What Had Happened Was…
Since I grew up in Iowa my social media timeline has been filled with post talking about this story. Mainly because MAGA crazies have used Mollie’s death to gain political points in the debate on immigration.
The details are still rolling out, but the backstory is that Mollie went out jogging and at some point, for reasons unknown, was approached by Cristhian Rivera. Here is how the Des Moines Register describes what happened next:
Rivera parked his car and started running alongside and behind Tibbetts. She pulled out a cellphone and said she would call the police. Rivera told police he panicked, got mad and then “blocked” his memory, becoming aware while in his car at an intersection that he had placed a woman in his trunk, according to a criminal complaint.
Rivera dragged and carried the woman roughly 65 feet into an isolated area in the cornfield, he told police, then covered her body with corn leaves and drove away. After officials identified his vehicle in surveillance footage, he complied with law enforcement and led them to the body.
Here is where the story gets murky. Rivera immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. and was employed at Yarrabee Farms for four years. According to Yarrabee farms, Rivera provided a state ID and Social Security card, which Yarrabee Farms processed through the governments E-Verify system to confirm if he is eligible to work in the U.S.
Turns out, Yarrabee farms was not using the E-Verify system at all. Instead, they were using a “different older system through the social security administration.” In another plot twist, DHS says they did not receive a DACA request, and Yarrabee farms is now saying that Rivera may have provided false documents.
Of course, like clockwork the president, VP and conservatives have used Mollie’s story as proof of America’s immigration problem. They argue, that had Rivera not “illegally” came to the U.S. Mollie would still be alive. Mike Pence, who was speaking in Des Moines on August 15th – BEFORE a body was found and BEFORE Rivera was ever questioned – says that Mollie is on the hearts of every American.
Money Buys You Justice
To me, that is when the fake outrage began. Why on earth would the vice president of the united states know anything about this story in the first place? The answer: Political Points and Money. Originally, Mollie’s story was not national news and was not of any national importance. In 2017, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) reported over 650,000 missing persons files.
So, if Mollie is one of (likely) 600,000 people missing how does the VP come to know her name? On August 2nd, two and a half weeks after she went missing, Mollie’s parents offered a substantial reward ($172,000) for information that would help lead them to Mollie. Crime stoppers of Central Iowa helped the family setup the tip line and manage the reward money. Just like that, the tips started to roll in.
Typically, in reward situations like this families have a strategy to incrementally increase the size of the reward as time passes. Here, Mollie’s family pushes all their chips to the middle of the table and goes all in to find Mollie – starting the bidding at six figures. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), investigators and law enforcement often push back on families providing rewards, particularly large ones, because it leads to a flood of false leads. That is exactly what happened here.
Initially, it was reported that the cops were working through 200 anonymous tips.
The OJJDP also advises families to set a hard limit for the reward and stick to it. Why? Because if you continue to increase the size of the reward, people may wait for a more lucrative offer.
By August 14th, one day before Mike Pence would make his comments, and 12 days after Mollie’s family sets the reward at $172,000, the Bring Mollie Tibbetts Home Safe Reward Fund reaches $366,000. Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa reports that Mollie’s reward is the largest that they have ever collected. According to Crime Stoppers, the donations came from over 180 people and businesses ($366,000/180 people = $2,033 per donation). The population of Brooklyn, Iowa is 1,400.
Ok, lets just stop there and process all of this.
Mollie’s Murder Was Solved Before it Ever Happened
Iowa has a funny history with their perceptions of minorities. Personally I know this history all too well since I grew up there – people used to scream racial epithets at me on my walk home from middle school. My dad – a black man from New York – would get stopped by Wal-Mart personnel almost every time he left the store. Why? So they could check his groceries to make sure his items matched the receipt. Not because an alarm went off. Not because he was doing anything differently than anyone else. There could be 25 people walking out of the store at the same time and they would single him out and demand they search through his stuff.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. On August 15, 2018 video surfaced of Des Moines Iowa Police racially profiling a 23 year old black man and accusing him of having drugs. No drugs were found, no tickets were issued, and thankfully no one was killed. Officer Kevin Thies who made the stop, has arrested 253 people, and of those 253 arrest, 127 of them were black folks (50%). The metropolitan area that officer Theis covers is only a little over 10% black.
So lets put that in perspective. In 2016, black folks made up 26% of all the arrest in America – despite only being 12% of the population. So that means Officer Thies, who patrols an area with barely any black folks in it, is somehow arresting black folks at nearly double the national average. Impossible. There is no way in hell this happens without a conscious and concentrated effort to systematically target black folks.
Why Does Any of That Matter?
Des Moines officers, just like Theis in the video, go out of their way to profile, target and scrutinize the most basic behavior from minorities in their area. As the numbers suggest, many of those in police uniforms harbor strong prejudice against minorities. However, those feelings are only representative of the community they are asked to patrol.
Example A: Iowa’s 4th Congressional District Elects Well Known Racist, 8 Times.
Over the years, Iowans have elected politicians who they believe will best represent their beliefs in congress. Steve King, representative for Iowa’s 4th congressional district is one such person. King is the poster boy for what white fragility looks like in a suite and tie. King subscribes to the white genocide conspiracy theory – the idea that racial integration and immigration are being promoted as a way to deliberately make white people the minority, and thus cause them to become extinct through forced assimilation. King has described Mexican immigrants as “dogs” and “drug mules” with “calves the size of cantaloupes.” King keeps a small confederate flag on his desk – despite the fact that Iowa was a Union state during the Civil War.
The Daily Stormer, a white nationalist publication, is quoted as saying Steve King is “basically an open white nationalist at this point. He’s our guy.” This was after King tweeted in agreement that “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.” Why does King think that? Well, because, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Despite King’s well known and very public prejudices, Iowan’s in the 4th district continue to elect him as their representative. Not because they are oblivious to King’s racist beliefs. Sure, maybe some of them care more about their farms – Trump’s trade war says hello by the way. Many Iowan’s in the 4th Congressional District elect King because deep down in their hearts they share the same beliefs as King.
Behind some of those polite thoughts and prayers for Mollie, are people who harbor strong prejudice against minorities. They are the type to turn a blind eye to Montray Little being racially profiled in their own backyard. They don’t care that Iowa’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 18 years (2.6%), they still believe Mexican immigrants are taking their jobs.
Research, Science and Facts: All Fake News
See, regardless of where the facts of this case may lead there are people who will use Mollie’s death to score political points. They don’t care that immigrants commit less crimes than native-born citizens. They don’t care that states which have more undocumented immigrants tend to have lower crime rates than states with smaller shares of undocumented immigrants.
To some Iowans, Mollies death represents exactly whats wrong with America. Too many brown people.