Amber Guyger Sentenced To 10 Years, Multiple Hugs
Amber Guyger's defense team might've preferred her trial was held in 1992 Simi Valley, but instead the now convicted murderer was at the mercy of a non-white judge and predominately minority jury. As a result, she was treated fairly. She didn't pull a Zimmerman and escape punishment for killing Botham Jean, but her sentencing was generous. The prosecution asked for no less than 28 years -- a poetic reminder that Jean would've turned 28 this week -- but the jury gave her ten (or a "dime" if you watch a lot of "Law & Order").
I'm not that upset about the sentence. She'll serve at least five years of serious time. The former police officer is also permanently a felon. She can never return to her normal life. She also seemed like the type of cop who held a reductive view of the world: There were "good guys" and "bad guys." She's now one of the bad guys.
I also don't mind that 18-year-old Brandt Jean forgave his brother's killer. That's his business. I'm the petty AF atheist of my Southern black family. Like Barnabas Collins, I am neither good nor gentle: I do not forgive. I'm sure as hell not hugging anyone, murderer or no. But Brandt reminds me of the kind, spiritual, forgiving people I knew growing up. I just wish that all the white people praising his "grace" would remember Brandt Jean whenever they encounter another young black man they don't know. Maybe they wouldn't instinctively cross the street or clutch their purses. Maybe they'd think he's just offering a hug gift-wrapped from Jesus and not trying to rob them ... maybe.
Amber Guyger didn't think much of black people even before she killed one. During sentencing, the prosecution introduced text messages from Guyger that revealed she was a racist asshole. She complained about working the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in 2015.
A person in the [text message] chain asked of the parade, "When does this end lol."
Guyger replied, "When MLK is dead...oh wait..."
Mocking the death of Dr. King is the action of someone who never imagines black people might decide her fate. Guyger also criticized the work ethic of black officers in a text exchange with her married fuck buddy, Martin Rivera.
"Damn I was at this area with 5 different black officers !!! Not racists but damn," Rivera wrote.
"Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows," Guyger replied.
A few days before she killed Botham Jean, Guyger was offered a German shepherd but was warned the dog "may be racist." I'm not crazy about dogs, but I resent this ongoing slander of them. Dogs aren't racist. People who joke about this, however, are usually racist.
"I wish I could have one," Guyger responded. "But not in this apartment :( smaller than my old one." She added seconds later, "It's okay, I'm the same."
Wow, that's hilarious. While I won't judge Brandt Jean for hugging Guyger, I will judge the judge. Tammy Kemp also embraced Guyger (note: I'd consider this worse than jail -- "STOP TOUCHING ME AND JUST SEND ME TO PRISON!"). She even gave her a Bible as a parting gift and prayed with her.
"You haven't done so much that you can't be forgiven," the judge told Guyger, according to WFAA. "You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters."
Lady, you're a judge not a priest. Even a priest would ask for a dozen Hail Marys. Guyger never once accepted responsibility for her actions. Accountability was thrust upon her. Look, Guyger's not going to white girl rehab. She's going to prison and she's likely to leave more racist than she already was, which is hella. Don't let the Shawshank Redemption fool you. A lady Morgan Freeman isn't going to befriend Guyger. She'll need protection. Texas is notorious for its white supremacist prison gangs, and the Aryan Circle is so progressive it even allows women to join. The countdown to Guyger shaving her head begins now.
The fetishization of black forgiveness is problematic. I noticed it when the family of the Charleston shooting victims forgave Dylann Roof. Everyone was so moved. But the same year, a white politician's family posed with guns in their Christmas card photo. They are probably not forgiving people. Don't expect a hug if you murder one of their relatives.
Conservatives had nothing to say about Botham Jean's senseless killing, but they crawled out of Donald Trump's sphincter long enough to celebrate the spirit of grace and forgiveness when extended to a young white woman.
It's not a "tragedy." An anvil didn't fall on Botham Jean. He was murdered, and the jury agreed. Cruz publicly attacked Senate opponent Beto O'Rourke for condemning the injustice of Jean's death and suggesting Guyger should lose her job.
Nikki Haley's tweet was even worse than Cruz's.
I'm sick of the "no winners" argument. It's not "sad all around" when someone is punished for breaking the law. When it comes to white people, conservatives act like common hippies. The obsessive belief in white innocence is an ongoing threat to black people. It justifies our own murders and brainwashes us into loving people who hate us. It's the engine that keeps white supremacy running. You'll notice that the hugs heard around the nation have drowned out the stories about Guyger's racist texts and the police culture that tolerated them. If a Muslim officer killed a Jewish woman and the prosecution dropped anti-Semitic texts during sentencing, few people would believe the officer was worthy of redemption. If any of these conservatives genuinely believed in "grace" and "forgiveness," our criminal justice system would look entirely different. We wouldn't lead the world in mass incarceration. Conservatives consider Amber Guyger the exception, but I consider her the rule. She's just another criminal.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).