Kodi Gaines: The Boy Who Lived

Recently, attorneys representing Kodi Gaines filed new claims against the Baltimore Country Police Department (BPD). In case you missed it, Kodi Gaines is the six-year-old son of the, now deceased, Korryn Gaines: the twenty-three-year-old woman and mother who was shot to death in her house by the BPD who’d intended to serve her a warrant related to a traffic violation. After an hours long standoff between an armed Korryn, protecting herself and her son, and the Baltimore SWAT team, Korryn was shot to death and Kodi was also shot, though he lived to tell the tale of what he experienced during the tragedy.  “He’s going to remember that he watched his mother be gunned down in his presence,” Kenneth Ravenell, one of Kodi’s attorneys, said. “That’s what this 6-year-old will have to live with for the rest of his life.”

The day that Korryn was lynched, and I use the word “lynched” specifically given that it represents an extrajudicial killing often associated with other forms of racialized violence, was August 1, 2016. Just nine days before the Department of Justice released the official results of their investigation of the BPD. The results, while not surprising, were quite alarming:

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While this information reveals that the BPD “engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law”, it also makes the death of Korryn Gaines that much more tragic. Her death wasn’t necessary. Her death was wrongful. Sadly, attempts to hold the BPD accountable for their actions that day haven’t been met with the attention and care that they deserve. That Korryn is owed.

Before I continue, I want to remind you all about what happened at Godric’s Hollow on October 31, 1981. Part of my work as a scholar and activist involves finding ways to illustrate how well-equipped most of us are for resistance movements thanks to our intimate relationships with books. For me, the Harry Potter series represents something beyond just a beloved collection of stories. They represent my earliest introduction to critical thinking and the importance of questioning authority. With that in mind, I use Harry Potter as a way to draw connections between events in the books and events taking place in the here and now.

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On October 31, 1981, Lily Potter was murdered by Lord Voldemort while protecting her son, Harry, who would be known by the Wizarding World as the Boy Who Lived. How did he survive with nothing but a scar? We learn later that it was Lily’s love. For the sake of time, brevity, and focus I won’t go into parallels between death eaters and police officers but don’t worry. That’s coming soon enough. The point I want to make now is about 1) what Harry represents to the Wizarding World and 2) how powerful Lily’s act of love was for her son. For all of us.

That blinding green light that enveloped Lily Potter as she took her last breath is reminiscent of the flashing reds and blues that marked Korryn Gaines’ death. In 2017 USA, Avada Kedavra is nothing but the swan song sirens of the police cars that transport the bringers of death to poor and black communities.

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Kodi Gaines, like Diamond Reynolds’ four-year-old daughter who watched Philando Castile’s bloody lynching at the hands of a racist police officer, and countless other children who’ve had to watch their family members die at the hands of police with no due process, will grow up in a world where their family member’s murderers are rarely, if ever, held accountable for their actions. In a country with violent oppression already built into its foundation, the sources of injustice are widespread and normalized to the point of acceptance.

This is a call to action. Action looks different to different people depending on a wide array of circumstances. It can look like educating oneself about the history of state-sanctioned racial violence in USA in order to educate your peers, volunteering at a social justice-based organization, unlearning our own biases and prejudices against others, or finding ways to work with your community to ensure that police officers are held accountable for their actions.

In the case of Kodi Gaines, though, it could look like spreading the word about these new claims brought against the BPD. The fatal shooting of Korryn was not justified. The shooting of Kodi Gaines was not justified. The extrajudicial killings of anyone are not justified.

Take your knowledge of injustices and human rights violations that take place on a daily basis in the USA and use it well. Be a part of the change. Wands at the ready.