When a white cop shoots a black person, that’s racism. When a black cop shoots a black person, that’s institutionalized racism. But what if a black cop shoots a white person? What if, to make it even more intersectional, the cop is also Muslim? Is it possible to hold him accountable for his actions without being racist and Islamophobic?
On a Saturday night in July 2017, a Minneapolis police officer named Mohamed Noor responded to a 911 call placed by a woman named Justine Damond, who reported a possible sexual assault near her home. When Noor pulled up to her house, she approached his patrol car and he shot and killed her. Damond was in her pajamas and was unarmed. Noor didn’t give her any verbal warning. He just shot her. She called the police because she thought someone was in trouble, and she was killed for it.
Finally, her family and loved ones have gotten a measure of justice. Chao Xiong, Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Mohamed Noor became the first former Minnesota police officer found guilty of an on-duty murder Tuesday as a Hennepin County jury convicted him for the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017…
They convicted Noor of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter but acquitted him of the most serious count — second-degree murder…
Noor’s cousin, Goth Ali, who attended the trial every day, broke down after hearing the verdict.
“I’m crying because of how the case was handled,” the 32-year-old said afterward. “What happened was injustice. This is shocking. My cousin didn’t get a fair trial.”
In any dispute between a Muslim and a non-Muslim, the Muslim is the victim. Even if — especially if — he’s just been convicted of murder.
Or, as the Somali-American Police Association put it:
Officer Noor joined the police force to make a difference and reflect the community he serves. And while historically it has not been uncommon for minority officers to receive differential treatment, it is discouraging to see this treatment persist in 2019. SAPA fears the outcome of this case will have a devastating effect on police morale and make the recruitment of minority officers all the more difficult.
Yes, murdering an unarmed woman does tend to have a negative effect on morale.
So, how are the rest of us supposed to react to this? A cop is going to jail for murdering an immigrant (Damond was Australian). That’s good because, as we’re reminded again and again, cops are bad. But the victim was white, and the cop is a black Muslim. That means it’s racist to put him in jail when all the white cops who did the same thing have gotten away with it, except for the ones who didn’t get away with it.
It means that the race of the killer and the victim aren’t mentioned in the news coverage, as they would be if Noor was white and Damond was black:
It means that Damond will never be a cause célèbre. She’ll never become a secular martyr. Her name will never be mentioned in the same breath as Trayvon Martin. Sure, her life mattered, but not as much as it would’ve mattered if she had been more useful politically.
Justine Damond will never be a symbol of social justice. We’ll just have to settle for actual justice.