The Hug: Praised And Condemned Nationwide.
Former Police Officer, Amber Guyger. Her conviction and sentencing has resounded quite loudly throughout not only the national news sources, but also the American zeitgeist. The events that have unfolded in this high profile murder case should, in my view, set the gold standard for all such cases moving forward - but not for the reasons you might think. First, a brief paragraph, in case you're unfamiliar with this news story.
Amber Guyger, 31, is a white woman who was convicted for shooting and killing her unarmed black neighbor, Accountant Botham Jean, 26, while he was in his own apartment, partially dressed, and posing no threat to anyone. She alleges that she unknowingly entered his apartment, incorrectly assuming it was her own. After coming home in the evening from her shift as a Dallas, Texas police officer, tired and distracted, Ms Guyger says she went to the wrong floor of their apartment complex, and entered through Jean's unlocked door. There, in the dimly lit apartment, she saw a large man moving toward her, and in fear for her life, she fired her service weapon, killing Botham Jean. There are more details, but that's the gist. That horrific incident occurred on September 6, 2018.
Now before we get into the hug, I'd like to call your attention to something. The amount of empathy Amber Guyger has received from the legal system during this whole ordeal has been notable, and I believe it bears mentioning. The arriving police officers upon seeing that they would be questioning a fellow officer, decided to turn off their body cameras. As I pointed out, it did take a year for the ostensibly contrite Ms Guyger to be sentenced to 10 years in prison, but that's actually the average chronology for a non-negligence murder conviction. The Dallas forensics team assigned to investigate the scene of Botham Jean's shooting were by some reports "slow moving" in their investigation, and "deliberating" in their findings. They even requested a search warrant for drugs, apparently looking for any evidence whatsoever that might grant judicial mercy, if not exoneration for Officer Guyger. Although Guyger is clearly a racially insensitive white woman (as evidenced by her text messages that made it into the court record) still, a black, female police officer stroked her blonde hair in consolation as she sobbed in open court upon hearing that she was found guilty of murder. As is customary at sentencing hearings, the family members of the deceased were allowed to speak. When Botham's brother Brandt Jean took the stand, we heard despite his quivering voice the words, "I love you," and "I forgive you." He then asked the presiding judge, Tammy Kemp, for the permission to give Amber Guyger a hug. "Please," he insisted. She consented to Brandt's unusual request, and shortly thereafter, the judge would find herself also in an emotional embrace with Guyger. Moreover (and to guarantee her safety), Guyger has been placed in solitary confinement. This is so she does not have to mingle with the general prison population, which could be hazardous. As indeed it is for all prison inmates. This is why I say this trial should set the gold standard for future trials of this kind. The compassion the system showed to this obviously guilty defendant is exemplary. To my knowledge, it is unprecedented. Frankly, I didn't even know it was possible. This also brings me to the point of this article. The reason I chose to write it.
Some of the comments I have read regarding Brandt Jean hugging his brother's killer have been understandable, yet disheartening. On the one hand, there are those who say, "Good. The shooting was a tragic accident. He has a forgiving heart." On the other hand there is one who said, "He should have snapped that b****'s neck." For me, both responses are understandable, and I'll tell you why. For an accused and convicted murderer, the kid glove treatment former officer Guyger has thus far received from the notoriously feckless judicial system is only partially the justification for indignation. You see, we live in a country where law enforcement officers have a particular history. In many states, everyone from the governor to the local trash collector believed people who looked like me were second-class citizens who didn't deserve to use the same toilet that they did. That sentimentality made it into the police forces of this nation. And when you think about it, how could it not have? White citizens who found retribution or even recreation in our torture and death were most often not punished for having taken the law (and our lives) into their own hands. At times, the police have even been complicit. Now, you would think that to bring an end to this ugly saga in American history, police academy applicants with any past affiliation whatsoever with hate groups would be automatically disqualified. According to an FBI Intelligence Assessment from 2006, the police departments of our nation have been quite well infiltrated by RWS (Racist White Supremacist) groups. These racist agents call themselves Ghost Skins, because they hide in plain sight as they create mischief, yet elude justice in the way that only the police can. The existence of Ghost Skins has been reported to Presidents W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. However, to this day, there is no such screening or disqualification for entering law enforcement. So when people of color see these cop on unarmed black people shootings, we're suspicious, to say the least. There is, however, another angle.
According to Botham's mother Allison Jean, she raised her children to be Christians. The impression I got from watching her testimony is that she herself, although a grieving mother, was a serious, believing Christian. Not just one in name only. And isn't that we always say we'd like to see? Myself, I am Jewish, but as I recall, a true follower of Jesus' teachings endeavors to emulate his life and live out the meaning of his words. Even as Jesus was still on the cross and in immense pain, he prayed, "Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do." For some churchgoers, that's a verse they just gloss over in bible class, but for followers of the Galilean Rabbi, Jesus, they resonate. Not only at the easiest of times, but even at the hardest of times. So, I thoroughly understand Brandt's forgiveness of Amber Guyger, and I can apprciate the difficulty through which it must have come. I know that's why Brandt hugged Ms Guyger. I have no doubt that, provided Jesus' dying words were accurately recorded, he would have hugged each one of his crucifiers if he could have. Not because he was weak, but because his faith was strong. So I can't agree with those who disrespect Brandt's faith. Instead of putting him down for being a "white man's coon" and whatever other epithets that are being thrown around, let's praise him for having the courage of his convictions and the fortitude of his faith, when most of us probably would not. I pray for the relief of the Botham family.
As for Amber Guyger, there is still good that can come from this blight on her young life. Let's hope and pray that she receives whatever the lesson in all of this is for herself (because one is surely there), and that she allows it to propel her forward in wonderful ways that will benefit not only her, but our society in general.