Picture this: a black man walks into his apartment building after a long day of work. He is so tired that he is somehow unaware he is not only on the wrong floor of his building, but he is opening the door to the wrong apartment. He walks into what he believes to be his home, and he sees a white woman, unarmed. It is her apartment, but he shoots and kills her anyway because he made a mistake. He is convicted of murder, but will only serve 10 years in jail after taking the life of someone who was doing absolutely nothing wrong.
Imagine if this had been the case the night of Sept. 6, 2018 — that Amber Guyger and Botham Jean were able to switch roles that night — instead of the reality, Guyger senselessly murdering Jean in his own home. Imagine if that were the case, and then imagine all the nights after that one. People would have taken to the streets and demanded he get a punishment that is equivalent to the price she had paid for being in her apartment at the wrong time. People would have been protesting his sentence of ten years, and her family members certainly would not be hugging him after the trial.
If the roles had been reversed, people would have said no punishment was enough to pay for his actions, and no one could conceive that the murder was a mistake. How could something like that even happen in America? We simply just do not kill white women here.
But we do kill black men.
We kill them when they are alone and we kill them in front of their families. We kill them when they are grown men and we kill them when they are still boys. We kill them when they are completely unarmed and we kill them when a trained officer “mistakes” what they have in their hand for a weapon. We kill them in their cars, on the street and in their own homes.
We kill them day after day, but there is no justice.
Serving up to ten years for taking the life of an innocent man is not justice, but it is hard to see that when there is never any justice for the black community. In comparison to punishments for the taken lives of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, Guyger’s verdict is an anomaly, but still, it is not enough.
Doing something to punish Jean’s killer is better than the complete absence of consolation their families received in the wake of their deaths.
Had Jean been in his car or on the street, Guyger’s verdict would have coincided with those of the hundreds of other officers who have beaten and killed black men, but there was no way to justify this. There was no way for the media or the police department to justify walking into someone’s home and killing them, and without that justification – that they will go to the ends of the earth to provide – the courts must do something.
But, instead of forcing black men to hope and pray they are not eventually caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe we should treat them like we do white women – maybe we should just not kill them.