This article was originally published on April 23, 2021.
It's hard to watch the news. This week, in the wake of the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin’s case of murdering George Floyd, Ma'Khia Bryant—a 16-year-old girl— was killed by a police officer Nicholas Reardon in Ohio. In a video that was released in the interest of “transparency” by the local police department, you can see that Ma’Khia was involved in a dispute with two other young girls from the same foster home where she lived. Ma’Khia was brandishing what looked to be a kitchen knife and presented a threat to the other young girls. Officers were called to the scene, and in my opinion used the excessive force that is always reserved for Black people.
To put things in context, I understand that Ma’Khia was wielding a knife and that the other girls involved were in danger, but shooting someone who has a knife certainly isn’t the primary option of de-escalation. Black people are witnessing death at an obscene rate. The fact that so many police shootings have happened during the length of the Chauvin trial was alarming enough. But what becomes so frustrating is not only poor de-escalation tactics in Black communities but the total converse of similar instances in White communities.
Black people have been seeking equity in this country for hundreds of years now. And lately it has become a conveyor belt of slaps in our faces as it pertains to police brutality. The fact that Daunte Wright could be killed in a neighboring city where Derek Chauvin’s trial was taking place tells a clear narrative. The Police don’t and don’t need to bear in mind the repercussions of their actions. Of course we hope that a precedent was set with the Derek Chavin trial, but that unfortunately remains to be seen. Instead, data keeps being added to this gruesome case study which is compiled by the death of Black lives.
Black kids aren’t allowed to make mistakes or fall short like White kids. I never hear about White kids being killed by cops for things that you hear people describe as mischievous, or problematic. They are given second chances. Their records are scrubbed clean. They get to live, literally and systemically. There literally is no wiggle room when it comes to law enforcement and Black people. In fact, in order to leave any interaction with law enforcement alive, many times we have to shrink ourselves.
One of my exes lived in New Jersey and many weekends I would commute there from Brooklyn. On the way back home I'd always drive in the far left lane pretty much until the Lincoln Tunnel, which takes you from New Jersey into New York City. One night I saw a cop car behind me, I didn’t think he was after me at the moment so I moved into the middle lane to allow him to pass. I didn't see him for a while, and kept cruising until he popped back up behind me, so I pulled over. At this moment it’s about 2am and I couldn’t fathom what could be wrong. He said that he had been following me for fifteen minutes or so and that I was swerving between lanes. I told the officer that for the majority of the time that I was on the highway, I was in the left lane. He persisted. The officer said that I was swerving and that he was out looking for drunk drivers— but he could tell that I wasn’t drunk. I wanted to make my case further, but soon realized that being right isn't worth it. It only mattered that I leave this interaction with my life. So I didn't advocate for myself and I was left with that feeling of powerlessness that many of us have after a police interaction.
Still, I was fortunate, Ma’Khia wasn’t. She was robbed of a future, just as so many other Black kids before her who threatened grown ass, trained, White police officers without actually threatening them. Ma’Khia should have had to be as perfect as her White counterparts. That should be the standard. This is why we advocate the way that we do.
Over the next few days we’ll all speak on what should’ve been. Yes, policing needs to be re-evaluated. Yes, we need to ensure that officers carry out their duties as they’re trained to. But first things first, let’s make sure Nicholas Reardon is reprimanded to the fullest extent to continue setting the example that this isn’t right. As Chris Rock says, “some jobs can’t have bad apples.” Some jobs can't have people who just react. Some jobs can't have people who lead with bias. It’s time to throw these bad apples away, we’ve had enough.
Kahlil is a writer, author, and content creator from Brooklyn, NY. He really thinks that you should be familiar with him by now, but if you aren't, feel free to be. Follow his work on Instagram @Damnitpops and his thoughts and rants on Twitter @Damnpops