“The Somali-born Minnesota police officer alleged to have shot and killed an unarmed Australian woman on Saturday had been lauded by Minneapolis’ mayor and feted by the local community when he joined the force in 2015,” read the online headline of Fox News US. What is so interesting about this headline is that it comes from a rightwing nut media like Fox News and encapsulates the general reaction and mood of all mainstream media, Police and the community at large.
In this headline we have the identity, ethnicity, and of course the birther effect to it. A presumption of innocence is not there, while Mr. Noor, “alleged to have shot and killed,” without any investigation or propping, the victim was “unarmed”!! The headline also has the ‘I told you so’, or ‘gotcha’ feel to it. The policeman was “lauded by Minneapolis’ mayor, and feted by the local community when he joined the force in 2015,” so forget about those heroes who protect us from evil doers, the criminal mantra we hear all the time when the shooter is a white police officer.
Every police shooting of an innocent person is tragic, the shooting of the Australian woman, Justine Damond, by Mohamed Noor is no different. But the reaction to the shooting is very different than all other shootings. We have young black men and children as young as 12, having been shot for doing normal mundane things; like playing with toys, taking a walk, wearing a hoodie, or just driving or taking a walk in the park. Law obedient black men are shot just for being black. However, every time we have almost the same standard reaction, from the police, media and community.
The background vetting of the black victim starts with digging into the criminal history, finding the most outrageous news, and digging the most amount of dirt and burying the face of the victim before they even themselves get buried. Previous complaints, drugs in his blood, or any minor offence years back is dug up, shoplifting, or such a hot misdemeanor somewhere in his/her history. The demonizing of black victims of police shootings is a standard procedure of our police, media, and politicians and community at large, putting the black victims on public trial even while still bleeding from the gunshots, and before finding out what really happened. At the same time, almost always the very same people who are demonizing black victims of police shootings, accept and support the standard police reaction and narrative; he followed the police shooting protocols, policeman feared for his life, a family man with kids, who coaches in the little league, he is our police hero after all, he puts his life on the line every day to protect our community.
Policeman Mohamed Noor’s shooting of the Australian woman is as tragic as every shooting, however it has been treated a bit differently. She was an innocent white woman and Strib said the “Most innocent victim who was wearing pajamas,” as if wearing pajamas is enough evidence against the officer, of course there is something innocent about late night pajamas, and the ally where the victim was shot according to an eyewitness was pitch dark, so what you are wearing has no bearing on the shooting.
Unlike the usual publishing of the most outrageous picture one can find of a black victim, the picture of the beautiful smiling blondie was on every front page and TV show, but not in Australia, which by all accounts is the most racist country on earth. At the same time of Justine Damond’s shooting there was the senseless killing of Elijah Doughty, a 14-year-old boy from Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, but as professor and Australian blogger Mike Frost wrote, “there wasn’t interest in the general public. No outrage. No pictures of the 14-year-old victim plastered on every news broadcast.” 1A, a public radio show where the guest chief of police explained without being challenged that the overwhelming evidence that black men are more likely to be victims of police shootings than whites, the chief of police thinks “is due to the fact that blacks (are) more likely to be involved in violent crimes than whites.”
The race, ethnicity, and religion of the policeman was the victim in all of this, which most headlines started by identifying him as a Somali born, Somali American, Muslim American, where, in the case of a police shooting of a black victim, as community leader Mathew Ramadan articulated to me in an interview, the policeman’s identity, ethnicity or religion will never been confirmed, even his name will be withheld until further investigation. All we hear is that Mr Noor divorced his wife over joining the force, he has several complaints against him, he panicked when he saw the Australian woman wearing pajamas, goes the narrative against Mr Noor.
How could we have such a polarized perception of reality in the age of information, internet and smart phones? Nothing would explain this modern segregation other than the deep racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia in which we are living now. As the Star Tribune reported, Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame is calling for an end to racism and Islamophobia that has targeted the Somali community since then, calling on “Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for insinuating in a speech last week that Noor may have shot Damond for cultural reasons.” No one knows how Ms. Bachmann’s brain works, but you can always count on the former congresswoman to bring the bacon when Muslims are on the menu.
“The current officer training program indoctrinates individuals of all races into a system that teaches them to act first, think later, and justify with fear,” Rep. First Somali-American lawmaker Ilhan Omar explains, and this in a nutshell really represents most views in the Somali and Muslim community, not the reflexive reaction of defending their man, policeman Mohamed Noor. They know immigrants and blacks are in most part victims of police shootings, they joined and supported the Black Lives Matter movement to raise awareness of police brutality to African Americans, they understand now Muslim Americans are the new Blacks.
Ahmed Tharwat is the Producer and Host of the Arab-American TV showBelAhdan. His articles are published in national and international publications. He blogs at Notes from America,www.ahmediatv.comand his articles appear in national and international publications. Follow him on Twitter@AhmediaTV.