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April 22, 2021

The Racial Politics on Daunte Wright’s Case

By Mitzi Salgado

Photo by Vanity Fair

It was no Accident


Let’s face it, Daunte Wright’s death is no accident. The fact that the police officer who shot him, Kim Porter, said she accidentally shot Wright is inexcusable. Because so many black and brown people have been killed because of law enforcement, it is possible to believe that one more life owed to the police is now an accident? No.

It’s such an inexcusable argument to make. But saying that one “accidentally” shot someone speaks volumes of just how severe Porter took Wright’s life; that is precisely why this argument is so insulting to people of color. The word “accident” should only be used for trivial actions… One accidentally forgets to shut off the oven or accidentally slips and falls. But this is a whole new type of “accident.” To claim innocence for taking someone else’s life is to reduce your actions to mere chance.

 It just doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately, Porter’s accidental claim of Daunte Wright’s case reminds us of the point people keep missing when it comes to racism.

Intentions don’t justify impact.

If you have good intentions when you do something, but there are unintentional consequences for your actions, then you’re responsible for those consequences you caused. In other words, if Porter’s intentions weren’t to shoot Wright, but she did, then she’s responsible for not only having shot Wright but having killed him.

Somehow, this basic philosophical value can’t stick with people. Too often, people of color hear racist comments made at them, and when the person who makes these comments gets called out, a typical response is, “I didn’t mean it like that,” or “you misunderstand my intentions.” The problem is that the person is justifying his words with his intentions rather than holding truth to what he said.

Objectively speaking, the legal system is supposed to operate on the fundamental philosophy that intentions do not equal nor supersede impact, and when the legal system is used fairly, a police officer is adequately charged within a reasonable timeframe and without reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. Sadly, it took over a year to convict Derek Chauvin for second-degree murder. Only nearly a year after nationwide protests, national news coverages of the case, and even President Biden’s pressure on the city of Minneapolis to make justice for George Floyd, did we finally see an objective due process for Derek Chauvin.

The fact that it only took 24 hours to charge Kim Porter with second-degree murder is a unique scenario.

Let’s not assume that we ought to thank the legal system for how it has been used this past week. The legal system is just a tool. The problem is that federal and state authorities have misused the legal system in favor of police rather than holding police accountable for killing civilians of color. In some cases, it’s not so much the legal system as the people who manipulate it.

Either way, a lot has happened since Wright’s death already, but it’s noteworthy that Kim Porter has been charged as quickly as 24 hours after the incident says something about the effectiveness of community organizing. One of the major reasons why Porter’s charges have been brought forth so quickly is the mass protests and nationwide pressure to hold the Minneapolis police force accountable for George Floyd’s murder. The municipality has been under the radar and closely watched by the entire country, especially during Derek Chauvin’s trial. The city of Minneapolis was in the middle of Chauvin’s trial when Wright was shot.

The assault on injury was that Wright’s death took place less than 20 miles from the trial of Chauvin. A sad reality for how often these incidents happen and how they’re connected to the broader systems of institutionalized racism.

Perhaps this is the first case in the 21st century where we witness such a rapid legal response, such as Wright’s, where a police officer is charged with 2nd-degree murder of a black man in no more than 24 hours.

There may be other forces at play for the quick charge of Porter. Daunte Wright’s mother is a white woman. She may have more leverage and a stronger leg to stand on to take on the City of Minneapolis for her son’s death. We’ve already seen more coverage of her in 24 hours than of family members of victims in past shootings against black or brown people.

Sadly, women of color don’t always have the same racial leverage or legitimacy that white women have regarding matters of justice. Statistically speaking, women of color are more likely to be victims of assault than white women, and their cases are more likely to be dismissed than those assaults of white women. We see it in Latin America too. Femicide rates are the highest among low-income women of color and indigenous women than affluent or white Latinas. This statistic is so consistent that scholars have used it as clockwork to foreshadow the outcome of criminal cases.

And just a couple of days after Porter’s charges, we witness a massive court case, Chauvin’s conviction, that will hopefully set a precedent for police officers being held accountable for murder charges of African American and Latino civilians. Just as this piece was written, we learned about the murder of Adam Toledo and Angel Zapata, two Latino men who were killed by police officers in Chicago, Ill, and San Diego, CA.

Hopefully, Porter and Chauvin’s case is the beginning of the proper use of the legal system, a quick turnaround for pressing such charges against police, a fair trial, and the sharp decline of black and brown deaths at the hands of law enforcement.

These are just some of the complicated racial politics of cases such as this one. For these reasons and more is why the BLM is so essential and crucial. Race nor class should play into justice being served, yet these cases continue to become a crucial lesson for practitioners; because the outright negation of racism and classism in the legal system is what got us in this mess in the first place.

We pray for the Wright family. We hope his family finds peace for their loss and justice for Wright’s life.