A Black Man’s Past Shouldn’t Necessarily Play Role in Coverage of His Death
As a descendant of the Acadiana area of Louisiana, I grew up watching KATC news at my grandmother’s house in Abbeville, La. and reading The Advocate newspaper while studying at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.
Although the paper does not come up to par with the New York Times, obviously, The Advocate has always been a respected paper throughout the state of Louisiana. Citizens rely on it for impartial information about the surrounding community and for that the reporters always had my ultimate respect.
However, the coverage of the death of Dejuan Guillory on July 6 made me lose a little respect for The Advocate.
According to The Acadiana Advocate, “A 27-year-old Mamou [La.] man died early Wednesday in an officer-involved shooting involving an Evangeline Parish sheriff’s deputy, according to Louisiana State Police…
“The deputy had been responding to an attempted burglary in the area of Chad Lane when he encountered Dejuan Guillory…During an ensuing altercation between Guillory and the deputy, Guillory was shot…
“KATC-TV is reporting that Guillory had been arrested in 2015, accused of stealing an ATM with a backhoe from Citizen’s Bank in Mamou and firing a gun at a responding deputy’s patrol car. At the time, police said they found 12 shell casings shot from an AR 15 assault rifle near the backhoe…
“In December 2016 he entered a no contest plea to simple criminal damage to property and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with five years suspended. He was to serve five years probation following his sentence. The remaining charges were dismissed.”
Unfortunately, when a Black man dies at the hands of police or a regular citizen like George Zimmerman, their past is often brought up by many in mainstream media as a way to apparently justify his death.
Undoubtedly, Guillory’s past is checkered and should be criticized, but his past criminal actions do not necessarily have anything to do with his fatal encounter with the police officer.
In the death of Dejuan Guillory, the only surviving witness, his girlfriend, has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer for simply jumping on the back of the officer in defense of her dying boyfriend.
Nothing bad about the officer’s past was widely reported, but Guillory’s past criminal actions and his girlfriend coming to his defense were widely reported.
If one discredits the victim and discredits the only witness, the officer will get credit for simply doing his job even if he was in the wrong.
Although Dejuan Guillory was reportedly unarmed and obeying the officer’s commands to lay on the ground after the initial altercation, the officer still fatally shot him.
Guillory’s past encounters will no doubt be used to say that the officer feared for his life even though the officer was probably not aware of Guillory’s past because he did not even have his I.D. on him to identify himself as someone with a criminal record.
But using Guillory’s past to negatively stereotype him is what America has done to Black men for centuries.
Those stereotypes led to bias laws, mass incarceration and mass lynching.
Segregation, disenfranchisement and mass incarcerations came about because law enforcement officials, politicians and the media of the day promoted negative stereotypes of Black men.
Many Black men were lynched because of the stereotype of Black men being violent and sexually abusive to White women.
In 2o17, those lynching just occur without the rope in most cases.
In defense of The Advocate, their coverage of Guillory is almost identical to other mainstream media coverage of Black men.
However, the headline in The Advocate should have sounded something like this:
Our brother deceased allegedly at the hands of a police officer on July 6 in Mamou, La.
To the Black community and his family, Guillory, 27, was the definition of a dad and an upstanding human being who had changed his life.
Unfortunately to the officer who killed Guillory, he must have been a threat to his life even though Guillory was laying face down on the ground and unarmed when the officer unloaded bullets into his back.
No one has ever said that all Black men are perfect.
Like everyone else, no Black man is perfect.
But stereotypes or past indiscretions should not be justification to kill Black men with impunity.
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