Yassin Mohamed, police brutality and the complications of being a Black immigrant.
On May 9th, 2020 Yassin Mohamed, a Sudanese American man, was gunned down by an Evans County Sheriff’s deputy near Atlanta, Georgia. The day before his death, Yassin had several encounters with police, emergency service personnel and hospitals. All of this would culminate with Yassin being shot and killed after “throwing a rock” at the deputy. There are reports that Yassin was not mentally well throughout these encounters.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is reviewing Yassin’s murder. This is the 38th officer involved shooting that the GBI has been asked to investigate this year. Yassin’s killing occurred once the murder of Ahmaud Arbery came to light, which is why many have not heard of him. Sadly, there are too many Black people being murdered by law enforcement to keep count. It is also emotionally exhausting to read, watch and reread people being killed by those who take oath to protect us.
Police violence and being a Black American is being discussed, though not properly addressed.
Police violence and being a Black immigrant in America is, well, not talked about much.
All the violent acts of police forces around the country prove that it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman, man, child, pregnant, elderly, compliant, physically or mentally ill, sitting on your sofa, sleeping in your bed, protecting yourself, playing in a park, listening to music, eating candy, or shopping because if you exist in a Black body you are always a threat. In Yassin’s case, being a Black immigrant, tangles the narrative even further. White America still can’t wrap their heads around understanding Black Americans, even though our existence in this country predates the founding of America. To understand the Black immigrant experience is something most White people can’t even begin to fathom.
The issue lies in the fact that stories like Yassin’s don’t have a place.
They do not necessarily fit in line with mainstream stories on police brutality.
It also speaks to the complications, and at times outright racist, experiences that many Black Americans have to face with immigrants.
So, these stories remain unclaimed.
It. Is. Complicated.
Yassin’s story is personal for me on many levels. As an ER nurse I take care of people experiencing psychotic breaks all the time. The ER is the first place many people go before being transferred to a psychiatric facility for treatment. I have seen people act in unfathomable manners during these crises. Threatening staff, incoherent rambling, attempting to hurt themselves and more often that not physical aggression. Most of these people are hallucinating and not in the right state of mind. In most of these scenarios, with my ten years in the ER, these individuals pose more of a threat to themselves than they do to medical staff. Being the professional it is my obligation to use my training to navigate these situation and if I encounter issues that’s when other medical staff intervene.
ER medical staff receive training, similar to police officers, when it comes to deescalting situations.
Like many officers who act irrationally and out of “fear” this deputy employed NONE of his training.
My own father, a Sudanese man, had to navigate the U.S. Justice and healthcare system with mental health issues. So hearing of Yassin struck a very personal chord. I know there were many people who misunderstood my father, culturally misinterpreted his actions and quite frankly just didn’t give a damn to take their time when dealing with him. If he was noncompliant with his medications he would burst out in Arabic, his mother tongue, and his thick English accent was muffled. At these moments, it was obvious to any professional that he was mentally unwell. After a psychotic break and incident with LAPD he would live and die in a psychiatric ward in Southern California.
A person just had to pay attention.
A person didn’t.
Many people didn’t.
Just like the deputy who shot Yassin instead of summoning the proper help.
My husband and I have come to an agreement. He is dark, 6’4 and West African with a francophone accent. The agreement was that if we ever had to deal with the police I would do the talking, lest he be misunderstood or the given officer feel threatened by the solid stature of my husband. This agreement came at the spur of a moment when we heard a strong knock on the door. I looked through the peephole of our apartment and saw a police officer standing on the other side. His hands on his hips. Already in position. I looked at my husband and we both came to this agreement rather quickly. My heart pounded in my chest as I spoke to the officer and just as quickly as he came he left.
The agreement was rooted in fear.
Nothing good is rooted in fear.