It is a good thing that Michael Brown’s and Eric Garner’s death has been all over social media and that people all over the world are protesting against the shameful act of racism that continues to exist. This is important. What is also important are the lives of African American women who have fallen victim to police brutality and yet have received no media coverage. These women deserved to be known and heard of as not only does this media black out shows that racism prevails, it shows that sexism prevails also. Many names have made it to the social media platforms, many of whom are males, and all their lives are important. It’s also key to remember that women’s lives are important too.
Yvette Smith, 47 year old mother, was shot to death in her own home after opening the door to police officers. The officers had been dispatched to a domestic disturbance call. Deputy Daniel Willis, 28, opened fire with his .223 caliber rifle, claiming that Smith had a gun and that she was refusing to take orders from the deputy. However, his testimony is neither backed up by the evidence nor the eyewitness accounts. However, later that day, the police department issued a contradictory statement: “We cannot confirm at this time that the female victim was armed with any type of firearm or other weapon at the time of the incident or that she intentionally disregarded any type of officer commands,” which now calls into question the integrity of the police officers.
On 21st March, 2012, Rekia Boyd, unarmed 22 year old black female, was shot and killed by off-duty Chicago Police Det. Dante Servin without any legal justification. According to Boyd’s family’s attorney, James D. Montgomery, Boyd was with a group of friends around 1 a.m. near 15th Place and Albany Avenue. An unmarked vehicle pulled over and the man, who was revealed to be Det. Dante Servin, had a verbal altercation with one person in the group, and then Servin allegedly opened fire. As the group broke off and ran away, 39-year-old Antonio Cross was shot in his hand and Boyd was shot in the head. She died nearly 24 hours after the shooting.
In June 2014, Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley walked free of the charge of involuntary manslaughter after a mistrial in the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, who was killed during a police raid in 2010 while she slept on her couch with her grandmother. Roland Lawrence, the chairman of the Justice for Aiyana Committee said, “Surely, the death of a baby by a well-trained police force must be deemed unacceptable in a civilized society.” Apparently this is not the case if the child is an African American living in America.
Even more recently, and yet to make it to the public eye the same way names such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner did, Tanisha Anderson, 37-year-old African American woman, had a police officer slam her head onto the concrete pavement. Her family had called 9-1-1 for medical and mental-health assistance as an attempt to calm her down from an argument at home. According to her brother, Tanisha called out for her brother and mother as the officer repeatedly pressed her head down to get her into the cruiser. After several attempts, the officer forced her onto the pavement, placed his knee on her back and handcuffed her. She died shortly thereafter.
However, perhaps the most blatant piece of evidence demonstrating the media blackout in cases of assault and murder of African American women is the case of an Oklahoma police officer Daniel Holtzclaw facing 36 charges including rape, sexual battery, and stalking of 13 African American women while on patrol. The youngest of the 13 was a 17 year old girl. DNA evidence found on the fly of his jeans matched hers.
Grand Juries almost never indict police officers, while they almost always indict others accused of a crime. This can be seen in previous cases in which a police officer kills an African American:
This reoccurrence of the grand jury not indicting police officers is not a coincidence and this needs to change. Police officers should be given less leniency in a trial due to the fact that they have received training about under what circumstances is it acceptable to kill. Being a police officer does not mean immunity to murder charges, yet it seems that a police officer shooting unarmed civilians and having the charges dismissed is quickly becoming a frequent affair.
The aim of this article is not to devalue the lives of black male victims of police brutality such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, however, the purposes of this article is to raise public awareness of the enormous media blackout surrounding cases of police brutality against African American women. The global movement sparked by the death of Michael Brown has been long overdue as evident from the sheer number of criminal cases stemmed from racial prejudice. The death of Michael Brown ignited a global movement that unveiled bigger issues of racism and prejudice that continue to thrive in modern day society. However, it shouldn’t be only the male victims’ families that are heard. We also need to bring attention to the families who have lost their daughters, wives, mothers, to the police because of racial discrimination and give the injustice the attention it deserves. Cases like this should not go unnoticed.
Again, the growing number of cases shows that there needs to be change in the judicial system in which there should not be leniency towards police officers, nor should the precedented cases provide examples for prejudice against black victims of assault, murder, and rape, for instance. This change is crucial marking that society has changed, that the civil rights movement was not in vain, and that humans can construct a more equal society. This change is crucial as it requires white people to acknowledge their privilege, bear witness to the injustice, and revolt against outdated attitudes that inevitably affect the legal system.
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Written by: Mint Kovavisarach