Maybe a White Life Will Matter
Maybe a White Life Will Matter

Maybe a White Life Will Matter


As happens with almost every police killing, too many people are responding to Justine Damond’s tragic death to death not with outrage for injustice or with compassion for loss, but with excuses, agendas, and even racism. (Yes, a white woman being shot is triggering racist reactions, and no, the racist reactions are not coming from black activists).

It is different with Justine Damond. As a white, middle-class, female yoga instructor, she is not receiving the victim blaming that habitually occurs with police shootings. There are no articles implying that maybe she was crazy or violent. No one is digging for her mug shots to post online. No one is writing articles asking, “did she deserved it?”. That is a relief. It also infuriatingly highlights how differently black men killed by the police are treated.

First and foremost, Justine was a human being. No one deserves to be killed like she was. She was loved be family, friends, and her community – by all accounts, she sounds like a lovely human being. While discussing the issues around a killing, we need to respect the victim’s humanity, and keep our own humanity. That was true with Philando Castile, and the media and the public both failed. Already there are some disturbing trends in the reactions to Justine’s death.

The most disturbing reaction to Justine’s killing is Islamophobia. The officer who killed her is a Muslim, and the internet is going crazy with theories of how he is “an ISIS terrorist” or “a black man who wanted to shoot a white woman”. This racist drivel is distracting from the genuine issues. An innocent person was killed unnecessarily. She was killed because police training focuses and militantly protecting the officer more than the public. She was killed because police feel practically no accountability for excessive force and unnecessary shootings.

There is also an ugly argument on the internet over the reaction to Justine’s death. Yes, it is infuriating and disgusting how many people didn’t give a damn about police killing innocent civilians until a white woman was killed. But we must not let that distract us from consoling her family and fighting for justice. We need to reach out to the people who woke up because of this event and educate them to what has been happening to people of color all along, rather than shaming them.

Then there are the apologists. Philando Castile – a good man loved by children he worked with, his family, and his community – should have been the wake-up call. For many people, he wasn’t. Justine Damond should now be the wake-up call. But there are still many police supporters making excuses. “Maybe she startled them?” So fucking what?! If you or I just randomly shot an unarmed, innocent person in an alley because we were startled, we would go to jail. The police are supposed to be trained to deal with such situations. They should be held to a higher standard, not given a free pass to kill.

So, cutting through all the chaff, here is what should be our focus:

  • fighting for justice and accountability for this tragic death.
  • Supporting the victim’s friends and family.
  • Respectfully using this tragedy to teach people about police violence, especially those how were incapable of seeing the issue when the victims were black men
  • Hopefully, not just getting justice for Justine, but making progress towards change that will save other innocent lives. That isn’t exploitation. It is giving a needless death some meaning.

Frankly, listening to the apologists, the impotent investigation report by the BCA, and the lack-luster commitment by politicians and officials to seek justice and truth in this killing, I am worried that we may not even see justice for Justine and her family. Let’s try to make sure that this time, there is justice.