I know I’m supposed to be in the business of sense-making, but after going to Lovelle Mixon’s funeral yesterday looking for perspective on this tragedy, I feel quite done with trying to speculate and analyze it into a neat storyline. Lovelle Mixon was just a man. A convicted criminal, the villain of this story, the monster of the day, but he was a man. His tragic death does not nullify his crimes. But neither do his crimes nullify the context of his life as a young, poor, undereducated Black man in America.
The service at Fuller Funerals, on International and 47th, was not far from the Coliseum, where the funeral extravaganza for the four police officers he killed was held last week. To say the least, the two services were worlds apart. For Mixon the cop killer, there was no media fanfare, no news vans, no elected officials on the grandstand yesterday. But for Mixon, the man gunned down by police, at least 300 people filled every pew, spilled in from the two entrances, stood wherever they could in the bright sun-lit room.
If not for the flowers and Mixon’s open casket draped with a thin veil, I might not have known it was a funeral. There wasn’t a teary eye in the house yesterday–at least not that I saw. There were calm resigned faces, sleepy, even smiling faces. It was an eerie contrast to the Coliseum last week where I was taken aback by the emotions, people’s desperate tears and shaking shoulders. But the family and friends at Mixon’s funeral yesterday were a comparatively stoic bunch. What does it say about society that for some of us, death and violence is so commonplace that the tears won’t even come anymore?
I spoke with April Owens in the parking lot of Fuller Funerals. She turned her forearm to show me a tattoo of angel wings with her brother’s name etched in between. “He was shot in the back by cops July 25th of last year. He got pulled over for some random traffic stuff,” Owens said. Her friend next to her rattled off the names of a cousin, a brother-in-law, friends who’d all lost their lives at the hands of police over the years.
Lovelle Mixon’s wife Amara, now a widow, sat quietly in the front row, her eyes quiet, her face betraying no emotions. I spoke briefly with one of Mixon’s uncles; he cut me off to hug cousins he hadn’t seen in years. People jostled to get a copy of the program that was being passed out, a full-color fold out with photos arranged like they were in a family album.
Ministers, imams, priests from all over the Bay Area spoke and sang and offered their condolences, exhortations to be comforted by the grace of God. It was a funeral, but it was also church, it was also a community gathering.
How do we connect the dots out of these incidents that are too tragic for tears, and too real for easy answers?