By Elizabeth Casalnova
Tuesday, April 20, 2021, will always be a date of parallel occurrences. While the nation eagerly awaited the verdict in the case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted on three charges for the death of George Floyd, police in Columbus, Ohio shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant outside her foster home during a fight with two other women.
Officers arrived at the scene responding to a 911 call, reportedly made by Bryant herself, in an attempt to defuse a physical altercation. Bodycam footage from Nicholas Reardon, one of the officers, shows Bryant in a fight with two older women. The footage shows Bryant lunging at 20-year-old Shai-Onta Lana Craig-Watkins with a knife, then charging 22-year-old Tionna Bonner. It was then that Reardon fired four shots at Bryant, killing her, according to AP News.
Some felt a sense of justice after Chauvin’s indictment and viewed it as a glimmer of hope and accountability. Others argue that Bryant’s death is yet another example of how finding one officer guilty does not equate to justice.
“Justice can only be achieved with the abolition of the violent and oppressive systems and structures that empower police officers to obliterate Black people’s lives without consequence,” said Dr. Leigh-Anne Francis, an associate professor of African American studies and women and gender studies at the College.
The national divide between what people believe constitutes justice is ongoing. The divide between which instances – or none at all – of police murder of Black people are considered “legal” or “justified” is everlasting.
“I think the divide really comes down to everybody’s biases. Sometimes, it’s the lack of empathy and just the human aspect of things, which is being defensive whenever something you agree with is questioned,” said Ankit Parikh, a graduate student in the counseling program. “You’re either with us or against us — whatever that means to each individual person.”
Ma’Khia Bryant’s murder is yet another death of a Black person at the hands of the police, and to occur on the same day as the Chauvin verdict is a daunting example of an oppressive system — not mere examples of individual officers making mistakes in a string of unrelated events.
“I think that the parallel demonstrates how pervasive systemic racism and violence is ingrained in American culture and governance,” said Samara Menard, a junior double major in psychology and women, gender and sexuality studies. “We’re being shown that the prejudices and violent oppression the BLM movement seeks to dismantle is not in response to isolated events of misfortune. It’s a pattern many will still chalk up to coincidence.”
“Accountability from beginning to end. That’s all we are looking for at the end of the day,” said Brianna Dixon (‘20) who graduated from the political science and African American studies departments. “Of course everyone is entitled to their political and social opinions, but I strongly implore people to really examine their position, because both your present community and future generations will be able to recall where you stood and it will in fact mean something significant.”