ATTRIBUTION ERROR: AN ERROR TOO COSTLY

Have you ever been shot forty-one times? Have you ever screamed and no one heard you cry? Have you ever died only so you can live? Have you ever lived only so you can die again, then be born again from these enemies on the borderline, who’ll be the next to fire forty-one shots by Diallo’s side?…

Diallo, Diallo, similar to Steven Biko

Diallo, Diallo, you told me the murder was an error

Diallo, Diallo, but every man will be judged

Diallo, Diallo, according to his words…

Who else remembers Wyclef Jean’s popular song ‘Diallo’? As a reggae music lover, I remember my brother and I will be screaming along as best as we could from the tune coming from our old Kenwood box…you said you reach sir but you didn’t have no peace, sir…

We sang and danced along without having a clue about the depth of the song. According to the story, Amadou Diallo was a twenty-two-year-old immigrant from Guinea living in New York. He had returned from the day’s hustle and decided to get some fresh air outside his building in wheeler avenue, a slum in New York. Familiar with Majek Fashek and you will recall the lyrics of ‘Majek Fashek in a New York’, Hopeless people in a New York, beggars on the street of New York…

Four policemen, all-white were on patrol on wheller avenue when they spotted Diallo. One of them wondered what Diallo could be doing outside at that time of the day.

The men approached Diallo and asked from a distance if they could have a word with him, no words came from Diallo which definitely must have been infuriating. They asked him to show them his hands.

One more time, they screamed at him to show them his hands. It appeared like he had his hand in his pocket as if he was going to bring something out. The next series of actions was more serious than a war movie. Forty-one shots were fired; none came from Diallo. Two of the police officers shot sixteen bullets each, one-shot five bullets and the last officer shot four bullets. That should be why Wyclef sang ‘how can I survive with forty-one shots by my side…?’

It was a rain of bullet on Amadou Diallo, a harmless man who only reached for his pockets to bring out his wallet and show his ID. How will you judge the four police officers? You probably would have sentenced them to death!

Here is what happened and that’s the point of this piece. Boss, Carroll, McMellon, and Murphy, the four police officers were not only discharged, but they were also acquitted of any wrongdoing after a series of court appearances. The jury concluded that it was just a case of accidental murder.

The point is that the four police officers in a series of actions misjudged the intentions of Amadou Diallo. In turning his side, they thought Diallo was trying to run because only a criminal will run seeing the police. They were wrong, Diallo was simply terrified. In reaching for his pocket, the police thought he was going to draw his gun, hence they tried to outsmart him leading to the rain of bullets on the poor young man.

Perhaps, the most fatal error was the first impression the four police officers had about Diallo when they asked if they could have a word with him and it looked like he was taking them for granted by ignoring them. That turned out to be very untrue, Diallo stutters having serious difficulty in speaking.

If you are busy judging the police officers, you’ve fallen into the deep of the errors they committed because on the extreme other hands, what if Diallo reached for a gun and rained bullets on them, the story would have been different I believe.

The point is, we should be careful in passing judgments, in judging impressions and perceived intentions. That person who didn’t pick your call may not be ignoring your call, there at least a thousand scenarios that could have played out making him unable to pick up. That person you greeted and didn’t respond well may not be acting out of pride, who knows, he may be having a bad day. That person who drove past you may not even see you even when it seems you saw eyeball to eyeball. It may be that the person you have decided to deal with needs more of your pity and love than otherwise.

Being a victim of a judgment made in error is not a sweet song, sometimes it cost a life.

May we not fall victim to another man’s error of inference and may we be wise enough to give people some break when need be and give second chance when necessary. An attribution error is usually an error too costly!

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