There is no justice for Aiyana

This is a guest post by Adrienne Maree Brown. It was originally published at The Luscious Satyagraha.
There is a protest at 1pm today at Wayne State Law School to demand Eric Holder launch a federal probe into this situation.

aiyana stanley jonesthere 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?
More, including Adrienne’s bio, after the jump.


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.
Adrienne Maree Brown is the executive director of The Ruckus Society and a National Coordinator for the 2010 US Social Forum. She sits on the board of Allied Media Projects. Adrienne facilitates the development of organizations throughout the movement. She lives in Detroit, MI.

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23 Comments

  1. annaleighclark
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    thanks for this. prayers for aiyanna, and for peace and wellness for all the young people in this city.

  2. Marc
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Anytime a police raid goes wrong, as it often does, there is a need to fully investigate the issues, try to find the solutions, correct the problems, and compensate the familes as need be.
    That said, let’s not jump to conclusions just yet on the issue – none of what’s taken place qualifies, as this thead is posted under, violence against women, nor does it qualify as racism. Doing so takes away the real seriousness of systematic violence against women and racism. This, as far as we’ve known, is a police fuck-up, and it’s something that needs to be investigated and corrected.
    Emotional responses, as this piece was, are great as a rallying cry – but we’ve got to find real solutions to real problems.
    Suggesting the police changes its tactics? Really? In a world of violence, we’re telling those responsible for upholding the law, and at times, protecting the innocent, to be disarmed, and to change their tactics? Police officers are not social workers, and whether we like it or not, there are times when force has to be used, to deescalate violence.
    Until this woman actualy shows some solutions to the on-going violence in the streets of Detroit – whether it’s to stimulate the economy, more education, tougher gun-control laws, she has no room to speak, because she is simply rambling, and not offering solutions.
    Within feminism, we often speak of checking one’s privilege and also trying to look at the world through other people’s experiences and paradigms. Perhaps this woman should look at the raid through the officers’ eyes, and through the eyes of Detroit PD.
    Raids are often confusing and chaotic, and those involved are required to make split-second decisions. It is an insult for this woman to think that any police officer would intentionally shoot a 7-year-old child; worst, does she think that this is something Detroit PD wanted because it would reflect well upon them?
    Sometimes, we all need to think just a little more before emotionally faulting other people.

  3. Marc
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Quick question: is there a theoretical reason for the lack of capitalization in the post? I find it curious and sense that there is a reason behind it – as in, like, the capitalization of a word or proper noun would denote preference and importance of one word over another?
    I’ve been seeing some other pieces like this elsewhere, in terms of capitalization, and am curious.

  4. s mandisa
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    the privilege and entitlement with which you speak is astounding and literally makes me sick to my stomach, but I will still write this.
    not sure of your social location, but it doesn’t seem like you know what its like to live in a world where the police are the enemy, where they are the abusers, where the police terrorize you. academically, its called state violence (obviously, violence perpetrated by the state, which includes its sub-divisions like municipalities, police departments, etc), but its also known as law-enforcement violence. this is an example of state violence.
    the fact that you even want to see sheer and unnecessary violence, complete disrespect for human life (which is what the police did) possibly justified by wanting to know what was going through the police officers’ minds also suggest that you are not familiar with state violence. even if we did see through the police officer’s mind/eyes, IT IS NEVER OK TO FLASH-BOMB A HOUSE at any time of day nor to shoot a 7-year old and nothing should justify this. more importantly, putting the emphasis on the individual acts of the officers involved belittles the fact that this is an INSTITUTIONAL concern, not just an isolated incidence of some messed-up cops in Detroit. Look up the Danzinger 7 and that current re-invesitigation as just one example to see that this is not just about a few cops who had bad judgment or “messed up”, but that there is something about how our society has been constructed where this kind of violence is not only the norm, but necessary to continue many forms of oppression.
    lastly, i think it severely belittles the important of adrienne’s work to suggest she produce solutions. first of all, its important to accurately and justly name what is going on and where we are coming from and how we feel in any sort of work that we do and thats what i feel she was doing. also, i dont think that because she is expressing something that she feels very passionately about (no doubt based on personal experiences of her own lived experiences and that of others) means that she does not have solutions or that her words are not the beginning of a solution. how can we change if we cant even honestly name what it is? lastly, its so condescending to classify the importance of her analysis as rambling (what entitles you to say its rambling: the fact that you are not in agreement with it?)
    adrienne: thank you for your words.
    jos: thank you for posting in
    my heart goes out to the community in Detroit and Aiyana’s family.

