Blaming Daunte Wright On Non-Compliance Grounds Ignores The Tragic History Of Police Brutality Against Black And Brown People
Daunte Wright was told, just like all Black Americans are told, that his life simply did not matter.
April 15, 2021 at 7:36 pm
Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
I keep seeing the same tired refrain make its rounds on social media: “If Daunte would have just complied, then he would likely be alive today.”
This tired argument becomes more pernicious, however, when the head of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA), the largest municipal association representing rank and file police officers in Minnesota, endorses it.
Aside from its overuse by adherents, this argument is also logically flawed. Put differently, the argument’s conclusion does not follow from the premises. If compliance were all that was needed to avoid being suffocated to death by police, then George Floyd should be alive today. If compliance were all that was needed to avoid having your spinal cord completely, and fatally, severed by police, then Freddie Gray should be alive today. If compliance were all that was needed to avoid being hanged to death while in police custody, then Sandra Bland should still be alive today.
We know our history. Black people know that compliance is often not enough to save us, and we carry this painful knowledge with us each time we cross paths with the police. During his 20-year life, Daunte Wright learned this history. Perhaps more centrally, Daunte Wright identified what this history was telling him. This history was telling him that his life was of no consequence. Daunte Wright was told, just like all Black Americans are told, that his life simply did not matter.
Daunte Wright was told that his life didn’t matter as a six-year-old, when 23-year-old Sean Bell was shot and killed by police on the morning of his wedding day. He was told again at the age of 13, when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police as he played in the park. He was told again at the age of 15, when Philando Castille — who complied with all of his responding officer’s orders – was shot and killed by police in front of his significant other and four-year-old daughter.
During his 20-year life, Daunte Wright was told thousands of times just how quickly his life could end for virtually any reason.
It would not matter if he was sleeping in bed.
It would not matter if he went out for a jog.
It would not matter if he was relaxing at home.
For his entire 20-year life, Daunte Wright was told that he was expendable no matter what he did, or how well he “complied.”
Instead of conceding to what may be reasonably viewed as certain death, Daunte Wright fought for his life by fleeing. Daunte Wright’s life was still ripped from his body by police. Daunte Wright’s life mattered. His life so deeply mattered. His life mattered to his family. His life mattered to his friends. His life mattered to his infant son. His life mattered to him.
Daunte Wright’s life mattered just like the lives of Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade mattered.
Daunte Wright’s life mattered just like the lives of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Elijah McClain mattered.
Their lives mattered, and they still matter.
Our lives matter.