I remember when the story broke, that a Black man had been murdered in his home by a white cop.
For months it stayed in the back of my mind a man murdered in his own home and it being called everything but murder. And this past week came the trial, as a Black American I keep my expectations low when it comes to “justice” for slain Black folks at the hands of cops–we have seen time and time again how whiteness and the badge legalize the murder of Black and Brown bodies.
And then came the ruling–guilty on a murder charge. But before we got there the coverage was of a crying white woman. Her sobbing, her apologizing to everyone and no one, and the articles of sympathy.
And yes, we got a guilty verdict but we also got the erasure of an innocent man murdered. Articles this week mention her name, bold and leading and he is reduced to “Black neighbor”. Botham Jean was sitting in his apartment when he was murdered and yet he can not be the center of his own story it must be the white woman with tears in her eyes.
Not his crying mother and family who were not told that footage of his last moments would be played in court. Not coverage that the trial began on what would have been his birthday week. No, we are given her name and he is just “Black neighbor”.
I wonder who sits in editing rooms and creates headlines? Who looked at this story and erased him, Botham Jean? Did they mean to? Probably not and that is where the problem lies. It is so deeply ingrained in our society to erase the victims of police brutality and white supremacy that when it is done no one notices, but for us. We notice. We notice how different the articles read when his name is not mentioned until after the lead when his mother is nowhere in the article.
When we see more pictures of her face wet with tears than of his face smiling, full of life.
Today the sentencing was handed down, ten years. For murder. And that is supposed to feel like justice, and even this small victory is overshadowed by the weight of anti-blackness and how we can never find the time to mourn our dead because we must also avenge them.
#Black lives matter
Rest in power Botham Jean.