A Voice at the Table Features

A stranger in your own home

Black people and minorities are often taught how to act in public in regards to keeping their color and how others such as police officers, white people, people in power, etc. might view them. It’s already a issue when we’re told how to conduct ourselves even if we’re just walking down the street. But it becomes a bigger issue when we can’t even be in our own homes without being looked at as a threat and experiencing the possibility of being killed.

On Sept. 6, Botham Jean was in his own home, simply enjoying a bowl of ice cream on the couch, when an off-duty police officer Amber Guyger intruded into the apartment. She mistook it for her own despite obvious differences presented to her before even walking in, proceeded to enter and shot and killed Jean in a matter of seconds, mistaking a man eating ice cream on the couch as an intruder in her home. Guyger wasn’t taken into custody until three days later, and wasn’t terminated from her position until late September.  Amber Guyger was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison by the end of the trial, and most likely won’t serve the whole time due to good behavior or probation.

…it becomes a bigger issue when we can’t even be in our own homes without being looked at as a threat and experiencing the possibility of being killed.

On Oct. 13 around 2:30 in the morning, Atatiana Jefferson was in the  middle of playing Call of Duty with her 8-year-old nephew when she heard a noise outside of her house. Police had been called to her house by nearby neighbors, claiming that all of Jefferson’s doors were open to her house. Without any warning or announcement, police arrived and started  scouting around the house, which was the noise that Jefferson heard. Alarmed, Jefferson grabbed a gun from a closet and went downstairs towards the windows to look around. Little did she know, she was thinking that she was protecting herself with a weapon,  the thing that was actually going to get her killed. Officer Aaron Dean fired a shot through the window, fatally striking Jefferson in front of her nephew. Since then, Dean has been arrested for murder charges and awaits trial, which, by the way this justice system is set up, could end up having the same results as Guyger’s. And an 8-year-old boy is left scared and paranoid for the rest of his life.

So let’s not look at them or any other names such as Michael Brown or Tamir Rice as victims, but rather as a wake up call as one of the many problems with our justice system, and how dark people are viewed in America.

Black people have been seen as a disturbance in the community, neighborhood, schools and now even in their home having no contact with anyone. We shout and scream that our lives matter, but clearly in 2019, that chant still isn’t taken seriously. We’ve made some progress, but now it’s time to look at the system that was built as another form of slavery to achieve its goal by eliminating black people by killing or putting them in jail. Protesting and being an advocate are all good things and all, but we need to take better action, we need to be in the system to change the system. It’s not fair that we’ve been fighting this same fight for years now, and still barely have a microphone to speak and be heard. How many mothers, sons, fathers, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. have to be lost just for change to happen?

Atatiana Jefferson and Botham Jean are more than just hashtags with R.I.P. next to their names. They are people who had everyday lives, and people to see the next day, who were unfortunately taken away by someone who was trained to use a gun, but didn’t know how to actually use it. So let’s not look at them or any other names such as Michael Brown, or Tamir Rice, as victims, but rather as a wake up call as one of the many problems with our justice system, and how dark people are viewed in America.

We’ve made some progress, but now it’s time to look at the system that was built as another form of slavery to achieve its goal by eliminating black people by killing or putting them in jail.

To some of the people reading this, these two cases and many others should hit home, and think “This could happen to me or someone I know,” and to others that may not be able to relate or identify with these type of situations; use this article to start learning, listening, and educating yourself to be an advocate and ally.

It’s important that we study these laws and know our “rights” that are often used against black people. For example, it was legal for Atatiana Jefferson to carry a firearm in the state of Texas. It was against the law to intrude into Botham Jean’s home without request or permission. These are broken laws committed by people that are only receiving 10 years in jail, when there are people in jail longer for drug-related situations committed over 20 years ago.

There are a lot of things that are normalized today that shouldn’t be, such as President Trump barely addressing either of these tragedies, and how these cases will eventually be forgotten about until the same thing happens again and gets us mad for a little while. If the policy makers, officers, and government members see we don’t take it seriously, then they won’t either.

So don’t look at this article as someone complaining. Use this issue that you took the time to read as a way to motivate you to put your phone down and actually create change. We have the advantage of social media to spread awareness and make an impact. Instead of just retweeting, organize a rally and use social media to spread the word. Instead of Instagramming another “R.I.P.” tell the world why you’re posting it and how you feel about it to start making others talk about it.

We have to start using our phones to research, and using our voices to educate and advocate. We must move beyond the ideal of a comfortable self-focused life and answer the call to be an advocate and create change.

Najah Hendricks is a fourth-year student majoring in social work. NH871270@wcupa.edu

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