We have failed Ma’Khia Bryant.
I’m not just talking about the foster care system, or the city of Columbus, or the state of Ohio. I’m talking about us as Black people.
We failed her when we justified her killing. We failed her when we didn’t defend the senseless death of a 16-year-old teenager. We should be ashamed.
I find it ironic that not long after Black people were applauding the Derek Chauvin verdict as justice for George Floyd, some of these same people were saying the only right way to handle the situation was to kill her.
Really? Kill her? Breaking up the fight wasn’t an option? Countless teachers and school employees can tell you it is possible to break up a fight between three girls without killing one of them. They can tell you they’ve even broken up fights where a knife or knives were involved, and everyone lived. So, I’m just not buying this idea that the only way to save one Black girl was to kill another.
What we didn’t know at the time (and most people didn’t wait for this information to come out before they began vilifying Ma’Khia) but now know is the other two “girls” weren’t actually girls. They are 20 and 22. Not one time in the justification of Ma’Khia’s death did I hear one person question why two “girls” were fighting her. How is that a fair fight, and why wouldn’t she grab a weapon to protect herself? Ma’Khia was in her home, so again, why didn’t she have the right to protect herself?
Instead of being a victim or at the very least a participant in a bad decision, she’s painted as some knife-wielding maniac dead set on killing the other two “girls.” Again, there was two of them against one girl. They are considered adults since they are over 18, and they were in a physical altercation with a 16-year-old. These young women came to Ma’Khia’s home; she didn’t go to theirs looking for a fight. She still can’t get an ounce of sympathy from some of us.
As hard as it for some to believe, Ma’Khia wasn’t an adult. Her size has been used to make her seem older than she is. That’s not unusual for Black girls to be seen as older, especially Black girls in bigger bodies. Anyone who has ever dealt with a teenager knows they’re not adults — no matter how much they like to think they are — and they don’t think like adults. Research has shown our brains continue to mature and develop into the mid- to late-20s. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Pediatrics, teens are more likely to be impulsive, misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions, get into accidents, get into fights and do dangerous or risky things. They’re less likely to think before acting, consider the consequences of their actions or change the dangerous or risky behavior. So, knowing what we know about teenagers, it’s easy to see why Ma’Khia would grab a knife in this situation, and I’m getting really tired of adults acting like they’ve never heard of a teenager with a knife before. I’m also getting really tired of adults acting like the only way we can defend this child’s life was if she lived a perfect one. It’s as if all of us made all the right decisions throughout our entire lives. Why aren’t we holding the 20-year-old and 22-year-old to the same standard as Ma’Khia? Why do they deserve to live and she doesn’t? In addition, I’d like to know why the adult male in this situation didn’t break up the fight. It looks like he kicks one of the women.
Why aren’t we as Black people defending her the same way conservatives defend Kyle Rittenhouse? This boy actually walked past police with an AR-15 rifle and killed people! Conservatives screamed “self-defense” from the rooftops. The then 17-year-old traveled from his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to “protect” businesses from protesters. Rittenhouse isn’t dead. Conservatives have raised thousands of dollars for his legal fees. Why don’t Black people have that same energy for Ma’Khia? Instead of justifying her death, we should be standing up for her just as fiercely as conservatives and white people stood up for Rittenhouse and we stood up for George Floyd and the countless other Black men killed by police. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. I am.
Everyone has jumped to the conclusion that if the cop didn’t kill Ma’Khia she would’ve killed the other “girl.” We don’t know this. We do know Ma’Khia is dead. She can’t defend herself. She can’t tell us her side of the story.
Anyone who has ever been in a fight knows it’s chaotic. Did Ma’Khia even hear the police officer? If she did, did she even have time to react? And again, why is she fighting two people at once? Yet, people like Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief in Orlando, said the officer was justified because he did what he was trained to do.
That is the problem! If you know the history of policing Black people in this country, you recognize what’s wrong with Demings’ statement.
Ma’Khia didn’t deserve to die.