Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Black women are victims of police violence too

Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)
(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

I recently exchanged emails with a prominent author about the near invisibility of Black females within the Black Lives Matter Movement.  After naming a handful of police shootings that resulted in the deaths of Black women, he replied saying he doesn’t think it’s with malicious intent that murdered Black girls and women have been repeatedly counted out of the conversation. He admitted that he’s even guilty of seeing police brutality as the Black man’s problem, instead of a Black community problem.

“I just think that violence of this sort has been coded as ‘male’ for so long that it’s hard for people to break out of that frame,” the author said in an email.

Though this may be a possibility, I doubt it’s the case.  The truth is that there have been way too many cases of police brutality against Black females that communities have not noticed a trend. This past summer, the death stories of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling made national headlines.  Yet, I don’t remember Korryn Gaines’ name coming up even once when protesting recent police brutality during a Black Lives Matter vigil back in the fall (I’m only speaking for myself).

On Aug. 1, 2016, police went to Gaines’ home on an outstanding warrant for a previous traffic stop. According to various newspaper publications, when police opened the door, Gaines was standing in the residence holding a gun. An article in Slate says Gaines was also holding her young son in her arms when police arrived. But I only found two videos online that Gaines herself made during the standoff. One showed an officer standing in the doorway dressed in gear. The other was of her five-year-old son sitting down whispering to his mother, “They’re trying to kill us,” after she asks him what the police are trying to do. But as she’s asking him, she’s sitting on the floor, loading bullets into the gun. Although, she could have very well been holding him at some point.

Despite the confusion, both Slate and The Washington Post reported the Baltimore County police chief accused Gaines of pointing the gun at officers and threatening to kill them if they didn’t leave (the videos I saw didn’t confirm this). Then, officers allegedly fired a shot at Gaines and she retaliated, which resulted in police firing several more rounds, eventually murdering her. Her son was injured during the shooting but was not murdered.

This isn’t the first noteworthy incident of child injury during police altercations. Back in 2008, police raided Tarika Wilson’s home in Lima, Ohio to apprehend her boyfriend. Wilson was shot and killed while holding her year-old baby, Sincere. Reports said she had not been armed, but the officer claimed he thought he saw a shadow and believed he heard gunshots when he fired. Those gunshots were reported to have come from police downstairs. According to The Huffington Post, the baby lived with gunshot wounds to the hand and shoulder.

Rekia Boyd, Alesia Thomas, Malissa Williams, and Darnisha Harris were all killed within the same year as Trayvon Martin. Wilson was murdered well before Martin, as was Kendra James, Kathryn Johnston and Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

But I never heard any of their stories, irrespective of the fact that my family stays on top of the news and keeps up with police brutality cases with fervor.

Calling this coincidental is absurd. That would be like calling the lack of major coverage on the Dakota Access Pipeline coincidental.  Some people will try to say to that Gaines deserved to be killed. But if that’s the case, why wasn’t Jessica Lugo, a white woman, shot and killed after stabbing a police officer with a pair of scissors in an Oklahoma traffic stop in 2014? Yes—Lugo chased and stabbed an officer and no one was murdered in the incident.

Gaines didn’t chase anyone; she didn’t even try to leave the apartment. She was simply making threats and fired shots after police fired at her.  And if making threats is enough to kill somebody, then Danielle Shea should’ve long been dead.  In 2014, Shea apparently called in not one, but two bomb threats not long before a Quinnipiac University graduation ceremony.  She made it to jail unscathed.

Coincidental? No. Don’t even try me.

Elisheva Azarael is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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