Commentary by Klee Benally @eelk
According to The Guardian’s “The Counted” database, there have been 1,403 people’s lives taken by police terrorism in the US since 2015.
We’re not addressing a few “bad apple” cops here though, this whole system is rotten to the core. This reality was brought close to home on Sunday, March 27, 2016 when 27-year-old Diné woman Loreal
Juana Barnell Tsingine was gunned down by a Winslow, Arizona police officer who was responding to an alleged act of shoplifting.
Loreal was shot 5 times by the white officer who was reportedly wearing a body camera. Apparently the officer felt threatened because she had scissors.
There have been 53 people killed by cops in AZ since 2015. 0 people have been killed by scissors.
Police violence is systemically rooted in white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, and colonialism.
According to Eastern Kentucky University professor Victor E. Kappeler, “New England settlers appointed Indian Constables to police Native Americans (National Constable Association, 1995), the St. Louis police were founded to protect residents from Native Americans in that frontier city, and many southern police departments began as slave patrols. In 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation’s first slave patrol. Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing slaves who essentially were considered property.”
According to a 2010 census more than 25% of the 10,000 people who live in Winslow are Indigenous. Although Winslow is considered a “border town” to the Navajo Nation; like Farmington, NM, Durango, CO, and nearby Flagstaff, it’s occupied stolen lands steeped in a legacy of settler colonial violence and class war with resounding impacts of historical trauma and a range of associated social disorders (i.e. poverty) that impact power relations to this day. The City of Flagstaff, which has sanctioned desecration of the San Francisco Peaks (held holy by more than 13 Indigenous Nations), arrests an average of more than 3,000 Indigenous People every year yet only 7,000 Native people call Flagstaff their home. Disproportionate arrests due to racial profiling are not the exception but appear to be the expectation in these hostile environments.
Piecemeal policy adjustments within police institutions such as body cams, cultural sensitivity training, and so-called “less-than-lethal” options, demonstrate no critical change of the power that cops have to kill those who pose no significant threat (not to legitimize cops killing armed folks either). Unless of course we recognize that brown and black bodies are also a factor in what constitutes a “threat.”
According to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice “The racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement is Native Americans, followed by African Americans, Latinos, Whites, and Asian Americans.” This is not to argue Indigenous folks’ oppression is more severe, but to recognize our shared struggles to ensure there is not one more Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Corey Kanosh, Paul Castaway, Allen Locke, Mahivist Goodblanket, John Williams, or Loreal Tsingine and to situate the ongoing police terrorism all our communities face as originating from the same systems of oppression.
This also means connecting our struggles beyond co-opting hashtags like #NativeLivesMatter, as Sabah at muslimgirl.com observes, “#BlackLivesMatter represents an entire movement and its history. It’s not “just” a hashtag, it’s a powerful outcry born from a racial injustice felt by a people. It cannot, and should not, be molded to fit another people’s struggle. And solidarity, while important (and in fact, essential), never involves co-opting another movement.”
After all, #BlackLivesMatter & #NativeLivesMatter both mean end police violence. (Check out this great statement by Alicia Garza on why #alllivesmatter is problematic while you’re at it.)
Beyond pleas for a system rooted in genocide and slavery to recognize that our lives matter, our communities and movements can learn from each others’ struggles and build together towards lasting solutions to defend ourselves, neighbors, lands, and to resolve issues we face in more just and healthy ways.
#NativeJusticeNow #JusticeForLoreal #smashthepolicestate #powertothepeople
The family of Loreal Juana Barnell Tsinijini is having a candle light vigil tonight (Wed. March 30, 2016) in Winslow at Kinsley & 4th st. 6:30pm (MST).
They have also set up a fund here: www.gofundme.com/loreal
There is also a vigil on Saturday at 3pm (MDT): www.facebook.com/events/954680254639569/