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Blue Lines, Shaded in Black and Brown: The Diallo Shooting, Race and Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  1 BLUE LINES, SHADED IN BLACK AND BROWN: THE DIALLO’S SHOOTING, RACE, AND POLITICS Early in 1999, Amadou Diallo was shot and killed in the entryway to his Bronx home. He had done nothing to draw violence to himself, other than returning home very late at night from peddling wares on a Manhattan avenue – and being a young, dark-skinned, immigrant from West Guinea. His assailants were four New York City police officers, all white, all recently recruited to an elite crime-fighting cadre called the Street Crime Unit. So typical was Diallo’s killing at the barrel of police weapons that his story might have passed with only perfunctory note and protest. But there was one thing about Amadou Diallo that allowed his death to be transformed into a cause: he was an innocent. He had no criminal record. Friends and relatives described him as “simple” (possibly code for some slight cognitive dysfunction?) and passionately devoted to all things American. There was also a class element to his presentation as innocent: he came from a relatively affluent family of business people who traded goods in several African countries. Yet Diallo’s innocence did not go undisputed. There were two moments when doubt was cast: one in the media right after the shooting, the second in the courtroom. Contested innuendos about the victim’s innocence or guilt constitute one theme of the Diallo story, and there is a second realm in which those same questions occur, lying further back from awareness: the role played by

Authors: Roy, Beth.
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1
BLUE LINES, SHADED IN BLACK AND BROWN: THE DIALLO’S 
SHOOTING, RACE, AND POLITICS
Early in 1999, Amadou Diallo was shot and killed in the entryway to his 
Bronx home. He had done nothing to draw violence to himself, other than 
returning home very late at night from peddling wares on a Manhattan 
avenue – and being a young, dark-skinned, immigrant from West Guinea.
His assailants were four New York City police officers, all white, all 
recently recruited to an elite crime-fighting cadre called the Street Crime 
Unit. So typical was Diallo’s killing at the barrel of police weapons that his 
story might have passed with only perfunctory note and protest. But there 
was one thing about Amadou Diallo that allowed his death to be transformed 
into a cause: he was an innocent. He had no criminal record. Friends and 
relatives described him as “simple” (possibly code for some slight cognitive 
dysfunction?) and passionately devoted to all things American. There was 
also a class element to his presentation as innocent: he came from a 
relatively affluent family of business people who traded goods in several 
African countries. Yet Diallo’s innocence did not go undisputed. There were 
two moments when doubt was cast: one in the media right after the 
shooting, the second in the courtroom.  
Contested innuendos about the victim’s innocence or guilt constitute 
one theme of the Diallo story,  and there is a second realm in which those 
same questions occur, lying further back from awareness: the role played by 


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