I’m so disheartened and yet not surprised that Dallas, Texas police officers are reporting what was allegedly found in the apartment where 26-year-old Botham Jean, who is black, lived and was killed by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on Sept. 6. The office-duty police officer, who is white, shot and killed him after thinking he was a burglar in her apartment when she mistakenly went into Jean’s apartment. CNN is reporting the items included “two fired cartridge casings, a metal marijuana grinder and 10.4 grams of marijuana. The search warrant indicates that officers went inside the apartment looking for drugs the night of Jean’s death, his mother, Allison Jean, said during a news conference Friday with her attorneys. She accused authorities of defaming her son.”
Further down in the story, it is noted that “A CNN team visited Jean’s apartment Friday, where a small memorial of flowers and a photo with his mother adorn the front door. Several books were scattered around the unit, including C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters,” which was on Jean’s bedside table. Some dishes were left in the kitchen sink, and a bowl filled with ID badges, keys and notes covered the counter.”
Honestly, I don’t care what they found “good” or “bad.” What may have been found does not explain why this police officer shot this man who was in his own apartment and minding his own business.
All of that aside, I was encouraged when I saw a Facebook post by a white Texas minister Collin Packer who acknowledged the startling racial dynamics at play in this tragedy. Jean had visited his church a few times.
And if you cannot see the entire post, here are his words below:
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of Botham Shem Jean. It was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. Botham was a man of God, a graduate of HardingUniversity, a worship leader, and a brother in Christ. We shared the same city and the same small religious tribe. He attended our church a few times.
8 days ago, Botham was murdered in his home. The shooter was not taken into custody until 3 days later. And yesterday, while I was sitting at his memorial service, those in power prepared to release the results of what often happens when African-American men are murdered: a thorough investigation into the life of a victim to criminalize him and somehow help others come to the conclusion that he, because of some flaw, “deserved” the bullet that took his life in his own home.
We don’t just murder African-American men. We murder their character. And we continue to justify systems that have continually devalued black bodies from the moment they arrived on our shores on slave ships.
I am a white minister in Dallas. My family has lived here for generations. I have benefited from so much that this city has offered me. But my experience is not the experience of everyone in Dallas.
And I refuse to be silent and complicit any longer. Botham’s Memorial Service, along with many other events over the past few years, have unstopped my ears and cleared my eyes.
In his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke words that still ring true in our day:
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…”
I want to challenge my white brothers and sisters in Christ to be willing to speak up for justice. May we be willing to stand in solidarity. May we be willing to listen without being defensive.
The voice of our brother’s blood cries out to us from the ground. May justice roll down like a river. Let us do what we must to tear down any dam constructed to block the flow of that river.
Also, in support of the Jean family, below is a positive image of Jean leading worship at Dallas West Church of Christ Church the Sunday before he was shot and killed:
May God be with the Jean family as they grieve the senseless loss of their loved oneBotham Shem Jean. Below is a Dallas News video snippet from Jean’s homegoing service last week. And here is an article about the entire homegoing service “Botham Jean ‘was the light in the dark room,’ Dallas minister says at funeral.”