Can We Rally for the Girl who Got Punched in the Face?

Activists are outraged by a Seattle Police officer punching a 17 year old girl in the face. If you haven’t seen the this, here it is:

Yes, it is was a brutal punch. You could see her neck snap back from the impact. I’m totally against men hitting women. But was there some basis for his actions? The video clip doesn’t tell the whole story. It is much more complicated. Please watch the full video and keep in mind what is our legal obligation as citizens when facing the force of the state, the police.

I’m going to lose some friends now. But let me preface this with my own perspective on police brutality. It’s a sensitive subject in my family because my uncle was shot and killed by police. My brother would get pulled over and hauled off to jail for nothing less than playing music loud in his car or having tinted windows. He’s been roughed up a few times also. My husband has been held at gunpoint, because he’s fit the description. Most black people have the %$#@ the police attitude. While this attitude may come from some negative interactions, it also comes from some dubious behavior. How many brothas and sistas have a bag a weed on them (if not worse), drive without insurance, or have some equipment of some questionable legal status in their ride or house? While there are many law abiding Black folks, if you’re doing something illegal you’re going to not be good friends with the police. Unfortunately, many Black people are treated as suspects due to racial profiling. So the over-all combination of mutual suspicion and animosity is bad.

I’m 100% against racial profiling. I think that police should be held accountable for their actions, especially in cases like Oscar Grant. But I don’t have the $&#@ the police attitude. I’ve been home during a home invasion and the suspect attacked the police officer who came in response. My mom’s friend came to the officer’s aid when the suspect attacked the police officer. The cop pressed the panic button and it ultimately took 5 cops to subdue the suspect. Turns out the suspect was high on PCP or something like that. I’ve known someone who attempted to harm themselves with a razor blade, and the cops pulled out their guns and subdued the person, pressing their face into the searing hot concrete. This person was out of their mind, and there was no way the police were going to endanger themselves for someone in a psychotic spell. I’ve seen people arrested numerous times, but I’ve never seen anybody try to get away from the police or insult the police. That’s called resisting arrest. I’ve never seen anybody put their hands on the police to help a friend get away. That’s called assaulting a police officer.

Who tries to get away from a cop who’s going to give you a jay walking ticket? Why would your friend not take something like this seriously, but instead try to rush the police officer? Is this a street fight?
Should this incident be investigated? Yes. But should we rally around this incident to fight police brutality? Al Sharpton may jump on it. But we will do Black people a big disservice if we start marching for ignorant teenagers who don’t know that if you fight a police officer, you may get punched in the face or something much worse.

I was going to write a long article, but David Spates says it all (with some funny twists on expletives) in his Vlog.

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11 thoughts on “Can We Rally for the Girl who Got Punched in the Face?

  1. Salaams Dear:

    In this particular case, I agree. If a person fights the police, they should not be surprised by what happens next. Especially, when another person tries to step in and interfere with the police.

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  2. But we will do Black people a big disservice start marching for ignorant teenagers

    the law specifies rights for all people and not just the virtuous. marches are not to give ignorant teens seals of approval, they are to disapprove of excessive force used by public servants.

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  3. M,
    I agree that every citizen has a right to be apprehended without excessive force. But when the young lady pushed the police officer, he did have a right to subdue her. Getting socked in the jaw effectively subdue her. She whimpered off because I’m sure she’s never been punched like that in her life.

    I work with teenagers and I know they push the limits all the time. You could tell there was a sense of entitlement of the other young lady, “You gonna give ME a jaywalking ticket. Imma walk right off and treat you like I do a teacher trying to give me detention for skipping class.” Urrrr, wrong!! And why did the girl in the pink shirt step into the situation as if her friend was getting jumped? This is where our schools are failing, we aren’t teaching them to be conscientious citizens with knowledge of how to behave appropriately in situations. You can’t go before a judge and have an attitude and mouth off. You will get hauled off to jail for contempt of court. I’ve talked to my students about how they should deal with the police. This is especially for our young men who can get shot and killed for making the wrong move. I’ve never had to accost teenager, but Allah knows what I’d do if a kid put their hands on me. I’d probably lose my license right then and there. But then again, that’s why I don’t work in the public school. In Philly, you see a lot of kids who need to be punched. Parents should have done some preemptive punching and maybe we wouldn’t have had those flash mobs.

    Okay, so you know my stance on corporeal punishment. 🙂

    The reality is that this case is much more ambiguous. We would be effective in rallying behind Oscar Grant, not around an ignorant teen who should have been tasered.

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  4. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I don’t know if you heard but I read this morning about a young black man in Florida who ended up in jail and then in a mental hospital because of his reaction to being roughed up by the police, who seem to have been reacting to a racist tip-off by someone who saw him sitting under a tree outside a library minding his own business. The man has autism.

    Here’s the story.

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  5. the question isn’t whether getting punched subdued her, the question is whether getting punched was necessary or appropriate to subduing her.

    i don’t see lots of kids who need punching, as a matter of fact, the middle-class children who get on in life are far less likely to have been punched. when kids see that adults/authority figures practice restraint, they follow suit; when they see violence, they follow suit.

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  6. I work in the inner city and the levels of violence coming from the youth is unprecedented. Are middle class girls getting their girl’s back when the police accost them? Are they going around in mobs stomping women who fall down or dragging people out their cars? I grew up knowing that if I ever talked to my mother crazy or even laid hands on her, I’d get stomped into the earth. I love my mother and respect her. Even as a teenager, also knew how to respond to a police officer.

    The punch was not the preferred method of subduing a suspect. We have to be clear that he didn’t punch the woman he was trying to arrest, he punched someone who was trying to intervene in an arrest. How long it took to subdue the other woman I think a taser would have done the job. Sorry to be harsh,you got to be real. She didn’t look like a child, so I don’t think he was trying to set a disciplinary example. We can agree to disagree. But if the internal investigation deems that the response was appropriate, I’m not marching. You can if you want. And believe me, it is not going to change much in the way of REAL cases of police using excessive force.

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  7. Walaikum salaam Yusuf,
    A while back I wrote a short piece on the fatality rates of the mentally ill or disabled in encounters with the police. The article you pointed to speaks to several issues that I feel strongly about, police profiling and police training in dealing with the mentally ill or disabled. My heart goes out to the young man because he was not equipped to deal with the police, nor was the police officer trained to identify his Aspergers syndrome or handle it appropriately. I hope that he’s released soon and gets the help and support that he needs to deal with the traumatic experience.

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  8. i’m afraid i don’t believe you. what reduces the prevalance of police violence is for the police internally and the community to expect a consistent high standard of behavior. lowering the standards of justice because some teenage girl is annoying just encourages the police themselves to test the limits.

    middle class girls are less likely to commit violence because they are less likely to be victims of violence. i grew up knowing that no one had the right to stomp me into the earth, including my mother, just as i had no right to stomp anyone else, i’m sorry if you can’t say the same.

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  9. M,
    You don’t get my humor, but there is truth behind my jokes.
    You don’t have to believe me or anything I write. Similarly, I think your logic is faulty. I don’t see how police violence begets violence. I’ve spent considerable time in two police states, and the youth aren’t going around slap happy. There are cultural differences in our understanding of justice, as well as appropriate physical punishments. I grew up with traditional Black values about respect for authorities and our elders. The violence amongst teenagers is largely due to broken homes, financial instability, lack of parent supervision, and a gangs and drug trafficking. Physical and sexual abuse are part of the combination of the broken homes, in addition to drug abuse. I’ve seen middle class kids slap their mothers who never laid a hand on them or cuss them out. This would never have been tolerated.

    You have a right to believe what you want to believe. And you can march if you want. I just won’t be joining this particular march. But really what are you actively doing to end police brutality? Sit on a citizen board? Engage with the police? Volunteer sensitivity training? Volunteer your time and educate the youth on how to assert their rights in an effective way? If you aren’t doing anything, then your talk is really a waste of time.

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  10. Definitely not a popular sentiment (in some black circles) but I think that it is important that we have a diverse set of opinions even on issues like police brutality. On a visceral level I hate seeing a man punch a woman in the face- insert white man and black woman and you are going to get a lot of gut-emotional responses.

    That being said the situation was not a case of a person in a passive position (like Oscar Grant) being basically executed. This was a fuzzy situation where you had a cop tangled in two physical altercations.Should she have pushed him? No. Did he need to punch her in the face? I don’t think so.

    Do we need to march? No.

    I am in the middle of reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. The basic argument is that incarceration has produced a new racial caste system. But what is really unsettling about the book is the extent to which the perpetuation of this system is not a black/white dichotomy of the innocent versus a dirty justice system. Instead-it is a complex web that sits on top of legal precedents, politics and history.

    In many ways, I think folks latch onto tapes like this because it is a lot simpler than engaging with the tough realities of criminal justice, race and policing.

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  11. Salaams Samira,
    I knew I was going out on a limb, especially given my own initial reaction to seeing the first video. When I first heard of the case, I was like, “Oh Hell NAW!” Then I saw the punch and was like, “Damn!” But then I watched it again, then the other video, and I thought about it. I think you raised an important question, “Did he need to punch her in the face?” This is why I think it is important that we have a citizens review board for police actions. Any incident like this should be investigated and I’m sure better options for dealing with future situations similar to this can be developed.

    I definitely look forward to reading the New Jim Crow. I just have to squeeze it into my insane schedule.

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