The Other Columbus: …………

When there is nothing left to say

Scott Woods
Following the death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was shot and killed by Columbus police, graffiti marks a building at the intersection of Broad and High streets while protesters march through Downtown on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

A Columbus police officer shot and killed a 16-year-old Black girl approximately 30 minutes before the Derek Chauvin verdict was announced.

I want to just type that sentence 22 times and call this article done. I don’t want to dwell in the space where in one breath I am trying to process all of the emotions that come with watching Chauvin perp-walked out of a Minneapolis courtroom, and 30 minutes later discovering that a Columbus police officer shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant five miles from my house. It is a maddening space. The physics of it make no sense. I had not come to grips with what to make of a genuinely executed guilty verdict of a cop killing before I was forced to fall right back into despair.  

Columbus finds itself in the national spotlight again, and for all the wrong reasons, again. On cue, Mayor Andrew Ginther tweeted something for which critics will justifiably rake him over the coals. City Council will implore us to be patient with a reform process that’s already proven it can protect no one. Blue-chip Black faux-leaders will step up to make a case for calm, with a dash of Black-on-Black violence deflection in an attempt to sell us on the merits of glacially paced justice. The preachers were up early doing as much the morning of the Chauvin trial, so they’re clearly warmed up for the moment when a Columbus police officer shoots and kills a 16-year-old Black girl. 

All the thoughts and prayers, all the hearts going out, all the press releases, another press conference. None of the change anyone has actually been asking for.

I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be a civic leader in Columbus, watching these national flashpoints light up, sometimes back-to-back, that make your city look like the Wild West. How do you sell the merits of your brand-new soccer stadium on a day like this? How do you champion your mantra of “neighborhoods, neighborhoods, neighborhoods” when your police force looks rabid? Do you pivot to your rising crime statistics again, as if the Columbus police officer who shot and killed a 16-year-old Black girl is innocent of a crime himself? Do you sweat the optics of how bad a fatal police shooting looks on the heels of the Chauvin conviction? Something tells me the job hardly seems worth it on such days.

Somewhere, someone is already saying, “Well, we don’t have all the facts yet.”

Here is a series of facts: A Columbus police officer shot and killed a 16-year-old Black girl approximately 30 minutes before the Chauvin verdict was announced. If reports on the ground are to be believed, the facts will only get worse from here. The facts we have only ratchet the intensity of the maddening space. So go ahead: Wait. It’s all most of this city has been doing anyway.