Ma’Khia Bryant – Say Her Name
On April 20, 2021, 20 minutes before the Derek Chauvin verdict was read (guilty on all 3 counts), police officers in Columbus, Ohio shot and killed a 16-year-old black girl, Ma’Khia Bryant. Bryant had called the police herself because two other girls were physically assaulting her with a knife. Bryant was in foster care and in the custody of Children’s Services. The day of victory for a white officer finally being held accountable for killing a black man was tempered by another execution of a black life by police.
At about the same time yesterday I started receiving text messages from my husband about our 12-year-old son. His friend, who he rides the bus with and walks home with every day, has been being bullied for the last few weeks by two boys in our neighborhood. They have been calling him ethnic and gender slurs and finally the friend couldn’t take it anymore. He had given my son his cell phone to record the boys taunting him. The friend stood up for himself and the boys started physically assaulting him. The fight stopped when one of our neighbors called the police and the bullies ran home. The officers had my son fill out a witness statement and my husband, who works from home because of COVID-19, was able to stand with him and give support to his friend and his friend’s guardians. Much like Bryant, this friend has lived a hard life and does not live with his biological parents.
When I got home from work I had a discussion with my son about white privilege. At no time did I as a mother worry that the police were going to roll up on the scene where the fight occurred and murder my white son. My son is the exact same age as Tamir Rice when he was shot and killed by police. I told him about Ma’Khia and as a foster child maybe her life hadn’t been that much different than his friend’s. They’ve both suffered losses in their biological families that led them to not being in the custody of their parents.
One thing I know for sure is that 16-year-old girls defending themselves against knife attacks don’t deserve to be murdered by the very people they called for help. I hope in the coming days we learn more about Ma’Khia’s life and not just about the horrific way in which it ended. “A woman who said she was Bryant’s aunt expressed great anger at the scene, saying her niece was a loving person who didn’t deserve to die ‘like a dog in the street.'” a news outlet reported.
I hope my fellow white people are sitting with this today and contemplating why they are not afraid of their children being killed “like a dog in the street” when they encounter the police. If black parents are having to instruct their children how not to get killed, we white parents should at least clear the low bar of talking to our children about racism, white supremacy, and white privilege.
As the apostle President Dallin H. Oaks said in a talk back in October 2020 – Black Lives Matter.