Minutes before Derek Chauvin was finally convicted for murdering George Floyd, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was killed by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio. This barrage of killings of young Black people just as the justice system congratulates itself on holding police accountable is a horror. Daunté Wright, Adam Toledo, and now Ma’Khia Bryant.
There has been a debate on whether the officer was justified in shooting Bryant, as she is said to have held a knife and threatened another young woman. This was undoubtedly a serious situation, but kill her?
This debate doesn’t address the underlying social question behind all the police killings in our society: What is the role of police and why are they licensed to kill? Why do they charge into poor communities, guns blazing? From the outset, the police were created to control and subdue enslaved and working-class people, and their actions today reveal that this is what they are still trained for.
Black lives matter! The rallying cry of the movement against racist cop violence has mobilized millions. The vast majority of victims of police murder are also in the working class, and the same goes for the huge prison population. In itself, the fact that poverty exists in a society with such abundance is the reason for the continued existence of a police force: how else could such extraordinary inequality be maintained except by violence?
This young woman should have had the right to live, and any police intervention in this incident should have respected her humanity. We shouldn’t be dragged into any debate that justifies the cop’s right to shoot to kill. The cops are a force created to maintain a brutal system that normalizes poverty and criminalizes poor and Black people.