Response to the Amber Guyger verdict offers painful glimpse into white supremacy’s widespread impact

MSNBC / YouTube Jury Unanimously Finds Amber Guyger Guilty 1570034829.jpg...
MSNBC / YouTube

Shock. That’s the feeling that so many black Americans felt last September as details emerged about Botham Jean’s murder at the hands of Amber Guyger, a Dallas police officer who was eventually fired. Public outrage was widespread, of course, but the sheer audacity of Guyger’s claim that her crime was justified created a special kind of horror. Essentially, the ex-cop was claiming that her fear rendered her deadly error irrelevant. After all, tiny white woman vs. big black guy is an all-too-familiar racist trope.

For black folks, it was impossible not to watch this story unfold and feel terror and a familiar resentment: They’re killing us in our own homes and blaming us for it. They’re finding a way to say “he’s no angel” about a literal choirboy, an accountant who, at just 26 years old, would still be eligible as a dependent under the Affordable Care Act, if his parents were American.

Acquittal after acquittal of white people (often cops) killing unarmed black people is the norm here in the U.S.; additionally, many grand juries decline to even press charges in such cases. One way or another, by letting these killers off, by justifying their violence, a horrific lesson is taught and reinforced to black Americans: It’s okay to kill us.

But on Tuesday, just a little more than a year after she stole Botham Jean’s light forever, Amber Guyger, now 31, was found guilty of murder—after just five hours of deliberation by a 12-person jury of her peers. And there was that feeling again: shock.

Yet the sheer shock rippling through the black community in the wake of the Guyger case says so much about this white supremacist nation. Verdict after verdict has left so many white killers free to live their lives after taking a black one. For every shout of “Black Lives Matter,” there’s a jury, grand or otherwise, or a law in Florida, that tells us they don’t. Regardless of our income class, our education, our lifestyles, and our accomplishments, American society finds a way to justify our murders.

So on the morning of the guilty verdict, so many black Americans, including this writer, shed stunned tears. Did we think Guyger deserved to get off? Of course not. Yet the conditioning of white supremacy has worked so well, and this country has disappointed us so often, that most of us were certain she would go free for murdering a black man who was eating ice cream in his own home. We were ready for the fear ripples of an acquittal, and the implicit nod it would give to the people in this country who would do us harm. “Yes, you can kill black people with reckless abandon, no matter where they are or what they’re doing,” is what we expected that jury to say.

But they didn’t. That jury didn’t give Guyger the white people pass. They—gasp—held her accountable.

Here’s a small glimpse into the remarkable shockwave that this seemingly simple recognition of black humanity has caused.

Maya Rupert, campaign manager for former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, minced no words.

Respondents to Rupert’s tweet confirmed that horrific reality, one by one.

Racism is taught. And black Americans have learned one hell of a lesson when it comes to white cops killing us.

One user pointed out that she didn’t even realize that she was expecting an acquittal until the conviction was announced.

The fact that is was Texas also was a factor in black Americans’ dread.

The agreements were seemingly endless.

This is black reality.

No American should have so little faith in the justice system, yet here we are.

No. Faith. At. All.

Botham Jean may have been from St. Lucia, but his family recognized that this was a victory for “black people in America.”

It cannot be said enough: The black community was ready for an acquittal because that’s what the justice system has taught us.

The justice system protects white America.

This isn’t black people being dramatic, or embracing a victim mentality. This is statistically proven: Police killing unarmed black people is essentially a legal act in this country.

Again, it cannot be said enough: Black people did NOT expect a conviction.

The weight of that truth is undeniable.

And it wasn’t just black people that felt this way, of course.

And it won’t just be black people who benefit from this precedent, as Ben Crump noted in a moving tribute to just some of the black bodies we’ve seen created by white police officers who never saw justice.

If this collection of responses seemed repetitive, that’s because that’s how this constant cycle of injustice feels. Again and again, the black community faces these situations where, after varying intensities of legal process, we’re told that it’s legal to take our lives. As noted in one tweet above and by one of my Daily Kos colleagues, this is collective emotional trauma.

Yet it’s essential not to mistake this collective sigh of relief for celebration. Justice was served to Amber Guyger today with the verdict she’s no doubt going to appeal, and how harshly she’ll be punished by a jury of her peers will be announced Wednesday morning. But for the Jean family, there is no real justice, as they’ll never hear their cherished choirboy—who would have turned 28 on Sunday—sing a song of celebration ever again.

Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith scratched deep below the surface when he noted that “this is what is supposed to happen. I keep longing for the day when we are not surprised by justice.”

This was not that day.

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3 Comments on "Response to the Amber Guyger verdict offers painful glimpse into white supremacy’s widespread impact"

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Dick Panico
Dick Panico
…If you say go when you mean stop , you’re responsible for your actions . If you shoot someone by mistake , your responsible for your actions . …If your a police person and you missuse your weapon, you’re responsible. You were trained to be responsible for your actions . Someone dies , you are responsible, because failed to act in a responsible manner. And I believe you know that . …I don’t necessarily think you acted with malice, but in our life , Sooner or later, we must stand for what we do . …My question has been ,… Read more »

A life taken is a life taken regardless of race

Dick Panico
Dick Panico

Sooner or later , we all must stand for what we do . Most things we refer to as accidents, are not in fact accidents. Human error, which means somebody made a mistake or was negligent.