I am watching my Black women friends reeling at the gut punch of the murder of #KorrynGaines. And I am watching white people, yet again, sit on the sidelines and wait until we get “all the facts” before deciding whether or not her death at the hands of police was justified.
I am raw and tired and heartbroken and sick of watching the way this kind of trauma–from the killing itself, to the ambivalent reaction to it from white people and men in particular–is re-enacting violence on the Black women in my life.
Here are the questions I am asking myself as I sit with this story, and the white response to it:
- Whose story is being told here, and from whose perspective?
- What things are considered facts, and who is the arbiter of that truth?
- What competing standards of “violence” and “self defense” are at play here?
- How are our minds, colonized by white supremacy, already trained to respond to this story?
- How do misogyny and patriarchy contribute to our willingness to invisibilize or dismiss the deaths of Black women–including and particularly trans women–at the hands of police?
- In what ways do respectability politics–who is “innocent” and “a good person” and “nonviolent”–play into our (white people’s) willingness to sit on the sidelines and withhold judgment about which Black people do and do not deserve to die at the hands of police?
- Here is what I know:
I know better than to ever, ever, ever trust the account of police officers when it comes to the murders of Black people. I know there is every likelihood that this story of her with a shotgun is a complete and total fabrication.
I know that activists like Korryn Gaines, like my beloveds here in the Twin Cities Movement for Black Lives, like Assata Shakur and Fred Hampton and all the Black freedom fighters who came before them have been hunted, harassed, defamed, and sometimes slaughtered by the state for their insistence that a world in which they were recognized as full human beings is possible.
I know that armed police forces can, and do, regularly exercise restraint with “armed and dangerous” people when they choose to. Squads of white militiamen engage in 40 day standoffs in Oregon, murderous white biker gangs are arrested without incident, and white mass murderers are regularly apprehended alive and unharmed after hours- or days-long standoffs and chases.
I know that if a militarized police force showed up at my door to “serve warrants” against me for a minor traffic infraction, and I had been consistently working to dismantle the police state for whom they worked and I knew they knew that about me, I would view their entry to my home as an act of war.
I know that if she chose to arm herself with a shotgun in her own home, to protect herself and her baby, in response to every reasonable fear of being killed by the police, it was self-defense–against the cops in that room, and against a 400 year history of knowing that her life was disposable in the eyes of the state.
I know that Korryn Gaines was not the one to introduce violence into this situation, whether or not she was actually armed when they entered her home.
And I know that the luxury of waiting for the facts, reserving judgment, deciding whether or not the lives of Black people murdered by police are worthy of our respect and defense and solidarity is a choice that too many of our neighbors and kin do not have.