Botham Jean’s controversial trial

Written By Nardos Haile, For The Globe

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Yet another trial centered on a black man’s murder at the hands of a police officer came to its conclusion last week. Amber Guyger, former Dallas police officer, convicted of the murder of 26-year-old Botham Jean, will serve ten years. The lawyer’s representing Jean’s family asked for 28 years because Jean would have been 28 years old today. Guyger received ten. But that is how the justice system works for people who abuse their power, and the black victims that fall in jeopardy because of it.

Guyger is the first of countless police officers who were suspended, fired and received a guilty verdict in court. Shocking, I know. As long as this country and our law enforcement continue to shield officers from directly facing consequences for their illegal and lethal behavior, brown and black people will continue to die at the hands of the people that are sworn to protect us.

Nevertheless, Guyger faces up to ten years of prison for murder and it’s the bare minimum. Guyger shot Jean in his own home while he ate ice cream. He died in a mundane and harsh way, it makes this story of yet another black man’s death hurt a little more than usual.

Her low prison sentence isn’t the most unnerving part about this case, what happened after her sentencing is. During a speech to Guyger at her sentencing, Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, forgives her. Not only does he forgive her, he asks the judge permission to hug her.

Many people called this act of forgiveness a powerful and inspiring message to racially divided America. I’m not surprised. Of course, most white Christians find this story inspirational because black suffering and pain is too hard of a pill to swallow for them. Instead, they want to see a traumatized family show grace so they can feel comfortable and solace in a situation so brutal and horrific that it’s left this family with no son, no brother, no friend.

Historically, this country ignores its race issues, but it’s only been able to pretend like we are past our race issues through black forgiveness. What would happen if black people didn’t seemly move on from the atrocities of slavery? Or Jim Crow? Or mass incarceration? What else do we have to forgive for this country to move on from its wrongdoings?

Not only did Jean’s family forgive Guyger, so did Judge Tammy Kemp. At the end of the sentencing, Kemp gave Guyger a hug and a bible. This act caused outrage from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The non-profit says Kemp violated constitutional law in a governmental capacity.

In some ways, I do understand the idea of forgiveness. I understand what forgiveness means to people of faith and nonreligious people as well. It is a way people can release the pain they hold onto so they can move on with their lives. I understand what the Jean family tried to achieve for themselves, but I don’t believe that forgiveness will stop the next innocent black man’s inevitable murder. 

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