Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why did Aura Rosser's shooting go relatively unnoticed?


The day before Aura Rosser was shot and killed by Officer David Reid of the Ann Arbor Police Department in November, she was on the phone making plans for the holidays with her sister, Shae Ward. They were considering cruise destinations far from the frigid Michigan weather that was bound to arrive in December: Florida Keys, the Bahamas, anywhere south. They communicated throughout the day on social media, but that phone call was the last time Ward heard Rosser’s voice.
The next day, Officer Reid and his partner, Mark Raab, responded to a domestic disturbance call around 11:45pm at the home of Aura Rosser, 40, and her boyfriend, Victor Stephens, 54, in Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan and a liberal bastion about an hour from Detroit.
What happened after the officers arrived is unclear. Stephens has said he and Rosser were in a heated argument when he made the call, according to local reports. He says he called the cops to escort Rosser out of his home. When officers arrived, they claim Rosser "confronted" them with a knife. Officer Reid shot Rosser, killing her. Michigan State Police say Rosser was shot once but declined to say where. Stephens said she was shot twice; once in the head and once in the chest. "Why would you kill her?" Stephens said to local news outlet MLive a day after the shooting. "It was a woman with a knife. It doesn't make any sense."
It was the first police shooting in Ann Arbor since the ‘80s, police officials say. But amidst national outcry about the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, it barely registered a blip. Ann Arbor police have gone on record to defend the officers’ actions, but many residents are suspicious of the cops’ version of events. On December 14, more than 200 protesters marched down Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor to protest the slow pace of the investigation into the shooting. Many were holding signs reading, “Black Lives Matter” and “White silence = white consent.”
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on leave pending the investigation, which is slated to release its findings this week. Aura Rosser has been dead two months and apart from a few Huffington Post pieces, no national outlets have covered her shooting. 
There are no reliable numbers of how many black women and girls are killed by police, but none of their deaths have sparked collective national outcry. It is not that people don’t care about them. Local activists took to the streets of Chicago to protest the killing of unarmed Rekia Boyd. Detroiters demanded justice for 7-year-old Aiyana Jones after she died from a gunshot fired during a botched Special Response team operation at the home she was sleeping in at the time. But not a single national protest followed.
Shirley Beckley, who was born and raised in Ann Arbor, helped to organize the December march and is working with other activists in the city to raise money for Rosser’s three children. “I think it’s important that [Rosser's story] go national because all of these killings of these men,” Beckley told AlterNet, “and now we have had a killing of this black woman.“
Where’s the outrage? It is almost as if the collective consciousness figured that their lives weren’t important enough to cover.
Kirsten West Savali explains in Dame Magazine that, too often, black people become black men by default. She quoted Treva B. Lindsey, an assistant professor of women’s studies at Ohio State University, who said that such a gender-exclusive narrative tends to dominate conversations of violence against black people.
"Both historically and contemporarily, when many people working towards racial justice around the issue of racial violence, the presumptive victim is a black male," Lindsey told Dame. "From lynching to police brutality, the presumed victim is a black male. Therefore, black women and girls are viewed as exceptional victims as opposed to perpetual victims of anti-black racial violence. Our narratives around racial violence, unfortunately, have yet to evolve into ones that are gender inclusive. Black victim = black male.”
There seems to be a protective guard over the dignity of black men that is never afforded to black women like Rosser. The New York Times wrote a feature highlighting #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. The viral hashtag was a response to media outlets using photos of Michael Brown posing in positions that suggest he was a criminal. Those same outlets ended up switching the photos in response. While the hashtag was an important act of social media activism, black women killed by cops rarely, if ever, receive the same treatment.
There was no reaction hashtag. Read in Entirety at ALTERNET

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