The following is a tribute to Korryn Gaines submitted by a Palestinian student:
When I see them, I see us. And when I saw Korryn Gaines, I saw myself.
When I first heard of Korryn Gaines, my first reaction, regrettably, followed the mainstream narrative. She had a gun. She shot back at the police. She could have avoided her death if she had not fought back. Why did she do that? I then recollected my thoughts, and reminded myself to relate the Black struggle to the Palestinian one, as I often do whenever I try to understand other people’s struggles. It was then that it struck me--it was then that when I saw her, I actually saw myself.
When I saw Korryn’s 20 minutes-long Facebook video, I understood that all mainstream narratives, that went from accusing her of being another “thug” to a “mentally deranged girl” were not fitting of her story. Korryn was not a thug, she was not mentally ill, and most importantly, her choice was not irresponsible, nor irrational.
More often than usual, oppressed people are faced with a choice: either being “rational” and accepting humiliation, or fighting for their dignity and acknowledging the risk they are taking by doing so. I know this because I was born and raised in Palestine and was confronted with this dilemma with every interaction I had with Israeli soldiers. Korryn Gaines knew that as well.
In her Facebook video, we saw a worried but yet determined Black woman that fought for her dignity and rights, even though she knew that she would not be heard, nor respected. Korryn Gaines knew her rights very well (ex: when she asked the officer for his delegation of authority order), and she knew that the police had no right to treat her the way they did, she knew that as a Black woman in the U.S., she would not be heard, she knew that she risked another unjust arrest or even death, and yet, she still fought for her rights with all the risks she knew.
This is where the whole mainstream narrative should be challenged. What non-oppressed privileged people do not understand is that sometimes, complying with unjust orders and accepting humiliation becomes more deadly than actual physical death. Oppression is not only physical, it is also psychological, and when oppressed people choose to fight back, it is because they promise themselves not to accept it anymore.
Yes, Korryn Gaines could have given her papers willingly to the police, she could have gone to the scheduled court session, and she could have accepted her arrest, but she didn’t. In the same way, last December when I went back to Palestine, I could have given my phone to the Israeli soldiers when they asked to see my photos, and I could have avoided a 3 hours long thorough search that risked my own imprisonment, but I didn’t. I did not do it not because I was oblivious of the risk I took, it is because I knew that they had no legal right to take it, and I wanted to fight for that.
While a thorough search and probable arrest is not to be compared with the risk the Korryn took, it is important to know that our choice stems from the same roots of oppression.
Korryn was not only another recent police victim, she was a freedom fighter, in the same way that every Palestinian martyr and prisoner are. Their choice is dangerous for their own physical wellbeing, but it is nevertheless a brave rational choice.