It's been a while since I've posted and for several days, I've been trying to decide what I would write as my first blog post in months. Would I talk about Donald Trump's latest meltdown as possible impeachment looms before him? Would I talk about the pastor who opined that an impeachment of Donald Trump would lead to a "Civil War-type fracture" in this country- a sentiment that Donald Trump later shared in a retweet? Either would have been an interesting dive, especially in this surreal time we are living in- but there was one story that seemed more surreal than the others. Amber Guyger, the Dallas cop who entered the apartment of an unarmed man named Botham Jean and shot him to death, was convicted this week. She only received a ten year sentence.
When Guyger's trial started, I didn't have high hopes for a stiff sentence or even a conviction- after all, there have been many unarmed people shot to death and it's rare that the officers involved in the shootings receive jail time. Sometimes they lose their jobs- sometimes they take administrative leave and then go right back to work, but it's not often they see the inside of a jail cell. Citizens might protest for a while, either in the streets or in the confines of a Tweet, but then everyone moves on. Until the next one.
How can someone, especially someone with a badge and the directive to "protect and serve", shoot a man to death in cold blood? Some might call it racism- Guyger had a few questionable text messages- one that mocked Martin Luther King, Jr. and one in which she insinuated that she was a racist. Some might agree with Guyger that the shooting was just a terrible mistake- one that Guyger would take back if she could. We can only guess at Guyger's state of mind. What we know for sure is that Guyger shot an unarmed Botham Jean in his own home using the excuse that she thought he was an intruder in HER apartment, and that a jury decided she only deserved a ten year sentence for ending a man's life.
Ten years might appease some people- at least Guyger received some sort of prison sentence, some people argue- but as many have pointed out, one could receive a harsher sentence for much less gruesome crimes. Also, it is likely that what started out as a ten year sentence will later be reduced to even fewer years. When you consider what the object of a prison sentence normally is (one would suppose that it's to reform bad behavior as well as serve as a warning to others to avoid engaging in the same behavior) does a 10 year sentence for murdering someone achieve that? Doesn't it further demonstrate that some people for whatever reason: their skin color, their privilege, possession of a badge, celebrity, personal connections, etc. are simply held to a different standard than everyone else?
What is a life worth? Botham Jean was a son, a brother, a human being. His life had value. The sentence that was passed down in court this week made the statement that a human life is worth a ten year or less sentence. Is it likely that, if the roles were reversed, that Botham Jean would have gotten a ten year sentence for walking into Guyger's house and shooting her to death? Would his tears or statements of regret move everyone to compassion? Would a judge rush to hug and forgive him? These are questions that we as a society have to ask ourselves- why are some people treated differently under the law than others? Who do we have to be for our lives to matter? For justice to be served? Who do we have to be?