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Black Lives Matter Protests in Washington D.C.
Credit: Koshu Kunii
A Black Lives Matter protest in Washington D.C.

Opinion: Daunte Wright's death says a lot about the policing of Black Americans

Police brutality and racism are a pandemic too.

I am truly sickened by yet another killing of an unarmed Black man by the people that are supposed to protect us -- the police. It has become a repetitious topic in the news that I am tired of hearing about because it should not be happening.

On April 11, 2021 a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, Daunte Wright was shot by Kim Potter, a 26-year-veteran of the force. Daunte Wright was killed during a traffic stop for an air freshener hanging in his rear view mirror when Potter 'accidentally' drew her handgun instead of her taser. This happened just 10 miles from the area of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, another unarmed Black man.

Daunte Wright made his last phone call, to his mother, while police were pulling him over.

As a student majoring in journalism, a Black woman, a wife to a Black man, and a mother to two Black children--one being a Black son, this incident horrifies me. 

When my husband showed me the video of the traffic stop, I went numb because it’s like watching the same horror movie over and over again, but the only difference is it's real people who are dying. 

Seeing the title -- “Minnesota police 'accidentally' shoots black man during traffic stop” -- disgusted me because ‘accidentally’ is a word that should not be used.

If I were to kill someone the word ‘accident’ would not be accepted. I would be arrested first, possibly be charged with improper use of a firearm, manslaughter, and someone would ask questions later.

Every time a police officer uses deadly force for a minor offense, they should be charged and arrested the same day as anyone else would be.

While I do not agree with resisting arrest, from what I have seen over time in similar cases is that police do not know how to approach people in a humanitarian way, and have a very different way of approaching Black men. 

Black men see what is going on from the media, which makes them believe they are targets and wonder whether they will be the next victim of a police killing. 

As I watched CNN to find out more about the Daunte Wright case, my husband asked me to stop.

“Please turn this off, I can’t keep hearing this,” my husband, 25, said. “It just makes me feel like I could be next, the more I listen to stuff like this.”

When it comes to Daunte Wright, another black man was killed, another child lost their father, another mother and father lost their child, and another Black life was needlessly cut short. 

We, as Black people, are so over-policed that even a simple traffic stop frightens us.

Here is my incomplete list of Black people whom police have wrongfully killed:

  • Tamir Rice (2014) - a 12-year-old African American boy, here in Cleveland. He had a  toy gun. Police shot him. A grand jury later declined to indict the officers involved.
  • Eric Garner (2014) - an African American male who was allegedly selling cigarettes illegally in New York City. Police choked him to death.
  • Sandra Bland (2015) - an African American woman arrested and jailed for a broken taillight. Police claimed that she was uncooperative and argumentative. She died in police custody in Waller County, Texas.
  • Philando Castile (2016) - an African American male pulled over with his girlfriend in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area because he allegedly resembled a suspect in an armed robbery that took place four days earlier. Castile was licensed to carry and let the officer know he had his firearm. He reassured the officer he wasn’t reaching for it, as did Castile’s girlfriend. The officer fired seven close-range shots at Castile, hitting him five times.
  • Botham Jean (2018) - an African American male who was sitting in his apartment in Dallas, Texas eating ice cream, when an off-duty officer, Amber Guyger, went in and shot him, claiming she thought it was her apartment. 
  • Breonna Taylor (2020) - an African American woman who was asleep when police broke into her home in Louisville, Kentucky on a ‘no-knock warrant’ and shot her in an exchange of fire with her boyfriend who was licensed to carry and said he did not know who was breaking in.
  • George Floyd (2020) - an African American male whom a former Minneapolis police officer murdered by kneeling on his neck, during an arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit 20 dollar bill.

The list of over-policing and police brutality against Black Americans, especially men, goes on. We need to publicize every such incident because every person who learns what is happening in our country has a voice.

Police officers are meant to be trained to de-escalate, contain and mediate situations. Instead they have been escalating situations because they are forgetting how to interact with other human beings. If a person is scared, nervous, or whatever the situation might be, don’t yell, use excessive force, and create a hostile environment between yourself and the person when it’s not needed.

Resisting arrest should not be a death sentence, being licensed to carry should not be a death sentence, driving with a broken taillight should not be a death sentence, selling cigarettes should not be a death sentence, looking like someone else should not be a death sentence, eating ice cream at home should not be a death sentence, playing with a toy gun should not be a death sentence, and being Black in America should not be a death sentence.

If Black Lives Mattered, Duante Wright would still be with us.