Commentary: The face of a killer

Savali: White woman’s fear wins, but don’t ever forget this Is the face of a killer

Kirsten West Savali, The Root | 5/18/2017, 12:24 p.m.
Savali: White Woman’s fear wins, but don’t ever forget this Is the face of a killer.
Betty Shelby (Tulsa, Okla., County Jail)

Kirsten West Savali is an associate editor at The Root.

Kirsten West Savali is an associate editor at The Root.

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 why I chose to feature a photo of Shelby in uniform and not her smug mugshot. 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 like 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.