A child holding a sign that says "Justice for Dolal Idd" on Cedar Avenue, in Minneapolis. The graffiti behind him reads "Mama, I can't breathe"--George Floyd's last words before he was killed by Minneapolis Police, seven months earlier and a few blocks away. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle

Unlike any recent year, 2020 arrived with a vengeance: a devastating pandemic, financial dislocation, lingering election lies and a reckoning over long standing racial tensions. Many of the problems that surfaced last year are not only national, but global in nature. If solutions are not yet imminent, they are at least on the horizon. 

The parasite of election lies might persist longer than we’d wish. But because of America’s long history of democracy, there is hope that we can defeat that, too. 

The reckoning over racial tension, however, is in a league of its own. Its cause is a centuries-old disease—a disease with deep roots in America—called racism. New technology has allowed us to see one aspect of it repeatedly in recent years: how police officers callously use deadly force against Black people. 

What enraged millions of Americans last year was when, in May of 2020, a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of an African American man, George Floyd, and killed him. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, is scheduled to go on trial March 8. 

It’s hard for me to believe, but the killing that galvanized a global protest movement took place a mile and a half away from my own house. The pain is palpable and persistent.

Surely, it seems, police officers exhibit a learned behavior that equates being Black with a threat that should be eliminated!

George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police was not only a reflection of that perceived threat. More importantly, it was the result of a metastasized, racial cancer that weakens the urge for compassion and observance of the law among those charged with keeping the peace, while strengthening the grip of fear. The legal system, mainstream America, and politicians reward them by tolerating that type of tragic behavior. Thus, police officers, particularly the bad ones, fear no one, are ashamed of nothing, and in fact leave their consciences at the doorsteps of police union bosses! 

Once again, take a look at the video of how, a knee on his neck, George Floyd took his last breath on earth. 

And if you believe that police might have learned a lesson, think again. Just seven months after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department invaded an innocent family’s house after Minneapolis police officers had killed their son.

On December 30, 2020, the life of a 23-year-old Somali American, Dolal Idd, was cut short at Cedar Avenue and 36th Street in Minneapolis by a hail of police bullets. He died a few blocks away from where the same police force killed George Floyd. Floyd’s death stirred a global protest movement, but the behavior continues, and the damage spreads.

Within hours after Dolal was killed, armed deputies from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department raided his parents’ home at the ungodly hour of 2:30 a.m. Like a pack of hungry dogs, they barked, trained their guns at terrified family members, handcuffed them, and herded them into the living room. In total disregard for cultural norms and religious faith, the deputies walked through a Muslim house with their wet shoes on, and in the midst of a raging pandemic, moved about with no masks on. Through it all, no one felt the decency to tell the family why they were there or what they were seeking. 

As some officers searched the house, others who were left to watch the family began to chat about their social life as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Still others took copious notes of birth dates and names that did little but compound the family’s terror.

Every action that the deputies took in that house, delivered a statement: The family did not deserve the respect due U.S. citizens; their son was just one more dead Black man.  

Proof

Throughout the raid, no thought was paid to showing the least human care to minimize the impending agony of the news that the deputies carried with them. On their way out the door, they dropped a grenade. By the way, if you know Dolal Idd, he is dead

Imagine that you are a parent and that your son, the same one who had left the house whole and healthy and had kissed you hours ago, has been killed. And in addition to the pain of his death, you were harassed!

Adding salt to the wound

When the news of shooting hit airwaves, Minneapolis police rushed to put out the impending fire. They released a two-minute video that they said showed Dolal fired first. However, the short video proved nothing but that a hail of police bullets had killed Dolal.

When that was followed by news of the raid on the dead man’s family in the middle of the night, yet another video was rushed out to praise the officers who conducted it. Sheriff David Hutchinson of Hennepin County glowed, stating: “Based on the video I’ve reviewed, I am proud of the professionalism displayed by our deputies during the execution of this search warrant.”  

The fact that the sheriff was proud of how officers conducted themselves is disheartening. It’s shameful that he had watched the same video that showed his deputies’ total disregard for health hazards, cultural and religious norms, yet came to the conclusion that his deputes acted honorably.

When you think it can’t get any worse, it just does!

We would later learn that the deputies raided Dolal’s family home because “an informer,” the same one who reportedly was set to purchase a handgun from Dolal, had stated that Dolal had more handguns at his house. Thus, the deputies had arrived at the resident with a label: “high-risk search.”

Based on an informer’s word, this young man met his untimely death at a busy gas station, allegedly trying to sell an illegal handgun. The public was put in danger and his family was terrorized.        

It’s sad, but obvious, to say that the sheriff’s raid robbed this Somali American family of the dignity to mourn the dead. They were raided after midnight with a high-risk search label because they were Black, Muslim citizens. Dolal lost his life because he was a young Black man. The public’s lives were put in danger because the prey they were chasing was just another young Black man!

Now that those who killed George Floyd will be in court of law, will justice finally be blind? Despite the old adage, justice has never been blind in America. It sees Blacks and mistreats them, and it sees whites and treats them right. Will George Floyd rest in peace by receiving justice in his grave? Will history be any different this time around? We hope so. Will the scars of mistreatment of Dolal Idd’s family heal? They are deep; yet again, we hope so, because hope is eternal.

Ahmed Ismail Yusuf

Ahmed Ismail Yusuf is a foreign language teacher who writes in both Somali and English. His latest book is “The Lion’s Binding Oath.” Follow him @Ayusuf009.