Are you familiar with the 10,000 hour rule that Malcolm Gladwell shares in his book, Outliers? It basically states that it takes about 10,000 hours of time and effort in a field to become an expert in it. I’m now nearing my 10,000 hours on police brutality and injustice in America. Going on four straight years, it’s dominated my life as I’ve studied not hundreds, but thousands of cases from top to bottom. I’ve written over a thousand articles on the topic. I’ve organized, agonized, strategized, fundraised, recorded, presented, brainstormed, protested, researched, counseled, and dreamed about how we can solve this crisis – or at least drastically improve it.
And in all of those hours, in all of those cases, I’ve never seen what I’m seeing in Minnesota at this very moment surrounding the horrific police murder of Justine Damond – an Australian immigrant, and yoga instructor, who was just weeks away from getting married, when she called 911 to report suspicious noises outside of her Minneapolis home. The police showed up. Justine, in her pajamas, went outside to meet them, but was almost instantly shot on contact by one of the reporting officers.
All of that is textbook police brutality. I could name a dozen cases off the top of my head where a family called 911 for help but ended up being victimized by the police instead. Everything about what happened to Justine Damond is normal in America – except the demographics.
She’s white – a sweet, popular, peaceful blonde haired, blue-eyed white woman at that.
The officer who shot her, Mohamed Noor, is black. Not only that, but he is an immigrant from Somalia and a Muslim.
And in this case, which looks like so many other horrible cases where heavily armed police “feared for their lives” and ended up shooting and killing an innocent person, those demographics clearly mean absolutely everything. When I first wrote about this shooting less than 48 hours after it happened, I believed Justine’s race would play a role in how the case was covered, but we didn’t yet know the race, religion, and nationality of the officer. Now that those factors have been revealed, what has followed has been simultaneously despicable and beautiful, horrendous and encouraging.
For the first time in American history, at a time when we are about as divided as we’ve been in generations, the country is strangely united on a case of police brutality. The preponderance of conservatives and liberals alike all agree that the shooting of Justine Damond was wrong. That’s never happened before. And it damn sure isn’t because a case has never been so cut and dry.
Rekia Boyd, a sweet, wonderful young woman, was shot in the face by Chicago Police Officer Dante Servin. Like Officer Noor, Servin was inside of his vehicle when he killed Rekia Boyd. Rekia did absolutely nothing wrong. She didn’t even call 911. She was out walking with friends when Servin, in his personal vehicle, in plain clothes, shot and killed her – later claiming that he thought the cell phone her friend was holding was a gun. It wasn’t.
Is that not innocent enough for you?
Jordan Edwards, a standout student athlete, just a freshman, with a 4.0 GPA, was shot in the face by police with an assault rifle, as he peacefully left a party with his family. He broke no laws. He wasn’t drinking or doing drugs. He wasn’t armed or dangerous. Their car wasn’t even a threat to the police, but the officer, a military veteran with a history of being a hothead, aimed and fired his rifle right at a child anyway.
Aiyana Jones, a 7 year old girl, was asleep with her grandmother on the couch in her own Detroit home, when police busted in and blew her to bits, all while filming a reality television show. Aiyana never even knew what hit her and officers never really gave a plausible explanation for why they shot her. She died right there in the living room.
Akai Gurley was walking down the steps of his Brooklyn apartment when an NYPD officer not only shot and killed him right there in the stairwell, but then ignored him as he breathed his last breaths. Akai wasn’t wanted for a crime. He wasn’t armed. He didn’t even know the police were there. And after he was shot, the officers literally stepped over his body and spent time calling their union reps to cover their asses.
Yet, the attorney for Justine Damond said she was the “most innocent victim” of police brutality this nation has ever seen. I think that quote is an essential one to investigate not for its falsity, but for its truth. Factually, the quote is preposterous. This isn’t the oppression Olympics, but I just detailed four cases of police violence that can rival any case for their excessive absurdity. Emotionally, her attorney is right, though. Not because she was “the most innocent victim,” but because he believes she is.
Her whiteness has absolutely everything to do with that.
Rekia, Jordan, Aiyana, and Akai are automatically out of the running for “most innocent victim” of police brutality because they are black. They were all outrageously innocent. None of them deserved even a smidgen of police force, but they did not look like Justine Damond – and if you think how she looked has nothing to do with how this case is unfolding, then you should stop reading now. It has everything to do with it – as do the demographics of her shooter.
White men shot Rekia, Jordan, Aiyana, and Akai. A black Muslim man from Somalia shot Justine Damond. That very clearly changes everything.
White conservatives who said absolutely nothing about any of the victims I’ve just described, or worse, actually spoke against the victims, or for the police, are now speaking up for Justine Damond. Police unions in America have stood up for some of the worst cops known to man. This time around, they’re absolutely silent. Leaks from the department about the shooting came out almost immediately. The Mayor of Minneapolis actually forced the Chief of Police to resign.
In other words, suddenly the justice system seems to be firing on all cylinders for the family of Justine Damond. It’s amazing. The local Fox affiliate in Houston, Texas, thousands of miles away from where the shooting took place, did something I’ve absolutely never seen done for another victim of police violence and published a “Rest in Peace Justine” photo and memorial tribute to her. It was as if a beloved celebrity had just passed away.
I’m double-minded about it all. What’s happening for Justine Damond right now is exactly how the system should work in each and every case of police brutality. Heads should roll. People should be fired. Conservatives and liberals alike should speak out. Black and white folk should march hand in hand together. Police unions should leave their most horrendous cops hanging, but this is the first time all of those things have ever happened in concert with one another. And unless we see another wonderful white woman shot and killed by a black Muslim immigrant from Somalia, we likely won’t see this type of response again.
24 other people have been killed by American police since Justine was shot and none of those cases have gotten even a whimper of concern from the same audience. I fully expect Mohamed Noor to be held all the way accountable for what he did to Justine Noor. The writing is on the wall. He won’t just be charged either. He’ll be found guilty and sent to prison. And he should be, but you and I know that if he was white and “feared for his life” – like we’ve seen thousands of times, not only would justice be fleeting, but most of the concern would be too.
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