there is no justice. not for aiyana stanley jones.
there is punishment, and perhaps accountability. someone to point towards, many people, a trail of blame, stories, mistakes and tears.
but there is no justice.
i’m just home from a vigil for aiyana. i don’t like to go to these things because they make me feel too raw and hopeless. my partner, however, knew that we had to go and make sure aiyana’s story was told. so here it is: she was alive yesterday, 7 years old. she went to bed on a couch in a first floor room with her grandmother last night. in the wee hours of the morning, cops raided her house. a man outside the house shouted that there were kids inside. a man on the second floor of the house was a suspect in the murder of a 17-year-old last Friday.
the police threw a “flash bang” through the front window. it blinded everyone inside; it lit aiyana on fire.
the news reported a tussle with the grandmother, during which the firearm discharged. everyone in the family says there was no tussle, that the grandmother was throwing herself over the baby when aiyana was shot in the head.
what do you call the blinded, terrified groping of a grandmother who knows her grandchildren are in the room, blasted from safety and sleep into chaos and danger, whose granddaughter is on fire? how do you comfort a man like aiyana’s father, which was forced to lie face down in his daughter’s blood by the same police officers who killed her?
the police shot and killed aiyana. they shot her in the forehead. her family saw her brain on the couch. by accident, perhaps. which doesn’t even matter to a 7-year-old. you don’t get let off any hooks for your intentions in this case, officer.
apparently a crew from the television show 48 Hours were with the police during the raid. i can’t help but wonder what their footage shows, and if filming for the show had anything to do with the drastic tactics and fatal timing – flash bombing a home in the middle of the night when the women and children are most likely to be home and sleeping.
standing on the sidewalk with over 100 black people, some shell-shocked, some sharing bits and pieces of the tragic gossip, some railing against the mayor, some staring at each other or holding each other in quiet sadness…i only saw the children. they were running, kicking, punching each other. playing. they were all 7 to me, however big or small. they were all potentially aiyana. yesterday she was with them, today she is martyred for no cause.
several members of imam luqman‘s family were present, in prayer as we approached the house, present in solidarity with the particular grief of losing a loved one to violence at the hands of authority figures.
as we left the crowd, a man walked past us – more literally was dragged past us, barely able to walk, wailing in grief. his voice ripped through the southern twilight on the street, the realest voice there. i had spent the whole day around beautiful, vibrant children – little boys who ran circles around me and kicked everything because they were ninjas, and then grabbed my hands gently and easily to cross the sidewalk. and then i held a 2-day-old baby, totally fresh, just barely opening his eyes to say hello. what is more valuable than our children? this man, stumbling down the sidewalk weeping – this is how it feels when society offers up our babies as human sacrifices in pursuit of an unattainable justice.
i wanted to hold him. i wanted to say it would be ok, that there would be justice for aiyana. but i don’t believe, right now, there is any real justice for the violent deaths of our youth.
every thread i pick up in the story leads to more impossible questions.
why are police officers legally able to use military tactics on a house with children in it on a sunday morning…or any morning, on any house, with anyone in it?
why do the grieving faces of people on this street look so unsurprised?
and when 17-year-old Jerean Blake was killed Friday, wasn’t that equally devastating? did we do enough as a community at that moment?
do we know how to keep our children safe?
can we admit that we don’t know anything about how to be the kind of society where this could never happen?
to step back from the immediate events is to see what happens in communities who internalize the corporate military worldview that some people are expendable. the way we function as an economy that places profit first is that it’s normal for people in uniform to throw bombs into the home of civilians and shoot children.
an economy that valued people first could never justify those tactics.
i think of the children in my life – those blessed and loved and safe, and those who will never really be safe because of how the world sees them. the way aiyana died, the last minutes of her life – that is terrorism. to know that that kind of terror and pain can happen to a child in this time – IS happening to children, funded by our tax dollars, right now, in iraq, afghanistan, palestine, arizona, and here in detroit – is to understand that as things stand, there is no justice. nothing will make it right, nothing will take away the pain, nothing will heal us – and anyway, there is no time to heal. not for aiyana.
detroit police, at the behest of the detroit city government, are on the offensive in this war against our community. this is national in scope – international really. we cannot keep half-healing from the wounds inflicted on us – we have to fundamentally shift the way we participate in our lives and in the creation of our local economies and societies. we have to demand that police fundamentally shift how they are allowed to function in our communities – they must be disarmed, we must demand they focus their training on the humanity of communities, unlearning these tactics of creating devastation from a safe distance.
we have to make today’s events impossible – that is the only way to regain our humanity. then, maybe, we can use the word justice.