  5. Anna
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    thank you so much for this poignant response. you responded better than i could have ever tried.
    - anna

  6. JLu
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I just want to respond to the idea that this just happened to be the result of a regular police raid.
    You take for granted that the raid HAD to happen then at that moment in that way and that violence has to be met with violence in certain situations, including this one.
    I think I can safely answer that the original poster isn’t accusing the individual officer or saying that the DPD wanted that to happen – but instead it focusing on larger systemic problems with police raids, the use of military tactics, the dismissal of the fact that there were children in the house. That perhaps the police could have chosen a different way to handle this problem that would have led to a different outcome.
    And on the note that this is just an emotional response/rallying cry that leads nowhere, I think it is important, especially when the victim is a young black girl from Detroit, that we have these. Because her story will fade from the spotlight VERY quick, except perhaps in Detroit.

  7. mightywombat
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    That’s like saying that unless someone puts forward a comprehensive plan for integrating Johannesburg, they have no standing to criticize apartheid. It’s a specious, disingenuous claim.
    This response is flabbergasting. If you can’t see what’s wrong with using police tactics that show a complete disregard for innocent lives, I don’t even know what to say.

  8. Libbierator
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the world from other people’s points of view is helpful, and you’re right – a fundamental part of feminism. And, I agree; looking at the world from the point of view of people we (any ‘we’) immediately demonize is valid and important.
    I would gently suggest that you might try re-reading this article to do just that. You speak of emotional responses as if they are not the crux of everything we, as human beings, do:
    “Until this woman actualy shows some solutions to the on-going violence in the streets of Detroit – whether it’s to stimulate the economy, more education, tougher gun-control laws, she has no room to speak, because she is simply rambling, and not offering solutions.”
    I know our society holds this belief that ‘logic’ and ‘reason’ and ‘emotions’ are inherently different, but through many journeys of my own I have learned that they are not. If you’re interested, there’s a wonderful book called “Women’s Ways of Knowing” that explores the topic. (It’s written by several psychologists and reflects on their research.) In this short post here, I will just say, she *is* offering solutions. The “fundamental paradigm shift” Jos talks about in the post is the solution she is offering.
    Many times idealists and feminists are told that they are not being ‘realistic’ when we speak like this. That’s not true. Women getting the vote took a fundamental paradigm shift in our collective societal consciousness. If you look back at history, periods of great social change are preceded by a plethora of writings and discussions and political battles on the given topic; people talking about fundamental change.
    That is how change happens. It doesn’t happen immediately; women got the vote in 1920, after 40 years of what historians call the “Progressive Era”. That era was the long process of a fundamental, societal, paradigm shift; one that was necessary for this country to progress in terms of civil rights. Most white men didn’t immediately go “oh yes, of course women should vote”. Most were vehemently against the idea, at first. This was, after all, the Victorian era, when women were seen as ‘passionless’ or ‘moral creatures’; only fit for bearing children and raising them. Then, more and more women gradually, gradually learned more about suffrage and talked to their husbands, talked to their daughters and their sons, slowly sons were brought up in environments valuing women’s choices, slowly books were published and slowly read, and slowly, slowly, a fundamental paradigm shift occurred. And at the end of it, women gained the right to vote.
    So, while things like:
    “there are times when force has to be used, to deescalate violence.”
    are true now, they are short-term solutions. They will not fix the underlying problems that so riddle our culture. Using force against force only creates more hatred; employing peace and community-building, builds a better society than the one we have now.
    Jos isn’t rambling. She’s talking about the future.

