Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman, was shot and killed in her home by Aaron Dean, a white police officer, after her neighbor requested a wellness check.
Jefferson held a biology/pre-med degree from Xavier University, with hopes of one day attending medical school. She is remembered as a dedicated aunt and caring woman.
Her death comes at a sensitive time, just days after the Amber Guyger trial verdict made headlines all over the news. Under similar circumstances, Botham Jean, a black man, was shot and killed in his home by Guyger, a white police officer.
Both stories shed light of an unresolved yet hotly debated issue: police killings. Black people are more likely to be killed by police officers than white people.
Movements like #BlackLivesMatter and the later more inclusive #SayHerName are built on the foundation of battling excessive and biased violence against black people by authority.
Yet still, movements such as #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter opt to counteract, often glossing over misconduct and elevating police officers to godlike status.
In America, so much of the conversation is clouded by freedom. We are made to believe corruption only exists outside of our borders. Flooded with messages and images of negativity in areas such as the Middle East, Africa and South America, all energy is focused on outside forces, depleting any chance of self-reflection. Many lack the language to properly confront wrongdoing on the domestic front. Those who do are shamed, constantly reminded that, “It could be worse in another country.” Could it not be better here?
Until we learn America is not an invincible entity, and that listening to the concerns of minorities is not an optional activity, innocent lives like Jefferson’s will be lost with little consequence as a result.
For UTA, this especially remains an in-house topic, with both Guyger and Dean being alumni. Our campus faculty and student body must be mindful of the culture we create, and remember the messages we don’t send are as important as the ones that we do. If not, we run the risk of becoming like many other institutions: diverse in demographics but not in values.
I hurt for Jefferson’s nephew, an 8-year-old boy who witnessed his aunt being shot moments after playing video games with her. He now joins the many black children who have to face reality too soon and grow up far before reaching adulthood.
The lesson he’ll learn: you can stay out of trouble, speak properly, get an education and keep your pants pulled up — injustice doesn’t care. There are no outliers in inequality.
The Fort Worth Police Department has charged Aaron Dean with murder. Sadly, this is America, a country with a long legacy of white supremacy and corresponding unaccountability. In fact, the department already disproportionately arrests black inhabitants, making up 18% of the population but 40% of arrests in 2017. It’s easy to become untrusting of the same institutions expected to facilitate fairness.
True justice will be served the day there is never a story like Jefferson’s again. Black people should not live their lives mourning the loss of dignity, humanity and respect.
My hope is that the American justice system simply proves me wrong. That Aaron Dean be treated like a killer. That minor unrelated actions of Jefferson don’t become justification for her stolen life. Too regularly in situations like these the verdict is served before the case begins. Her story cannot be one that simply remains another example of inequality.