AMERICA’S MOST INNOCENT VICTIM OF POLICE VIOLENCE

Late Saturday evening tragedy struck the family of 40-year-old Justine Damond when she was shot and killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault. This tragedy, like many others, seems to have been completely avoidable, like most police shootings that have gained mainstream media attention in the past 2 years but somehow Damond fell victim to the police violence our community has been screaming about for decades. The details are saddening and mind boggling but what’s even more confusing is the media’s reaction to a white woman being killed by police versus Sandra Bland, Aiyana Stanley Jones, or Tamir Rice.

Unlike Mike Brown, Philando Castile and others I didn’t wake up to a gruesome photo or video of a person being killed in cold blood while my peers react in outrage at yet another black body lost to police violence. Instead,  I woke up to a beautiful photo of Justine Damond, posted by FOX 26 Houston smiling joyously and a caption that read “REST IN PEACE, JUSTINE: Justine Damond was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer after calling 911 herself about an assault. She was engaged to be married and had a young son.” After reading this I couldn’t help but think that this was a very different way of addressing victims of police violence. When I think about Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old gunned down by police in 2014 within seconds of seeing him, I remember headlines that mention a toy gun and quotes from officers justifying the murder of a 12-year-old playing at the park. Where was the mention of his grieving parents and siblings? Where was the sympathy for a child killed on sight by our supposed protectors?

I tried to distance the obvious media depiction bias from my thoughts and continue my day until I read a headline stating that Damond’s attorney, Robert Bennett believes that she is the most innocent victim of police violence that he’s ever seen. My mind immediately went back to Tamir and Aiyana. My eyes welled with tears because I could literally see the snag-a-tooth dimpled smiling face of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones in my mind and could hear her grandmother’s cries in my head. How could this man say this when our babies are literally shot dead in their sleep and at parks by police with zero justice? As if his words weren’t enough, the media support of the quote is even more sickening. These platforms have covered, in depth, the murders of our innocent people.  They have turned our victims into monsters and our murderers into heroes.

Could Justine Damond be a bigots dream police victim? A white woman killed by a Muslim American officer seems like the perfect time to finally, condemn an officer of the law, for breaking the law. The Blue Lives Matter twitter account which boasts a 17,000+ follower base has yet to post in solidarity with Officer Noor but has stood with most, officers involved with high profile police shootings.

In fact, the Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau says out right that “this should not have happened…Justine didn’t have to die” and points the finger directly at Officer Noor saying “these are the actions and judgment of one individual” Have we even seen this type of response from officers following a police murder? Just before reiterating that the incident was Officer Noor’s fault alone, Chief Harteau stated that Damond’s husband expressed that this incident will make the public afraid to call the police, and she concurred the sentiment. Well, I unfortunately have to disagree; my heart has sunk into my shoes every time I’ve seen the police in my rear view since the summer of 2014. Watching police tackle and assault a 14-year-old girl in a swim suit made me fear the police years ago. Looking at Sandra Bland’s obituary on my nightstand is a daily reminder of my distrust for police. It didn’t take Justine Damond for me to open my eyes and realize that something is seriously wrong with policing in America and I have never seen more innocence than in the faces of Tamir Rice and Aiyana Stanley Jones. Our babies deserve the song of innocence the media never sang for them.

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