Local & State Voices

Whose lives really matter?

Justine Damond was shot by a Minneapolis police officer in 2017.
Justine Damond was shot by a Minneapolis police officer in 2017. Minneapolis Star Tribune

Two cops get a call regarding unspecified trouble that leads them to a dark alley at night. As they attempt to assess the scene, they hear a loud bang on the squad car. Both officers later report reaching to unholster their weapons. Both officers report they feared for their lives. As the silhouette approaches the driver’s side with a reported raised arm, the officer in the passenger seat fires one shot as his “intention was to stop the threat.”

After getting out the car, both officers call the medics and take turns giving CPR to the “threat,” who unfortunately dies on the scene. It is discovered that the “threat” is unarmed. However, as both officers agreed that they feared for their lives, they get paid leave before re-engaging on the job, and case closed, right?

Wrong.

Instead, in this Minneapolis case, the police chief stepped down in a week and the officer was not only fired, but was convicted last week of 3rd degree murder. Within days of that verdict, there was a $20 million settlement from the city. Naturally, there was a large outcry from Blue Lives Matter and our president about not second-guessing split-second decisions and supporting our police officers, right?

Wrong.

I forgot a couple of minor details. The victim, engaged-to-be-married Justine Damond, was a blonde white woman. The officer was Mohamed Noor, a black African Muslim — the latter, representing one of the nation’s greatest fears.

Damond was seeking help and was tragically killed. Although both officers said they feared for their lives and were pulling out their guns, Noor’s partner claimed he would not have shot her.

In Charlotte, we also had an unarmed victim who sought help, but was shot 10 times by a white officer and handcuffed in his own blood with no aid. His partner did not pull a taser, baton or gun, stating he didn’t need to. But in this 2013 shooting, the engaged-to-be-married victim, Jonathan Ferrell, was a black man. The case of the white officer who shot him ended in a mistrial, as enough citizens still subscribe to the trope of the scary black man peddled by DW Griffith’s 1915 misleading film “Birth of a Nation.”

Similarly today, propaganda has been used to create and promote Blue Lives Matter to discredit Black Lives Matter. It’s a false equivalence — Black Lives Matter seeks equitable treatment from law enforcement and accountability, not the right to kill officers without scrutiny. It also ignores that from 1991-2016, 81 percent of people who ambushed police are white and/or right-wing extremists, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

While Blue Lives Matter consistently acknowledges officer deaths, what’s not consistent is the treatment of those who kill officers. A black person who killed an officer is highlighted as an “animal” while white people who kill officers are barely acknowledged and/or humanized. When seven officers were shot and two killed in Florence, S.C., last October, the initial media coverage was strong. But once the killer was revealed to be a white former lawyer and veteran, not only did the national story die, local coverage of the killer was more favorable, highlighting letters he wrote defending his massacre on account of PTSD.

The only thing consistent in America has been the valuing of white lives, even when they take “blue” lives. It’s time for a rebirth of the nation that confronts these uncomfortable truths.

Email: justinperry.observer@gmail.com
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