In August of 2016, a mother lost her daughter, two children lost their parent, and a 23-year-old woman lost her life. That woman was Maryland native, Korryn Gaines. Whether you've heard her name before now or this is your first time, it's clear that we haven't said her name enough.
A little more than two years ago, Korryn Gaines was shot and killed while holding her five-year-old son in a Baltimore apartment after a six-hour standoff with police officers. Although the offending officer was not charged criminally, he was found guilty by a jury in a civil trial in February of 2018 and ordered to pay the Gaines family $37 million.
Although this may have been a small victory in the Black community's fight against police violence, it was short lived. It was recently announced that a Maryland judge has now decided to overturn the settlement, saying that Officer Royce Ruby was "objectively reasonable" in his decision to fatally shoot Korryn Gaines, who had been previously declared mentally ill, and inadvertently harm her young son.
My aim in writing this article is not to pick apart the details or criticize the decisions of either party. Even though I could easily take it there, I won't mention the fact that police initially only showed up at Korryn's door to serve a misdemeanor traffic warrant or the fact that dangerous suspects have been apprehended before without being fatally shot. I won't talk about critics of Korryn, who feel that there were things she could have done differently to protect the lives of both her and her son.
But what I do want to know is, why aren't we talking about it?
Although Korryn's story is much different from the other members of our community that we've lost to gun violence, we must acknowledge this tragedy for exactly what it is: Oppression. Regardless of the details of that tragic day, can we all agree that a young woman's civil liberties were violated?
Yet, the narrative has been spun so that we are more likely to come up with the reasons she deserved to die, rather than all of the reasons why she deserved to live.
The media is so infatuated with acts of violence against Black bodies, that it's become a sort of porn for digital users. We've become so desensitized to these deaths, that we've stopped saying their names. Our anger as Black women has evolved into numbness, and we find ways to justify our abusers in an effort to satiate our rage.
The question I'd like to ask is, what if Korryn were your sister, cousin, or best friend? Despite your critique of how she could have done things differently, would she still deserve to die? It's my personal opinion that the Black community as a whole has a tendency to be much more critical of Black women, even in the cases of their own murder.
There are a few ways to remedy this. First, we must prioritize mental health as Black women. The day Korryn was shot, it was reported that she had skipped her medication. Although erratic behavior is not justification for murder, we have to confront mental illness head-on so that we have some control in these chaotic situations.
Secondly, let's stop playing respectability politics when it comes to the issue of Black death. Korryn Gaines had beliefs that were not socially acceptable, and that's what made her dangerous.
I will keep it G with you. It makes no difference to me how Korryn could or should have acted. I will hold the boys in blue accountable for every death that could have been prevented.
I challenge you today to not look for the flaw in your sisters, but to see them as human and say their names. The Gaines family plans to appeal the judge's decision, and our hopes and prayers are with them on their journey to justice.