowing his father mattered — and that he does, too.

Myron Medcalf is a local columnist for the Star Tribune and a national writer and radio host for ESPN. His column appears in print on Sundays twice a month and also online. E-mail: myron.medcalf@startribune.com

Twitter: @MedcalfByESPN

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