Miriam Carey's sisters screamed loudly that their sister did not have to die in the hail of gunfire from D.C. police. They did not say or even hint that race had anything to do with the young black woman's slaying in her alleged attack on the White House. The blizzard of oft times conflicting reports on how and why she was killed has left plenty of room for much speculation and serious doubt over whether Carey really was a dangerous suspect who had to be gunned down because of her reckless vehicular careening at the White House and through city streets, or because she was allegedly so depressed, or whacked out on meds.
There are three indisputable facts that raise the doubt level about the way she died and equally why she had to die. And with both, race can't be scrapped as a factor. The threat level is one. Carey did hit a barrier near the White House and she did panic and flee in the process posing an apparent danger to other motorists and officers. This tagged her as a legitimate suspect for apprehension and arrest. But this action hardly rose to the serious threat level of a possible major terrorist attack on the White House. There was no gun fire from her vehicle or any hint before or during the chase of the threat of gun play, or the use of any other weapon, other than her car. Another fact is that there have been multiple attacks on or near the White House over the years. They have included treats to blow up the White House, actual shots at the White House, the brandishing of a gun near the White House and an actual crash through the White House gates. None of these have resulted in the slaying of the suspects even though each case involved an actual violent act, and in a couple of the cases guns.
Then there was the actual gunning down of Carey. By the time that her car was stopped, boxed in by police, and surrounded by a phalanx of pistol pointing officers with a dead bead on the car and her, the officers could clearly see that Carey was the lone occupant, and that she was emerging from the car with no weapon. It didn't matter. The shooting at her continued with no indication that the officers gave any command too surrender. The wild theories to explain the barrage of deadly force against her was that she might have been a possible terrorist, a suicide bomber, or so deranged that she could not be captured alive won't wash since there's no confirmation that she wasn't given ample opportunity to surrender after she was effectively contained.
This leaves the final question about what if any role race played in her slaying. There's the horrid history of racial stereotyping, profiling if you will, that indelibly link crime and violence with African-Americans. This linkage isn't just confined to black men. There's the feminization of racial stereotyping too. While black men are frequently typed as violent, drug dealing "gangstas," black women are typed as sexually loose, conniving, and untrustworthy. In effect, many believe that black women offenders are menaces to society too. Much of the public and many in law enforcement are deeply rapped in the damaging cycle of myths, misconceptions and crime fear hysteria about crime-on-the-loose women.
This has cost lives. In the past few years, the number of black women that have been slain by police in several cities has at times drawn headlines and protests. This is separate from the endless tales of black women who have been beaten, tasered and threatened during routine stops or street searches by police officers often with no charges filed against them, or whatever charges were filed were soon dismissed.
The black women, though, that have been killed by police have all had one thing in common. They were unarmed, and in nearly all the cases were not committing a crime. They also had one other thing in common. In each case, there were endless and predictable efforts to dig up any and every bit of damaging information about their history or lifestyle to in effect virtually blame them for their own unjustified killing. The fast emerging disturbing underlying public narrative about Carey is that her slaying was more than justified not solely because of her alleged reckless acts, but because of her alleged past—meds, disoriented, delusional, paranoid, and so on in the endless speculative depiction about her and her actions.
Carey's sisters were the model of diplomacy in expressing their anguish over the slaying of their sister. They did not accuse the D.C. police of murder, nor suggest there was a racial motive in their deadly overreaction. But both questions were left disturbingly dangling. It's now up to D.C. police officials to give an honest, an accurate account of what and why they did what they did, and more importantly, if they really had to slay Carey.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson