On November, 27, a Robert Lewis Dear opened fire on employees, patients and law enforcement officials at reproductive health care organization Planned Parenthood clinic in Denver, Colorado and led police in a subsequent 6-hour stand-off. He was eventually apprehended, but not before causing the deaths of three people and injury to 11 others.
While the shooter’s motives remain unclear to investigators, it is likely that the extremist wing of the “pro-life” movement — which is responsible for the murder of Dr. George Tiller and the continued, political assaults against Planned Parenthood — is where the shooter cultivated the ideology to carry out this particular type of heinous violence.
I wish I could say that I am shocked that the assailant was a White male anti-abortion extremist, but that would be a lie. A lie that White America continues to tell itself in order to deny its own capacity for brutality.
A lie that Black America, dwelling in a constant state of political paradox, has spent generations exposing — and never more than now.
In a time when BYP100 and #BlackLivesMatter organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis are resisting the execution and subsequent cover-ups of their community-members by police, those who need reproductive health care have been faced with another heart-wrenching example of how potentially lethal accessing care can be. Black women—who exist at the intersections of these two groups—are particularly vulnerable and are fielding attacks against our person from all directions.
Planned Parenthood has suffered myriad attacks in recent months. Most notably, the altered, misleading and disproven videos released by the Center for Medical Progress claiming that the organization — which provides sexual and reproductive health care and education services to more 2 million people and over 350,000 Black people annually — traffics in aborted fetuses has launched an onslaught of federal and state investigations and renewed politically-motivated, defunding efforts.
Abortion remains a federally protected right. Still, opponents of equitable abortion access for all people (which includes cisgender women, assigned female at birth transgender men and gender-fluid/gender non-conforming people) and comprehensive sex education continue to espouse that Planned Parenthood and abortion providers are nothing but “abortion-factories” that target pregnant people and engage in the indiscriminate execution of children.
More than infantilizing pregnant people and denying — and in some instances criminalizing — their reproductive autonomy, this rhetoric breeds a particular class of extremists hell-bent on using tactics that are undoubtedly terroristic in nature to send a political message:
People who access abortion or provide abortion care will be targeted and exterminated.
And yet, these extremists in our midst who intend to terrorize people who need legal medical care–who endanger innocent people, communities, and law enforcement personnel–are apprehended humanely even after causing immense physical and psychic damage.
There was no de-escalation when Oscar Grant was shot to death. There was no de-escalation when Laquan McDonald was gunned down in the street, nor when Michael Brown was executed. Where was the de-escalation when Marlene Pinnock was beaten on the side of the road or when Sandra Bland wasn’t “polite enough” to be treated with dignity?
Cops bent on violence rarely slow down enough to consider the humanity of their victims; but time and time again we’ve seen that violent, White people are treated with much, more dignity than unarmed Black people.
To be clear, I am not advocating for the murder of people because they have committed violence. However, the measured and restrained response to White domestic terrorists by police and the media is not lost on Black people. In this case, Dear allegedly killed a police officer.
Where is the #BlueLivesMatter crowd now?
When our unarmed children and family members who do not pose a lethal threat to anyone are gunned down by law enforcement and barely acknowledged as human beings, the particularly tactful response to White, domestic terrorists is infuriating. Our Constitution guarantees the right to due process for all accused parties, yet violent and ideologically-motivated White men are allowed to terrorize communities, while relatively harmless Black people face lethal punishment for simply existing while Black.
In the wake up the collective resistance in Chicago and Minneapolis, I can only wish LaQuan McDonald and Jamar Clark were treated by police like White, male terrorists.
Samantha Master is a Black, queer, feminist activist, advocate and educator from Washington, DC. Tweet her @TheFireNexTime.