As the guilty verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd, 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant was fatally shot by the Columbus, Ohio police. In a moment that should have been a celebration of accountability served in George Floyd’s murder, it instead was another reminder of the stark reality of police brutality and racism within the US.
Ma’khia Bryant was a child, yet that didn’t matter to the Columbus, Ohio police who saw her merely as a threat rather than the human being that she was. Ma’khia Bryant rang the police for help after she feared for her life following an attack by two women within her foster home. Ma’khia grabbed a knife in order to defend herself, and when the police arrived she was seen holding the knife. Instead of attempting to deescalate the situation, the police officer who arrived on the scene fatally shot Ma’khia four times as soon as he got out of his vehicle. There are some people who are attempting to defend the police officers’ actions stating this was an appropriate use of deadly force, yet for numerous reasons, this was most definitely not the case. Ma’khia Bryant was a child, and we are told to believe that a grown man who has been taught to deescalate situations such as this was not able to disarm a young girl, who was attempting to protect herself. In countries across the world where Officers don’t use guns, situations like this are de-escalated without the need to fatally shoot someone. I ask why he didn’t use his taser? Or attempt any other options? The officer’s first response was: shoot to kill. So often in cases of police brutality against Black people, the narrative is shifted. The narrative suggests that the police don’t have a choice but to shoot, and yet white males who commit mass shootings with AK-47 are easily arrested and given food and drink. The double standard is clear, and yet some people are choosing to ignore these facts. It is also important to note in Ma’khia Bryant’s case that Ohio has a ‘stand your ground’ law, which means she had every right to have a weapon in self-defence, but again, this is being removed from the narrative. She was a scared young girl, who feared for her life.
The reaction surrounding her death is a result of the adultification* placed upon Black children, particularly Black girls. In a 2017 report from Georgetown University, it was revealed that Black girls are likely to receive harsher punishment for their crimes, due to their adultification at a young age. Breonna Taylor is another example of how Black women who are murdered by the police are often demonised for such acts. Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her OWN home for no reason, and yet some people still attempt to justify her death. Ma’khia Bryant was just 16 years old, and yet the discourse surrounding her death is being viewed as though she was an adult, not that it would have mattered if she was. Ma’khia Bryant should be at home right now, not the topic of some conversation on whether her death was justified.
The starkness of Ma’khia Bryant’s death during the verdict in George Floyd’s murder reinforces police brutality as the plague that it truly is. Police officers should not be judge, jury and executioner and yet the system they operate in has allowed them to act as such, and the systemic racism of these institutions means that Black people are disproportionally the targets. Derek Chauvin being charged with murder can never be true justice, with Black people still dying every day due to police brutality. One guilty verdict does not erase centuries of systemic racism, Ma’khia Bryant and so many others are proof of this. Ma’khia Bryant was 16 years old, and however, people may twist the narrative she was a child who was killed because the system allows it. SAY HER NAME!!!
How to help:
Petition – https://www.change.org/p/columbus-police-department-justice-for-ma-khia-bryant?recruiter=325228968&recruited_by_id=78b72530-1835-11e5-908e-ad4465c044d0
Black Lives Matter Website – https://blacklivesmatter.com/
*Adultification bias is a form of racial prejudice where children of minority groups, such as African American girls, are treated as being more mature than they actually are by a reasonable social standard of development.
Cover Image Credit: Tom Parker