Valarie (center) and Amy Carey (second right), sisters of Miriam Carey, the woman involved in the Capitol Hill shooting, address during a news conference outside their home in Brooklyn, October 4, 2013. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
The US House of Representatives applauded the death of Miriam Carey before they knew who she was. They didn’t know about her postpartum depression, or that she talked about “wack men” on Facebook, or that she had been fired from a job last year, or that she lived in Connecticut or that she had been called a great mother. They simply applauded the unpaid work of the DC police in shooting and killing her.
Carey caused a panic last Thursday when she allegedly attempted to ram her vehicle through the White House barricades. Early reports were that a shooter was on the loose, giving everyone paying attention flashbacks to just a few weeks ago and the Navy Yard shooting. But early reports are almost always unreliable, and we eventually learned that Carey was not a shooter, did not have a gun, had her 1-year-old child in the car with her and was shot as she stepped out of the vehicle. This is what our Congress stood up for and clapped.
In the aftermath, with more facts at their disposal, has there been any great sense of remorse? Does the House regret that standing ovation? Put another way: has finding out that the police shot an unarmed black mother changed anyone’s perception of this fatal incident?
It should, but by and large, it won’t. This is America. Violence against black women is routine and unchecked.
That’s why Marissa Alexander finds herself in prison.* Last year, Alexander was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with no intent to harm and under Florida’s mandatory minimum laws sentenced to twenty years in prison after firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband. Her case gained widespread national attention during the George Zimmerman trial, as the now infamous Stand Your Ground law came under intense scrutiny. Alexander had attempted to have her case dismissed under Stand Your Ground, claiming her right to protect herself from a man who had repeatedly beat her, but was unsuccessful. Through appeal, Alexander has been granted a new trial, but what reason does she or her supporters have to be optimistic? The law failed to protect her before, and as Kiese Laymon points out, “The new trial is still going to have new American jurors, a new American judge, new American lawyers determining [her] black womanly right to fear.”