What Would Justice for Botham Jean Look Like?

By Teka Lark (October 3, 2019)

White America believes in vengeance. It believes in an eye for an eye. The Botham Jean case was so very hard to watch, because here is a Black man who was perfect, as perfectly good as a human can be–because if he hadn’t been, the defense would have found out his imperfections and smeared them all over the Internet.

People say if he were a white man, Amber wouldn’t have shot him or she would have gotten more time than 10 years – but here is the thing: a white man with Botham’s credentials and talent wouldn’t be living next door to a cop. If Botham were a white man he’d be living in NY making half a million dollars. The reason he was living next door to a cop in a Dallas suburb, was because he was a Black man, because these are the kinds of people that even the most talented of Black people end up next to when they do well. They end up next to angry, barely middle class, white people who have failed. And this puts us in all kinds of danger. People who have grown up with trauma, who are angry, because they have had their dreams crushed owing to capitalism, and only have their whiteness to lean on, are dangerous people for Black people to be around. Well they are pretty dangerous for anyone, but typically it is OK to kill Black people if you feel angry and say “you’re scared.”

They are never scared. I learned that a long time ago; they just lie, the police lie, the women on the cellphone lie, and the people next door lie, they are all liars.

Our system of justice is dishonest, punitive, and sadistic –just like our country, the United States.

You know I don’t want the kinds of wins that white nationalism celebrates, that Americans celebrate. It has never brought me joy to see a person sentenced to the maximum prison time or the death penalty, even if I know they did it.

What would a victory for Botham Jean have looked like for me? A victory would be him being alive, a system where no one has to fail, a system where everyone feels supportive, and a system that doesn’t create situations that are unforgivable. Anything less than that to me –is still losing.

I don’t want your eye. I don’t need your eye. I don’t want vengeance, I want justice.



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