  9. L.K. Louise
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    This absolutely breaks my heart. Thanks for sharing this story, I posted it to my facebook as well. I wish I could find the story, but I’ve heard so many examples of escalated violence by police while filming.
    I second s mandisa’s comment as well.

  10. Marc
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    You operate under the assumption that it was complete disregard, without having been there to see the planning process of each police/military operation.
    The police, as an entity, is at fault for this, but to say that using police tactics should be limited to only certain ones is just out right silly.
    Everyone has jobs to do, and the police is no different. While they should be subjected to all investigations related to this death and many other deaths, we do not have the rights, especially those without tactical and on-the-ground backgrounds, to tell which is and isn’t appropriate use of tactics. It’s their lives, too, that are depended on this.

  11. cattrack2
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I don’t always agree with either you S Mandisa, or with Marc, but in this case I think both of you are right in certain ways.
    Bottom line: I think the police displayed shoddy planning, inept execution, and a disregard for innocent life while (probably) shamelessly mugging it up for the cameras of the TV crew. No knock warrants & flash grenades are notoriously risky. I think the officer who lost control of his weapon, the captain who planned & managed the raid & the Chief who formulates & approves police policy & training should all be fired. Without any suggestion that the perp was about to take hostages the cops should’ve waited until he was in safer location for a bust. This incident makes me wanna cry.
    On the other hand: Police are necessary components of our criminal justice system. Violence–including flash grenades–is sometimes necessary. “Military” tactics have been used without complaint by liberals for years (eg, Ruby Ridge, Waco Branch Davidians, Elian Gonzalez, etc) Calling this action “racist” without any idea if the cop was black or not is irresponsible (particularly since its hard to argue the mostly black civic leadership of Detroit is in the main racist).
    Being the kid of a black cop taught me that cops are not infallible, that black cops can be as power hungry & callous about communities as are white cops, and that..there are criminals out there who do wantonly steal, rape, and kill and must be stopped. Good cops deserve our protection & gratitude for the often selfless acts of bravery & courage they perform to protect our lives & livelihood. Bad cops deserve to be kicked from the force.

  12. Toongrrl
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    But surely there is a way to achieve justice without killing innocent bystanders, don’t you think? Also it sounds as though they came in without a warrant…sounds very unconstitutional, according to 8th grade study reviews.

  13. Dena
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    This is a really sad story. I too have posted this everywhere–Facebook, Twitter, Digg. I hope enough people learn of this and demand justice for Aiyana. Nothing can ever bring her life back, but at least… I don’t know. *sigh*

  14. a.k.a. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    You accuse the OP of being emotional in her response.
    Well, looking at your argument that the police used an unnecessary and excessive amount of force in order to protect their own lives, doesn’t that mean they were ALSO reacting primarily out of emotion?
    I’m sure that having served in the military has changed your views on some things and bought you some sympathy for service people.
    Maybe when you’re a father you’ll similarly realize the horror that is the death of a child.

  15. konkonsn
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Other readers have done a good job pointing out the flaws with the rest of your argument, so I will just say this:
    “This woman” has a name. It even says it there at the top. I’m not sure if you didn’t use her name out of some odd form of politeness that says we shouldn’t directly confront the person we’re arguing with, but it really makes you sound like a jerk.
    Also, why not “this person?”

  16. caryatideclipse
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Hey, I’m really glad that this has been posted on Feministing. However, I do think it’d be a good idea to put a trigger warning on the post because of the graphic depictions of violence (though I also am not sure where Feministing stands on that issue, and I know they’ve been contentious in the blogosphere lately).

