Mama Bunkfish

Navigating marriage, motherhood, and mental illness on Jesus, caffeine, and naps!


When I Googled the word discretion, I came across this definition, 'the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation'. The first three synonyms given are choice, option, preference. Twice in the past five days I've heard the word 'discretion' used in such a way that my blood has boiled, my mind has raced, and I've questioned just how far we've come in this country, particularly on the matters of race, class, and the justice system. 

Case 1

Saturday my kids and I ran into Walgreen's to pick up Father's Day cards and gift cards for family members. I shop at this particular Walgreen's on a regular basis – the pharmacy staff is very familiar with the Bunkley family. As I prepared to check out, I was told that I could use my credit card for the greeting cards but had to use cash or debit for the gift cards. I thought it was odd because I purchase gift cards from there on a regular basis…with my credit card…one as recently as a month ago. I ran home to get my debit card but decided to call and ask if the policy had changed…the first words out of the assistant manager's mouth were 'we use discretion'….queue the boiling blood. He then went on to say that it depended on the amount – over $500 has to be cash or debit – but if I had a credit card and ID to match I should be okay…I did. For the sake of time, I returned to the store and asked the cashier what discretion she had used to decide I needed to pay with cash or debit card. I also advised her and the assistant manager that they should be sure that their discretion wasn't discriminatory. 

Case 2 

I was listening to a podcast this morning about the Philando Castile case. A reporter for the local public radio station said that in interviewing one of the jurors, he stated that the way the law was written, they couldn't find the officer guilty. In reviewing the law,  the reporter found that an officer can use discretion to determine if they should use deadly force. Having done a ride along with a police officer while in college, I understand the dangers of the job. But she made it clear for me – stay calm and be smart. Be wise. And use discretion so that no one gets hurts. We all know what the officer's discretion in Ms. Castile's case did – it left a man shot to death – in front of a child. 

My Point 

We all use our discretion at some point. But let's not fool ourselves into believing that our discretion (choices, options, preferences) aren't based on bias. We all have biases. None of us doesn't have a preconceived notion about a person or group of people, which often are based on our experiences. The problem is when your discretion hurts or kills someone. 

In my case – I spoke to the actual store manager and he told me the real policy – at Christmas you can only use cash or debit because they get a lot of fraud. He assured me he had let his employees know that period was over – it's June – but that he clearly missed some people. He also said he could see why the use of discretion is an issue and without clear parameters could be discriminatory (he's Indian American and relayed how people had made unfounded discriminatory comments because his last name is Patel). In my case, I get to walk way with a box of chocolates and an apology. 

Philando Castile didn't get to walk away. I didn't watch the tape…I refuse to. But I read the transcript where he tells the officer he has a gun. I read where the officer tells him to show his license and insurance. I read where the gun that he was supposedly reaching for was still in his pocket – not hanging out, not on the seat – in his pocket. And I have to wonder what discretion was used to determine to shoot a man seven times, with a child in the backseat. Was it that his 'wide nose' was like a armed robbery suspect's? Was it that his brake light was out? Or was it that the officer's discretion was blurred by his bias? We may never know…because he got acquitted. And Mr. Castile is dead. 

Until next time…

Note: Note – I'm taking a break from social media for awhile so if you have a comment that you want me to see, please comment directly through WordPress. And once again, thank you all for the support.

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