There’s no question that the killing of the Australian woman by a police officer in Minneapolis is a terrible thing. It goes once again to show that one of the nation’s biggest problems is that the police carry weapons on all occasions. Stripping the police of their guns is one of the biggest moves toward public safety we could take, second perhaps only to repealing the Second Amendment and making it much harder to own a gun.
That said, the white response to this killing as opposed to the response to the routine killing of black people by white cops is grotesque. That’s especially true considering the Minneapolis police murdered Philando Castile a mere year ago. He we have a full page profile on the attractive white woman killed by a Somali-American cop. And now, racist white people are attacking police violence by saying the cop was a “diversity hire” and only if our society wasn’t overrun by POLITICAL CORRECTNESS and all jobs just automatically went to white people except for porters and mammies, that everything would be great.
When victims of police shootings are black, many pundits demand patience, withhold judgment of the officer’s actions, and start looking for dirt on the person killed. Damond isn’t targeted with the same prejudicial scrutiny, and Noor isn’t getting the same wait-and-see defense.
The hypocritical nature of conservative media reactions here overshadows a bigger problem: the tendency to treat every police shooting as a case of bad individuals, rather than emblematic of a systemic problem in U.S. law enforcement.
Take the argument pioneered by ex-cop turned right-wing radio host John Cardillo, which has since jumped to Infowars, WorldNetDaily, and other far-right online spaces. Cardillo argues that Noor, who is Somali American, was a “diversity hire” pushed by a class of politically correct administrators. If they wouldn’t have pushed for Noor’s hiring in the first place, the argument goes, Damond would still be alive today. Minneapolis gave deadly force to someone unqualified to wield it, these voices claim, because it made people feel good to have a more diverse police force.
A second, similar reaction has spread along the internet’s right edge, exemplified in notorious Islamophobe Pam Gellar’s coverage of the story. Gellar focuses on Noor’s religious affiliation and points to the specter of “Islamic supremacism,” asking readers to believe that Noor killed Damond because that is simply what Somali Americans do.
These reactions are astonishing in their racism, but the problem goes far beyond that. They also exonerate the police institutions that trained Noor, the conduct regulations that governed his behavior, and the political environment in which he and all other police currently operate.
In these renderings of the case, the important details are all about identity. Instead of a white cop killing an unarmed black man, it’s a black cop killing an unarmed white woman. Noor killed a woman who’d sought his help because something was wrong with him, not because anything is wrong with how the institution of policing conditions officers to behave, think, and react to situations.
If Noor is just one faulty piece in a perfectly fine system, fixing things is as simple as plucking him off the chessboard. No further questions need to be asked about how our public institutions hand out badges and guns; the probe stops at the supposed ills of inclusive hiring and religious tolerance.
I’ll tell you what, I’m just amazed that right-wing responses to police violence are entirely framed by the race of the shooter and victim. Amazed.
Reality did not disappoint the cynics. Within six days of Damond’s death, an attorney for her family had called her “the most innocent victim” of a police shooting he’d ever seen, and the mayor of Minneapolis had asked for and received the resignation of police chief Janeé Harteau. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a story pointing out that Bob Kroll, the leader of the local police union—who once referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terrorist organization”—was being uncharacteristically silent when it came to the culpability of the Somali American Noor. When pressed on why he had been willing to defend the officers involved in Clark’s death but unwilling to defend Noor, Kroll told the Star-Tribune that he hadn’t yet spoken to Noor’s lawyer and therefore didn’t have enough information to comment. “In this case, I don’t know the facts of it,” Kroll told a reporter in a series of text messages. “His attorney is handling and the Federation is remaining silent. This is how our board and attorney decided to handle this one.”
I suppose watching white people begin to realize that maybe police violence is a problem because one of there’s died is a not terrible thing. It would be great if the upshot of this was that white people realized that Black Lives Matter is a real set of complaints about police violence, as well as many other ways black people are discriminated against, and then united with them in a broader fight against police violence. The chances of that happening is approximately the same as John McCain flying back to Washington from brain cancer surgery to save health care for the poor instead of stripping it from them.