OP-ED: What Was the Value of Justine Damond’s Life?

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DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication.

Not too long ago, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a police officer’s unjust actions led to the death of an unarmed civilian. The officer was arrested and charged with murder.

George Floyd? Well, that storyline is true for George Floyd but is also true for a white, then 40-year-old female named Justine Damond. On July 15th, 2017, black Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor shot and killed Ms. Damond. You can read about the details of the incident here, but suffice it to say that Ms. Damond was unarmed and barefoot and posed no threat to officer Noor. Mr. Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter and was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison.

A police officer committed a crime. He was convicted and sent to jail. That’s how the system is supposed to work. Justice was done. And while there was some sporadic media interest for a short time, and even some low-level international interest (Justine had dual Australian and American citizenship), there were no riots, no nationwide vigils, no congressional actions to “fix the police.”  This tragic event happened, and though traumatic for Ms. Damond and for Mr. Noor and for their families, life went on in the rest of the world. 

Roll forward about three years. A Minneapolis officer’s unjust actions lead to the death of George Floyd, a black male, and avenging his death and “fixing the police” become the #1 national priority – so important that the supposedly vital “lock’em up/shut’em down” COVID-19 stay-at-home orders became effectively null and void. So important that rioters and looters were left to roam American cities with virtually no opposition. So important that the US Congress made fixing the police its top legislative item. So important that the POTUS is considering a “nationwide listening tour to engage with the black community.”   

Hmmm… why the difference in the magnitude of the response to Ms. Damond’s death and to Mr. Floyd’s death?

It would appear that in America, we have come to a place where black lives matter more than white female lives, or white lives in general (police shot 19 unarmed white people in 2019). I, and probably you, don’t know the name of any of those 19 white people, but we will remember George Floyd until the day we die – not because he was unjustly a victim of police misconduct – but because he was a black victim of police misconduct.

In his book Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville stated that it was necessary for Jesus Christ to come to earth to cement the message that all humans are created equal before the Divine Creator. That Judeo-Christian idea – “all human individual lives have equal value” – represents the bedrock foundation for the American governmental and judicial systems. Now that the USA seems to have arrived at a point where some people’s lives are more valuable than others, America is tearing down a long-standing fence with no consideration of why it was put up in the first place – and that is a very, very, bad idea. G.K. Chesterton most eloquently lays out why:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

So, one must ask the question – based on America’s reactions to Ms. Damond’s death and to Mr. Floyd’s death – what is the life of a white woman worth – as much as the life of a black man?

I report, you decide.

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