Botham Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, rejoices in the courtroom after fired Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Dallas. Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean, an unarmed 26-year-old neighbor in his own apartment last year. She told police she thought his apartment was her own and that he was an intruder. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)
Published 10/01/2019 | Reading Time 2 min 13 sec
By Deon Osborne, Senior Writer
Disgraced, former police officer Amber Guyger has been found guilty of murder by a Texas jury. I didn’t expect to ever form that sentence. Digital notifications sounding like annoying chimes quickly transformed into a chorus of disbelief when my eyes glanced over the headlines.
Though not the overall solution that will end racial discrimination in this country’s treatment of it’s black and brown people, the guilty verdict for Botham Jean’s murderer sets a precedent, casting a ceiling on how far police officers can go and still escape accountability.
The murder of Botham Jean hit Americans differently than previous egregious cases of police and vigilante brutality. Unlike the murders of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Stephon Clark, Philando Castille, Terrence Crutcher and others, in this case there was no precipitating interaction between the deceased and their killer. This time the black martyr was simply existing in the one remaining space thought safe from Jim Crow-like abuse—a person’s own home.
26-year-old college graduate Botham Jean was my age, peacefully enjoying ice cream on the couch inside his apartment, when white, off-duty cop Amber Guyger mistakes his apartment for her own. Due to her sexting obsession with her married partner, she—the aggressor—breaks into an unarmed black man’s home, shoots him in the heart, continues texting her partner in lieu of offering first aid, attempts to alter evidence, and then utilizes “white tears” to argue self-defense at her trial.
The unanimous guilty verdict from a 12-member Dallas Jury pierced my conscious like a single blade of grass amidst a jungle of lifeless concrete. The outcome of this trial allows millions of black and brown people who say “I am Botham Jean” to keep the fire of hope burning just a bit longer for a prosperous, just future. Trust among marginalized Americans for the criminal “injustice” system is nowhere in sight, but the fact that it meagerly managed to officially label Guyger, unlike so many other killer cops, as a murderer indicates a possibility for a future where black lives matter.
No one can understand the history of policing in America under the slave patrol system and still deny the Jim Crow-style method in which police carry out punishment as judge, jury and executioner towards black and brown bodies under the slightest provocation.
Yet, we now stand in a time where a majority of Americans across ethnicities understand that the legacy of slavery affects the position of black people in American society to a great extent. 63 percent of Americans (58 percent of whites and 84 percent of blacks) hold that view, according to an April 2019 poll from the Pew Research Center.
The test of our time now is to determine how we can come together, first as American descendants of slaves (ADOS), then as an interracial, intersectional alliance of the general population. One guilty verdict out of 1,000 slaps on the wrist will not by itself reverse the trend of these sanctioned and unsanctioned state murders.
We must continue to recognize that, until we collectively move to appoint progressive District Attorneys, fund grassroots groups pushing for justice, and learn to dismantle the internalized white supremacy within ourselves, we will remain at risk of becoming victims of the State.
I am Botham Jean.
Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has written for OU’s student newspaper the OU Daily as well as OKC-based Red Dirt Report. He now lives in Tulsa, where he works at a local youth shelter. He is also a former intern at Oklahoma Policy Institute.