Black Lives Matter. We have to keep saying it until it’s true. Even then, we have
to keep saying it.
By Naiya Chapman
Money cannot bring a young child’s mother back to life. No amount of justice served can bring any victim of police brutality back to life, but justice still must be served. According to The Baltimore Sun, on February 16th, 2018, a Baltimore county jury awarded more than 32 million dollars in damages to Korryn Gaines’ son, Kodi, and 4.5 million to her daughter Karsyn. On August 1st, 2016, police shot and killed Gaines in her apart- ment, leaving her then five-year-old son injured. Due to not appearing in court for a traffic violation and charges of disorderly conduct, police arrived at her apartment to serve her a warrant. A standoff between Gaines and the police lasted for hours. After Gaines threatened of- ficers with her shotgun, police pro- ceeded to shoot and kill her. Gaines’ aunt told WBALTV: “The weapon was on her lap beside her. She didn’t fire until they fired at her.”
According to WBALTV, the Bal- timore County lawyers called the verdict in the Korryn Gaines civil trial excessive and not based on the evidence, as if the jury acted out of sympathy. The jury was composed of 6 women, possibly able to empathize and relate more to Gaines than a man could. It is possible that they have their own children and could not imagine them living without their parents. Post-trial, Baltimore County lawyers are trying to win their argument and reduce the amount awarded to Gaines’ family.
Gaines had several encounters with the police leading up to this point. She was also outspoken on social media, especially about the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality. During the stand- off, she posted videos on Instagram of police standing at her apartment door and her son saying that the police were outside and wanted to kill them. Her Facebook and Instagram accounts were deactivated after she was killed. According to City Paper, the officers directly involved in the situation were not wearing body cameras during the six-hour standoff. If it were not for the videos Gaines posted, there would be no visual evidence of what happened.
In almost every police encounter, mental health must be considered. Also, it must be kept in mind that everyone has their own idea of what is normal and what is not. What one person may think is okay may not be okay to another. According to The Baltimore Sun, one of the reasons Gaines encountered the police was because she replaced the license plates on her car with signs that read “Free Traveler” and “Any Government official who compro- mises this pursuit to happiness and right to travel, will be held criminally responsible and fined, as this is a natural right and freedom.”
According to BaltimoreBrew, Baltimore County has a crisis intervention team which works with police to assess and stabilize situations involving mental health issues. However, in Gaines’ standoff with police, the crisis intervention team was never called upon. This aspect of the case is rarely talked about in the media, and it needs to be addressed on a larger scale. We can’t choose when to pay attention to mental health, we must be paying attention at all times. We’re all human, and it does not make us crazy or less human if we suffer from mental illness.
Mental health is often overlooked in the African American community, as a lot of us view things that we go through or deal with as “just life” and we move on without fully dealing with our underlying issues.
As an African American woman, I have definitely observed this kind of mindset in myself and family members. This causes a lot of underlying traumas and issues within to be left undealt with. In cases such as Gaines’, mental health is almost never addressed as a main cause of behavior when an African American is involved. Behavior caused by mental health in African Americans has gotten many killed, without proper justice being served. Since Gaines is of African American descent, it is possible her family may have over- looked her exposure to lead paint poisoning and never got her the treatment she needed. Whenever a Caucasian person is involved in crime, mental illness is the first thing mentioned as a cause of their actions. This has to be changed. There is so much psychology and sociology that must be kept in mind with not only police encounters, but in everyday life in general.