Two weeks ago, Botham Jean, a 26-year-old businessman, was murdered in his own Dallas home by an off-duty police officer named Amber Guyger. Read that sentence again. We’ve seen this all before, of course: innocent Black men and women murdered by police. And we’ve seen what comes next: the victims – the murdered – posthumously standing trial for their own lives.
On Thursday the Dallas police released the details of a search warrant in which they found two fired cartridge casings, one laptop computer, one black backpack with police equipment and paperwork, one insulated lunch box, one black ballistic vest with “police” markings, 10.4 grams of marijuana in ziplock bags, one metal marijuana grinder, two RFID keys and two used packages of medical aid marijuana.
Dallas’ Fox affiliate ran with the headline, “DEVELOPING: Search warrant: Marijuana found in Botham Jean’s apartment after deadly shooting.” The purpose was clear: to criminalize an innocent Black man days after he was murdered. This is how the media aids in upholding racist violence by using dog whistles to justify Black death.
This is how you lynch a dead Black man.
Here’s how lynchings have worked in America: Black men and women – who have made up three-fourths of all lynchings victims in America – would get accused of some crime he or she most likely didn’t commit. A mob would grab this person and publicly take his or her life. All for the cruel enjoyment of the white supremacist gaze. The crimes these Black people were accused of were immaterial and irrelevant to the end goal of murdering Black folks for white America’s consumption.
While lynchings had traditionally used trumped-up crimes to justify subsequent murders, Botham Jean, and those like him, face bogus crimes to justify their murders after the fact. Remember how the New York Times said that Michael Brown was “no angel” after he was murdered, citing his heinous crimes of … stealing cigars, drinking and cursing in rap songs. After Trayvon Martin was killed, social media was flooded with images of a scowling teenager who “looked” threatening enough to be justifiably killed. It’s clear that Fox 4’s decision this week to run a story about marijuana in Jean’s apartment – even if we don’t know who it belongs to – was a means to the end of tainting any semblance of his innocence.
I don’t know what will happen to Amber Guyger, though I have tons of historical evidence to suggest she will go free. And that’s a fight that we as a society will have to deal with through radically changing the way this country has functioned for centuries. But what we can control right now – right at this very instant – is what happens to Botham Jean after his death. And what we are not going to allow is for this country to continue to put him on trial for his own murder. To lynch a dead black man. We’ve seen that too many times.
The only response is to combat these trials of innocent dead black bodies is with a loud repetition of the truth. So here it is:
Botham Jean was an innocent man.
Botham Jean never deserved to die.
Botham Jean was murdered.
Botham Jean should have the right to go into his own home without being murdered, especially by a cop.
Botham Jean would still be alive today if a police officer did not murder him in cold blood in his own home.
Yell these facts to drown out bogus marijuana stories and whatever twisted, fictional narratives come out to destroy that Black man’s already-stolen life. Because, sadly, it probably won’t end with a leaked marijuana headline.