This past weekend, Tatiana Jefferson was fatally shot inside her own home while babysitting her nephew. In 2018, Botham Jean was also fatally shot inside his own apartment.
Just seeing these two sentences, you may be wondering why I grouped them together. The two cases actually had quite a few similarities: Jefferson and Jean were both African American, and were both shot by white police officers.
These two separate incidents that merely seem like unrelated news stories bring up unfortunately familiar incidents in our society — racial violence and police brutality.
Neither Jefferson nor Jean were breaking the law or doing anything that even resembled breaking the law. The police were sent to Jefferson’s house after her neighbor reported that her front door had been open for a few hours and he was concerned for Jefferson’s safety. In Jean’s case, police officer Amber Guyger was Jean’s neighbor and claimed that she shot him upon accidentally walking into Jean’s apartment thinking it was hers. Guyger testified that she believed Jean was an intruder.
If both Jefferson and Jean were white, the results would have likely been very different. For starters, if they were white, they would probably still be alive.
Recently in the U.S., police brutality and racial violence have sparked the attention of many. There have been more and more cases brought to light in which police mistreat someone because of their race. Many African Americans have been fatally shot, physically assaulted or wrongfully questioned simply because of the color of their skin.
I’m not saying that all police officers are racist or that all of them treat people of racial minorities poorly; what I’m saying is that there have been countless cases in which this has happened. There have been enough documented cases of police brutality and racial violence that people are taking notice.
Tatiana Jefferson and Botham Jean are just two people out of many that have experienced racial violence at the hands of the police. As of August, statistics say that approximately 1 in 1,000 black men and boys can expect to die at the hands of police, which makes them 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men and boys.
Frank Edwards, a sociologist at Rutgers University who led the study, pointed out that black men and boys have higher odds of being killed by the police than winning certain scratch-ticket lottery games.
Police violence was also reported as one of the leading causes of death, especially for boys and men, between 2013 and 2018. For African American men between the ages of 25 and 29, the mortality rate of police use of force is just below cancer and just above diabetes.
Although the study focused primarily on boys and men of racial minorities, it is true for anyone of a racial minority, regardless of gender. The plain truth is that when the police use excessive force, it is often against a person of color.
This is why groups such as Black Lives Matter formed — to help call attention to racial violence and discrimination aimed at African Americans. After the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Gardner, who were all young African American men, Black Lives Matter formed and tried to spread its message.
Clearly, first with Jean’s death in 2018 and now Jefferson’s death just this past weekend, police brutality is still prevalent in our society. It’s terrifying to think that people can be shot in a place as safe as their own home simply because of the color of their skin.
Whether it is legislation, a complete shift in people’s mindset, a re-education system for law enforcement or a change that is even more radical, something must be done to combat these patterns of racial violence and police brutality. Despite whatever the U.S. already has in place to combat racism, it just is not enough.
Anika Veeraraghav is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.