  17. lovelyliz
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    I’m obviously horrified that this happened … this whole thing was tragic for the police officers that unintentionally caused this mess and especially the suffering family.
    However, it is an oversimplification to say that this was about racism or sexism. As someone who lives near Detroit and who frequently works with machinery in one of the remaining warehouses, the place is a wasteland desperately in need of repair. The educational system is a wreck and the violence that any individual is exposed to is numbing. A gunfight at the warehouse alerted me that individuals absorb the culture of Detroit and grow to mimic it, because that is how they feel they need to survive. I KIND OF understand how the poster tried to justify violence with violence. Anyone that has been to Detroit kind of understands how someone could come to that conclusion.
    Having one relative murdered and one nearly stabbed to death within the city has helped me to comprehend how the policeforce could operate so harshly – it is seriously dangerous there.
    ANYWAYS. And this is my point … there were many perverse things going on that day, and to me, the “reality” television program being filmed – the reason why, the police claim, the cops were overexcited – is the part that truly sickens me. It’s easy to just blame the cops, and they SHOULD take responsibility for their actions, but the act itself was a result of a complex monster.
    It is a sick mixture of Detroit’s violent subculture, a police force deadened to violent actions and the twisted sense of entertainment we gobble up. But no, not a race thing and not a sexism thing.
    I hope Aiyana’s family receives all of the support possible.

  18. Tracey T
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Actually, liberals did and do complain about many of those incidents, just b/c you haven’t heard them doesn’t mean it isn’t happening (especially with regards to Waco).
    Also, if this raid was so dangerous that it necessitated the use of these tactics, why the hell are they increasing their liability by allowing a film crew to go along with them? They may not be legally liable but if something bad happened it would be major bad publicity and reflect very poorly on their professionalism.
    The race of the cops don’t matter. The police as an institution is racist and classist, the question isn’t about the cop’s race, but if this tactic would have been okayed for use in a home where a little rich white girl was sleeping.
    And it is oh so convenient to differeniate between good and bad cops without bringing up how far supposedly good cops will go to cover up for their bretheren. In order to do justice in the cas where a cop sodomized someone in the basement, wouldn’t it be necessary to fire every single cop but the one who reported the incident? That cop went there to do such a thing because they knew that no one would likely report it, and accept for one anoynmous tipper, they were right. And how many officers, including black ones, stood around while Rodney King was beat? SHouldn’t every last single one of them have been put on trial? The problem with police is institutional, and so called good cops are apart of that institution and will often go to the floor to protect their bretheren from scrutiny.

  19. supremepizza
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    “The race of the cops don’t matter. The police as an institution is racist and classist…”
    Doesn’t it? When black people beat up black people you don’t call it racism. Detroit’s government has been largely black for decades. You can’t say the institution is racist against black folk when the institution is made up of black folk. You can’t call this racism. You may as well say that the White House under BO is a racist institution. This is a non-sequitur. And, no, the Left didn’t criticize those police actions that Cattrack2 mentioned.

  20. Tracey T
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    The government, police force, etc. are racist institutions in this country. It doesn’t matter what the majority of people within them is composed of in a given city. The way those institutions operate is racist. Racism isn’t just interaction between people, but people and institutions. An indiviual POC may not be able to be racist against another b/c they lack the power, but acting within a racist institution they absolutely do have the power to inact institutionalized racism and classism.
    And I am on the left, those actions absolutely were and are criticized. They were complete over reactions and people need to be tried and punished for the travesty that was Waco. But I’m interested in who the Left is you’re alluding too. The Left isn’t a monolith and b/c people weren’t on TV talking about it doesn’t mean other members of leftist communities weren’t. By Left I suppose you mean those people who think Clinton is left-of-center/liberal.

  21. Tracey T
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Also, do you really think a police force of majority black people would have done this to a rich white family? Or is it something other than institutional racism and classism when majority black gov’ts/police institutions continue to oppress, exploit, and fail to protect from various sources of harm/danger poor people and/or POC.
    Focusing on the color of their skins when deciding racism ignores the institutions they operate within and for.

  22. electrictoaster
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    What is The Left? Are you saying that nobody who identifies with the left criticized those events? I find that pretty unlikely, and hard for you to know for sure. Two of those events happened before the Internet reached the sort of widespread popularity it has today, so anything you heard, or didn’t hear, about the overall views of “The Left” was filtered through the lens of mass media first. Please don’t pretend to be omniscient; it really doesn’t make you look very credible.

  23. LalaReina
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    I grieve for the familia

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