On Tuesday, the family of 23-year-old Korryn Gaines who was shot by police along with her 5-year-old son Kodi —who survived the encounter while Korryn died as a result — was informed that the Baltimore County State Attorney’s office will not be filing any charges against the officers who fatally wounded her during an hours-long standoff.
The family’s attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, who is representing Gaines’ estate in a wrongful death lawsuit, will be meeting with State Attorney Scott Shellenberger to discuss the case. But Gordon already has a fairly good idea of what he will hear in that meeting.
“Basically, ‘We investigated ourselves, and we found that we didn’t do anything wrong,'” Gordon said. “That’s what I expect them to say.”
While the fact that the state essentially found nothing wrong with a state-sponsored killing is, unfortunately, not a surprise, what has been shocking is the mixed reactions to her execution.
Typically when a Black person is killed by the police, it becomes an inimitable moment of African-American unity. Of course, there are the regressive outliers who embody Zora Neale Hurston’s phrase, “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk,” but most of us tend to see eye to eye.
Yet, Korryn’s death hasn’t just split the community down the middle, I actually believe most Black folks, even self-proclaimed Black nationalists, are unwilling to embrace her as an actual victim.
It’s sad that Korryn Gaines was Shot and Killed but she was wrong, especially having her kids in the car. Smh
— ♕brianna♕ (@Briskieee1) August 11, 2016
I don’t see how black people are defending #KorrynGaines
— KELLI ANTHONY (@KELLIANTHONY) August 4, 2016
I really wish that people would stop tryin to justify the situation around Korryn Gains…She was in the wrong 100%…THIS IS A SET BACK#BLM
— Aidah (@ladyjoke3) August 7, 2016
As I reported on her death days after she was killed, this was the dominant narrative that surrounded the incident despite the fact that this officer-involved shooting was eerily and uniquely problematic.
Before she was killed, members of law enforcement demanded Korryn’s Facebook account be deactivated moments before the police burst in her residence. Since there’s no criminal investigation being pursued, we can only guess as to whether that action was taken to prevent a Facebook live recording of what can only be described as a premeditated shooting. After busting into her apartment, not only did the police choose to shoot first (which is unprecedented in “hostage situations” as the police claim it was when a young child is involved) but 5-year-old Kodi was shot, which he and his family claim was intentional. While Korryn was armed with a shotgun, it’s very interesting that it all stemmed from officers attempting to serve Gaines a warrant on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
So here’s where I’m confused. While we collectively mourn the recent deaths of Tyre King, Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, many Black folks undoubtedly believe that we are amidst a Black genocide unlike anything the nation has seen before.
Black man with car trouble is tased and shot to death by cops for no other reason than his race. State sanctioned genocide
— EricFive (@KingEric55) September 21, 2016
Who is responsible for the genocide of black men and women? Who will pay for our trauma?
— Tamika D. Mallory (@TamikaDMallory) September 20, 2016
We, also believe that regardless of what we do, we are little more than melanin-rich police shooting targets.
Things you can get killed for:
Walking while black
Talking while black
Being educated while black
Breathing while black
— RIP TERENCE CRUTCHER (@BasedNaneez) September 20, 2016
And we even acknowledge that there’s a discrepancy with how police treat and apprehend armed Black suspects and armed terrorists.
Wait so a terrorist can be captured without being shot to death but you can’t arrest a black person without killing them ????
— Unapologetcally Me (@MakaUzom) September 20, 2016
So, if we believe that Black bodies are being wantonly destroyed in a state-sanctioned genocide, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent our incursion because we can be executed for simply breathing while Black, especially during an arrest where our lives are treated with less care than a terrorist, how do we blame Korryn for her own incursion?
According to our own logic, there’s nothing she could’ve done to prevent her own death since she was #breathingwhileblack so how did she behave wrong? If we actually believe that we’re standing amidst an intended genocide, how could you actually blame a Black person for exercising their second-amendment right? And, if we are aware of the fact that a simple arrest can turn into an automatic execution, why would we blame Korryn for arming herself when the police came to arrest her?
In the family’s lawsuit, they allege that the cops stormed her apartment simply because they got tired of waiting for a peaceful resolution, despite Korryn pleads saying, “If you put your guns down and back up from my apartment, I will come out.” So if she armed herself to prevent any foul play and requested the cops don’t shoot her for no reason, wouldn’t that actually be the reasonable reaction to state-sponsored genocide?
Not only does this case represent an obvious disparity that exists in the Black community with how we treat Black women who are victims of police violence versus Black boys/men who are shot to death, but the skepticism, disappointment and downright anger from many Black people who believe Korryn was completely in the wrong shows that we have a larger problem: the respectability politics of the perfect victim.
Despite the fact that many Black men and women do not believe police accounts, don’t trust in the justice system and believe that some cops are just slanted towards executing Black people instead of reasoning with us, many of us still demand our fallen brothers and sisters be unarmed, compliant, meek, and have pristine backgrounds in order for us to mourn their hashtag.
And what’s so truly disgusting about that is the same people who will knock Korryn Gaines, will praise Assata Shakur, the Black Panthers, and the picture of Malcolm X standing by the window with a rifle.
Don’t preach about Angela, Kathleen, and Assata and then say oh well Korryn shouldn’t have had a gun. Clowns
— JIMMY APOET (@TheJimmyApoet) August 7, 2016
If we truly believe in the idea that Blackness, in and of itself, is really being weaponized as a threat to law enforcement and society at large, how exactly do we reconcile viewing Korryn Gaines as an irreparably bad mother for arming herself to defend her body and her child with an actual weapon?
Both ideas can’t exist together. She may not be your perfect victim, but it’s important that we #SayHerName.