Point of View Columns

Black Lives and the Scales of Justice

On this day, February 18, 2022, America once more proved that, while Black lives matter, white lives matter more. The background is a sad replay of the horrific murder of yet another Black person in America- this time at the hands of the police.

On April 11, 2021, Daunte Martin – a 20-year old Black man who was a resident of a Minneapolis suburb, was stopped by the police for a traffic violation. The violation? An air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror.

Mr. Martin was concerned about an outstanding warrant on another (nonviolent matter) and for whatever reason a 20-year old was thinking, he tried to escape the police officers and was shot by one Officer Kimberly Potter, who claimed that she thought that she was using her taser when she shot and killed him with her pistol.

We can start with a basic look at the facts. Why on Earth anyone is stopped by the police for an air freshener on the rear view mirror is more than a mystery. Why Mr. Martin needed to be detained for a non-violent offense is another mystery.

But the true mystery is how/why Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force could possibly confuse her pistol for a taser? It is virtually impossible to confuse a bright yellow plastic gun (that looks more like a water pistol) with a lethal police pistol.

And the further mystery is that even if Mr. Wright had gotten in his car and driven away, how far was he going to go before being apprehended for these non-violent offenses.

We know of the racial disparity in penal sentencing in America. Black defendants are almost always going to be sentenced to serve more time in prison than their white counterparts – for the same offense.

In this case there was no allegation that Ms. Potter had some pre-meditated, malicious, intent to kill Mr. Martin. But she was certainly reckless to confuse a plastic Taser with a police pistol.

Ms. Wright was duly convicted of manslaughter for her reckless killing of Mr. Martin. And then………………. the judge sentenced Ms. Wright 2 years in prison (since she had been incarcerated for four months, the actual sentence is sixteen months) although most experts believe that a 6-8-year sentence would be appropriate.

However, it should be noted that Ms. Potter is a white woman and Mr. Martin was a Black man.

And once more it is clear that, while Black Lives Matter, white lives still matter more.

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2 thoughts on “Black Lives and the Scales of Justice

  1. I think at some point, regardless of how eloquently we state the obvious we should somehow move towards a solution.
    I believe that a person such as yourself with your background and education certainly has the qualification to start developing an action plan to address the inequities that exist not only in the judicial system but in every institution in America.
    I read your column and I know that you are concerned however my suggestion would be that persons like yourself should organize/start a, “Think tank”, to develop a omprehensive strategy for addressing these inequities.

  2. It is an exhausting life. We tell our kids, generation after generation, “you will have to work twice as hard, don’t be late, volunteer, serve and don’t for a moment feel sorry for yourself, hold your head high, don’t fight back, you will be punished, but never give up.” I am so proud of us! I cannot believe so many of us continue to make it under these conditions! The conversation has to continue……’no Black life or any life, is worth an air freshener’. Would we have killed a dog over an air freshener? No, that would have been considered a horrible crime!

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