As previously reported by The Root, a jury of Betty Shelby’s peers deliberated for nine hours Wednesday before finding the Tulsa, Okla., police officer not guilty of manslaughter in the Sept. 16, 2016, fatal shooting of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher.
Though there have been reports of tears, it ultimately didn’t matter, to them, that Terence Crutcher was unarmed.
It didn’t matter, to them, that Terence Crutcher—brother, son, father of four—did not pose any threat to anyone when Officer Tyler Turnbough used a Taser on him and Shelby gunned him down in the middle of a Tulsa street.
Terence Crutcher was a large black man, and Betty Shelby is a white woman. That is what ultimately mattered, to them.
After all, Shelby said she had “never been so scared in her life.” Black men throughout history have been lynched for less.
Shelby even went so far as to tell the jury Monday, “Crutcher’s death is his fault.” What’s one dead black man to a white woman’s inhumane pronouncement?
There is a reason I chose to feature a photo of Shelby in uniform and not her smug mug shot. That uniform gave her the license to play victim and God at the same time. Betty Shelby, with her white skin and bright smile, wearing that shiny badge, is a killer. But a jury of her peers allowed her to step over Terence Crutcher’s dead body to freedom.
She was considered a victim, even though Crutcher was the one walking away with his hands up in plain sight. She was considered a victim, even with a reported history of excessive force that was determined to be “unfounded,” just as a jury found her not guilty in Crutcher’s death.
All she did was go to work, as always. All she did was do her job, as always. How dare the big black man, the “bad dude,” frighten her into killing him? How dare he?
How dare we navigate the world as imperfect human beings?
How dare we speak too loudly or not loud enough?
How dare we have our hands up?
How dare we have our hands down?
How dare we walk away?
How dare we walk forward?
How dare we be?
How dare we forget that to cowardly white killers—those who act on it and those who don’t—we will always be scary niggers allowed to breathe their air on borrowed time.
Though police violence suddenly became a bellwether feminist issue for many white women when there existed the slightest chance that Shelby could be facing some semblance of punishment—because how dare white men get away with gunning down black people while white women are penalized?—Shelby’s access to womanhood makes her no less a killer. If there is a segregated intersection to be discussed here, let it be that white women are wholly capable of the same state-sponsored violence as white men.
Let it be that they stand ready, willing and able, just like their male partners in crime, to employ white fear of black bodies as just cause.
Make no mistake: Shelby’s peers found her not guilty of manslaughter, but there will forever be blood on her trembling hands.
May she never in her miserable life find a moment’s peace.