No, U.S. Cops, You DON'T Have a License to Kill
Processing the murder of Daunte Wright
It’s been nearly a year since George Floyd was murdered, the trial of his killer is still going on, and yet here we are again.
Daunte Wright was stopped for having a tree air freshener on his rear view mirror. The police attempted to detain him when it turned out he had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. Then Daunte was killed “by accident” (huge eye roll) when a 26-year police veteran, later identified as Kim Potter, grabbed a gun instead of a taser and shot him.
(I’ve seen posts suggesting the warrant was because the notice of a court hearing went to the wrong address, but at the time of writing I couldn’t verify it. If it’s true, it makes his death doubly sad.)
Honestly, I’m sick of the excuses for killing unarmed Black people, and you can also miss me with the whataboutery, and with the “if they had just complied”. The white people who stormed the US Capitol were anything BUT compliant, and somehow most of them came out alive.
Hear this: the police killing Black people isn’t about Black people’s lack of compliance, it’s about the exercise of white supremacist power. And the whataboutery is simply trying to excuse the inexcusable. Please, just stop it.
There are a lot of things that trouble me about the killing of Daunte Wright, and all the other murders of Black people by US police officers.
For example, the fact that the police are quick to reach for their weapons when an unarmed Black person is involved, but white men who have ACTUALLY KILLED PEOPLE AND ARE STILL HOLDING THE GUN can be apprehended without a shot being fired. I’ll never understand it.
And should I point out that the role of the police is supposed to be to apprehend people so they can face trial? It’s not to assume they’re guilty of something and then shoot them. Police officers are not James Bond; they do NOT have a license to kill. Yet, somehow Black people keep ending up dead at their hands.
There are a bunch of factors you could point to, like the slave patrol ancestry of the “modern” - ha! - US police force. Like the racism used to justify enslavement that painted Black human beings as lesser in every way except in doing harm - less capable, less intelligent, but more sexually active and more violent. Like the TV, films and news stories underscoring that portrayal. Honestly, none of that excuses the egregious killings of Black people that happen week in, week out.
It’s also why I don’t want to hear the calls from white racists - and even some liberals, let’s be honest - for Black people to “get over” enslavement. Their racism shows that they haven’t, and why should we, when its legacy is killing us? There can be no unity without accountability, justice and, dare I say it, reparations.
I was reminded recently that the news we see is only a fraction of what actually happens. It’s why we heard more about other Black people killed by the police after George Floyd’s murder. Not every murder of Black people at the hands of the police makes the national news, and still fewer of those murders make the international news. But they are happening more often than we would like to believe.
Black people are exhausted, tired of the hashtags of death, tired of the constant evidence that to many white people our lives don’t matter - we are expendable, disposable, killable. Tired of the fact that often the killers face few consequences.
(At the time of writing, Kim Potter was on “administrative leave”, when really she should have been fired immediately. Update: she resigned, though this shouldn’t exempt her from facing the consequences of her actions.)
This killer is reportedly on camera admitting that she shot Daunte Wright - so clearly she’s guilty at least of manslaughter. It doesn’t even matter what she intended - though after 26 years on the force she should know the difference between her weapons - because the IMPACT was that another young Black man lost his life needlessly.
I have to believe that the conversations that we are having about racism and white supremacy will make a difference in the long run, but every time there’s another Breonna Taylor, another Elijah McClain, another Daunte Wright, I wonder how long it will take for things to change. And I wonder how many more Black people have to die before we end racism and dismantle white supremacy.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.