History Repeating Itself Far Too Often: Continued Police Brutality in the U.S.

Angela McKinzie ‘21, News Editor

May 25, 2020. The day George Floyd was murdered beneath Derek Chauvin’s knee. From this day forward, the U.S. was thrown into protests that called attention to police brutality and the fact that it can no longer go ignored. From this day forward, the government and legislation were brought into question, and citizens began to hold lawmakers accountable for their actions. From this day forward, more black people and people of color were killed. 

 

Even though the murder of George Floyd placed a needed magnifying glass on police departments and law enforcement in general, the number of murders has been on a steady increase since May of last year. Now, the names and cases have blurred to the point that when Americans see the headlines they do not bat an eye. This is a problem. Seeing police play judge, jury, and executioner has become such a frequent occurrence that people have become complacent with being desensitized. According to The New York Times, “at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead. As of Saturday [April 17], the average was more than three killings a day.” Among these killings, two names have gained public attention because of the cruelty and sick parallelism: Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant. 

 

As Derek Chauvin stood trial for the murder of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, a 20-year old Black man, was fatally shot by an officer 10 miles away. On April 20, 2021, Wright was stopped for expired registration tags on his car, but the officers who pulled him over found out that there was a warrant out for his arrest. From here, the stop escalated as Wright stepped back into his car and a struggle broke out between him and the cops. In the body camera image that was released, the officer “can be seen pointing a handgun at him and shouting ‘Taser.’ After the car pulls away, the officer yells an obscenity and says, ‘I just shot him’ to two other officers.” Wright then crashed into another vehicle after being shot and was declared dead on the scene. Because of the proximity to the George Floyd case and the nature of the murder, Minnesota was once again in uproar as protesters filled Brooklyn Center. The negligence of the officer to realize that they had a handgun and not a taser speaks to the disregard for protocol and human life. As if the physical distance was not enough, it turns out that Courteney Ross, George Floyd’s girlfriend, was Wright’s former teacher–another murder too close to home. From the murder of Daunte Wright, the call to reform policing and improve de-esclation techniques has only grown louder, as his death, like many others, could have been easily avoided if the proper steps were taken. 

 

Almost 20 minutes after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of killing George Floyd, Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year old Black girl, was fatally shot by Nicholas Reardon in Columbus, Ohio. Bryant was placed in foster care after her grandmother’s landlord had not allowed her to keep Bryant and her three siblings. At the foster home of Angela Moore, an altercation over housework broke out between Bryant and Moore’s former foster child Tionna Bonner. According to Bryant’s sister and grandmother, who were also on the scene, Bonner had pulled a knife first and that was when Bryant got a house knife of her own. Bryant’s sister then called the police to try to deescalate the situation, but it only made things worse. When the officer showed up, Bryant and Bonner had still been fighting. When Bryant “lunged” towards Bonner with the knife, officer Reardon shot her in the back four times. Many of Bryant’s family members said she was a sweet child who would never start a fight. While some try to blame her for her own murder, others point out that she was a victim of the foster care system, where she was physically abused instead of being allowed to stay with her grandmother. Unlike Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant’s case was not shown as much in the media because of the Chauvin verdict and the pattern of Black women or girls not being shown as much in general. A child was murdered as the country breathed a sigh of relief over George Floyd’s case. 

 

People say that we “can’t mourn them all,” or “not every case can get the country’s attention,” but doesn’t herein lie the problem? If there weren’t as many cases and murders, then we would not have to choose which ones “deserve” the priority. Furthermore, seeing these murders displayed on body cams and played from audio recordings have created unintentional apathy from those that are exposed to the violence, thus lessening the severity of the issue on an individual scale. For Black and Latino communities, however, the evidence only proves as a constant reminder of what could happen at any given moment to them or those they hold close to them. While the media has helped amplify voices and cases that would have been left untouched, it has also inflicted psychological trauma and strain on the groups affected, as every day they must watch another person who looks like them be killed. In addition, “only about 1.1 percent of officers who kill civilians are charged with murder or manslaughter,” which only furthers the outrage and strain because the evidence seems black and white but somehow the verdict still comes out gray. In the eyes of the law, these killings were legally justified because “officers are justified in using lethal force as long as they have a ‘reasonable’ fear of ‘imminent’ injury or death for themselves or another person.” However, when the verdict and public opinion do not line up, that’s when the people and the government butt heads. 

 

Legislation takes time to change, but it takes no time at all to better educate yourself and have conversations with those around you. Even if your racial group is not the one being profiled and harmed, it is still important to be aware and care, for you do not want to develop an “it will never happen to me” mentality–it will still affect you. Say their names. Say every name. Black lives matter. 

 

Sources: 

Click link to say their names: https://sayevery.name/ 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/17/us/police-shootings-killings.html 

Use the interactive map to see Police Violence Stats: https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/ 

https://www.nytimes.com/article/daunte-wright-death-minnesota.html

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/06/us/makhia-bryant-foster-care/index.html

https://www.vox.com/22406055/makhia-bryant-police-shooting-columbus-ohio