Jira: Brandt Jean offered us a teaching moment; we should take notes


Drumguy8800 at the English language Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Amber Guyger had been an officer at the Dallas Police Department for 5 years.

Violet Jira, Opinion Editor

Amber Guyger, a police officer who was off-duty, walked into Botham Jean’s apartment and shot him. This, we know, is fact. Nevertheless, the gunshot echoed questions for months to come: did she genuinely believe she had happened upon a criminal in her own home or did she shoot him in cold blood? Should Jean’s name be added to the list of unarmed black men who have been killed at the hands of white police officers?

But perhaps the question that perplexed everyone the most was why, after watching the jury convict Guyger and sentence her to 10 years in prison, Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, spoke kind words to Guyger and gave the woman who took his brother’s life a hug. 

From the beginning, this case was destined to be a source of debate and contention because of smaller issues–like allegations from Jean’s family that Guyger was given preferential treatment— to bigger picture issues–like the fact that, yet again, an unarmed black man has been killed by a white officer. Guyger claims that it was a grave mistake, and while her apartment is in fact directly a floor above Jean’s, activists argue that had she seen a white man, she wouldn’t have been so quick to shoot.  

Actuality and accusations aside, this case is a prime example of how our country is more divided and polarized now than ever before. The grey area seems to be narrowing as people shift further and further from the center in either direction–further from common ground. You’re either a Republican or a Democrat. You’re either black or white. You like either Coke or Pepsi.

So, when Brandt Jean took the witness stand to address Guyger, saying, “I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I love you just like anyone else and I’m not going to hope you rot and die,” and proceeded to step off the witness stand and give Guyger a hug, people were shocked. 

Sighs of disappointment over what some believed to be a short sentence and cheers of joy at the fact that Guyger was sentenced at all ceased, and the room fell completely silent. The world watched as Brandt Jean, one of few in this world who I would consider truly justified in their hatred, embraced his brother’s killer. Media described the moment as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘stunning’.

Not everyone was in favor of Jean’s actions though. In the days after the event, rapper Snoop Dogg posted an un-captioned Instagram photo depicting the families of victims fighting bailiffs in an attempt to harm defendants, which read ‘This is how my family better act if ANYTHING happens to me.’

While not in direct condemnation of Brandt Jean’s actions, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)  Reverend Cornell William Brooks tweeted a statement calling the usage of the willingness of black people to forgive to further victimize black people sinful. 

Whether or not you believe Amber Guyger shot Botham Jean intentionally, and regardless of whether or not you agree with Brandt Jean’s actions in the courtroom, we should take the statement he was attempting for what it is: a chance for us to evaluate the state we’re in as a country, a chance for us to ask ourselves why his simple gesture of kindness was so shocking in the first place.