Tea Time with Tagwa: Accountability is not justice. It is a requirement

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, can you tell the difference between bright yellow and black in color? The difference between 34 ounces and eight ounces? If you answered yes, congratulations — you are more intelligent and aware than yet another Minnesota police officer.

A Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer shot and murdered Daunte Wright, another unarmed Black man, on April 11, just 10 miles outside of the courthouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the Derek Chauvin murder trial was being held. This shows that nothing has changed, despite a guilty verdict in the matter of George Floyd’s murder.

Officers pulled over Wright during a routine traffic stop, but nothing about this stop ended how it should have. 

Wright was only 20 years old. He was a father to a little boy. Now, he is just another statistic to prove that police brutality is an epidemic in this nation’s Black community. A disease that seems incurable. While this nation turns a blind eye to police brutality, while they continue to dismiss the Black community’s cry for help — more and more Black people end up dead. At the hands of this nation’s greatest protectors.

Part of me wants to say that this stop was not normal policing, how officers aren’t trained to turn basic traffic violations into fatalities. Yet, I can’t help but think this was a perfectly executed routine stop. I mean, it’s becoming more and more clear that part of police procedure is killing innocent, unarmed Black people in the streets. 

I think a lot about how privileged, white people are probably tired of hearing about police brutality on the news or reading my articles — that almost feel weekly at this point. And I have to ask them: Don’t you think we’re tired, too?

I am tapped out. I am fatigued of having to share with the world how innocent Black people are dying relentlessly. I am sick of comparing these dead Black people to what could’ve been my father, my brother, my sister — or even me.

Wright’s son will always have to live in fear of the same police who took his father from him. He has lost the opportunity to grow up with his father and it is all thanks to a group of heavily armed forces that can’t tell the difference between a taser and a gun.

In the graphic video detailing Wright’s last few minutes alive, the officer pulls out her gun and shoots Wright twice. Seconds later, she turns to her fellow officers and states that she mistook her gun for her taser. 

Now, can we all agree that an officer who can’t tell the difference between a taser and a gun shouldn’t be carrying a gun in the first place? It just sounds like an excuse meant to cover the officer’s behind when footage of her murdering a Black man is later released.

The former officer, Kim Potter, resigned and was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of Wright. I want to cheer for the swift accountability that occurred — but I can’t. Because nothing has changed — nothing will change.

Chauvin received a guilty verdict on April 20 and was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His conviction seemed to spark joy and  a sense of justice. Then, we heard about Ma’Khia Bryant.

Bryant was a 16-year-old Black girl who was shot by Columbus, Ohio, police officers on April 20. Not an hour had even passed since the Chauvin verdict was made and the police were out shooting Black people, yet again. This time, a child. 

Chauvin’s trial was not justice, it was accountability. 

Only 121 officers have been arrested on charges relating to on-duty shootings since 2005, according to Philip M. Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University. Yet, only 95 cases were concluded and of those, only 44 were actually convicted.

Holding police officers to the same rule of law that the rest of the American population must adhere to is not justice — it is necessary. We are not going to praise the system for actually holding guilty officers accountable. 

We watched George Floyd’s murder. We watch Bryant’s murder. We watch Wright’s murder. Why would we rejoice now that their killers have been asked to answer for their actions?

Not knowing a gun from a taser does not serve as a reasonable excuse to get away with killing an innocent man. It does, however, highlight how gravely under-trained and useless police forces around the nation are. And that’s the tea.

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