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Finding Her Voice in a Deaf “Homeland”

Photo Source Fibonacci Blue | CC BY 2.0


Our “liberal” media
push back when riled up MAGA heads spit venom laced with ignorance and stupidity. But the same media turn a deaf ear to the many articulate voices for justice and accountability that have been rising from all across this fracked nation, in their respective communities.

And while the media spends its umpteenth week covering, non-stop, what the Poor People’s Campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. William Barber has described as “Trump porn,” the words of unknown mothers like Theresa Joyce-Wynne remain lost in this air that surrounds us, thick with insular politics.

In September 2017, Theresa’s son Dominique White was shot in the back and killed by trigger-happy Topeka, Kansas police officers Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey. Nine months later at a Mom’s Demand Action rally in Topeka, Theresa spoke in public for the first time after the incident.

Here’s what she said, her voice cracking with emotion:

My son was killed by two Topeka police officers, Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey. Oh, I mean you probably aren’t aware of how often police officers are shooting at us.

They’re shooting first, and thinking about it later.

There was a young man shot in Lawrence on Tuesday. As I was being arrested in downtown Topeka for the Poor People’s Campaign, he was being shot in Lawrence for a seat vio… seatbelt violation.

There was a young man in Wichita, December 28, 2017. Hea… heard a commotion outside his front door, opened his door, and there’s all this yelling and screaming and yelling and screaming. He was shot and killed by a police officer 50 feet away with, I believe, a sniper gun, because someone from California called in a swatting… a swatting, what they call swatting call. He called in a fake call, gave an address and the police went out there and shot Andrew Finch.

They, they fir… they they they shoot first then they think late… later, and things need to be done about this.

I just learnt at one of the meetings we had at the library, I think in December or January, from one of the officers. They had officers give a choice of what non-lethal forms that… that they carry. They can carry, um, one of the police batons. They can carry mace or pepper spray, but to do that they have to be maced or pepper sprayed. To carry, um, the, what are they? the the stun guns. They have to be shot with one.

To carry a gun? They just give ‘em to ‘em. That sounds kind of stupid, ya? We don’t want ‘em to be shot?! Have to be shot to carry a gun?! But to carry a non lea… a lethal weapon? They have to go through that torture to do that. And they don’t want to do that. So… and they get their choice. They have to carry one non-lethal weapon. Most of ‘em choose that billy club, night club, whatever you wanna call it. Because they don’t wanna be sprayed or shot with a stun gun. Things have to change there too. That’s gun violence as well.

They just shoot. Shoot! Shoot!

There was a young man shot in Lawrence. The female police officer jumped out of her car because there wa… there was a struggle between the officer and the young man. And she just shot! She just shot! She didn’t try any other means. At this point, he’s still alive. He has six children. My son had four. They won’t know their father.

They say he [Dominique] was reaching for a gun. He wasn’t reaching for that gun. He was trying to get away. He didn’t know what was going to happen. They grabbed him! Trying to detain him and told him he wasn’t being arrested. A young black man in this day and age? He was scared for his life. He was scared for his life. So he tried to get away. And there’s no justice.

The law states, that would any reasonable officer… would any reasonable officer do the same. It doesn’t matter what officer did it. It matters, would any reasonable officer do the same.

Michael Cruse wasn’t a reasonable officer… He shot a 26 pound dog! Scared for his life! A 26 pound dog. He… he’s killed one man before for running a stop sign. On a false alarm. Shooting the dog was a false alarm. He was fired from the police department! He was tried for vehicular homicide. He was convicted of vehicular homicide. He got sentenced to one year in jail, [fighting back tears] he spent 30 days in jail! Would any of you spend 30 days in jail if you killed somebody with your car? Then he was rehired.

And that’s why he was there that day [September 28, 2017.] And while my son is gone…

[At this point, Theresa can’t go on. Shaking her head, she puts her arms around the neck of the person standing next to her and cries. She later said, “I did it, I spoke in public for the first time. Not sure how good I did tho. Finding my voice!!”]

For a few weeks now, I have been sitting outside Kansas’ 1st District Congressman Roger Marshall’s office in Salina, embroidering, among other things, the testimonies of Theresa and other victims of our government’s domestic and foreign policies. One day when I was out there working on Theresa’s testimony, a person walked up to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him, and his response was “Oh, so Dominique White was armed?” I told him that the police shot him in the back as he was running away, and he continued, “How do you know? Were you there?”

The point is that the fact that Dominique was carrying a gun shouldn’t make him more eligible to be shot in the back by the police than an unarmed black man would be. But this is the country where NRAliness is next to godliness.

According to the Washington Post, 987 people were shot and killed by the police the year Dominique died. Every state-sponsored perpetrator of excessive force and violence needs to be held accountable, and that might be possible in Dominique’s case. A hearing has been set for November 5 in a federal lawsuit filed by his family against Topeka’s city government and perpetrators Cruse and Mackey. Will there be justice?

Institutions that are supposed to protect us have been bought by cynical, violent entities like the NRA. We’ve been surrounded by all sides, and nobody is safe, including some members of our “well regulated militia” who thought they were “playing with guns” in Kansas just yesterday. And when the whole shithouse goes up in flames, we will go down still getting our kicks from arguing over things like whether that thing Trump did with the Russians was collusion, conspiracy, kompromat, or footsie.

What will remain are the widely unheard but still-echoing words of mothers like Theresa.

Please go here to see the embroidered version of Theresa Wynne’s testimony.

More articles by:

Priti Gulati Cox is an interdisciplinary artist, and a local coordinator for the peace and justice organization CODEPINK. She lives in Salina, Kansas, and can be reached at p.g@cox.net. Please click here to see more of her work.

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