When Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, law enforcement officers left his body lying on the hot pavement for four hours while police looked for ways to sully his name.

Now, police are looking for ways to again blame a black man for his own death-by-law enforcement. Reports are being released that say police found marijuana in the apartment of Botham Shem Jean.

To my knowledge, there has been no report of white Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyer’s apartment having been likewise searched.

While it strains credulity that anyone could mistake another’s apartment for one’s own, the media keeps reporting that Guyger entered Jean’s apartment for exactly that reason: she thought it was her own.

Nobody does that.

We see the practiced and well-rehearsed police jargon when they are describing how any given shooting happened: she gave verbal commands which were ignored when she entered the apartment, and so she discharged her weapon.

The story seems to be one of a clear case of first-degree murder, but this police officer, whose arrest did not come immediately, has been charged with manslaughter.

The entire incident is yet another exposure of the rancid, putrid smell of white supremacy, a belief-system which tells its adherents that it is all right, even sanctioned, for white police officers to shoot and kill black people – even if they are in their own homes.

Jean’s murder – and yes, I call it murder – is yet another instance of the proof that black lives do not matter. It is yet another reason why “taking a knee” is an appropriate way to let the world know that black, brown and poor people are tired of being treated like inanimate objects.

White officers know they can kill black people with impunity and get away with it. They know that they can use “police-speak” and be fairly assured that they will not have to pay for their crimes – and yes, they are crimes. Shooting unarmed black people is a crime; shooting them as they run away from you is a crime. Lying about it is a moral infraction. But that is our police culture: too many of them shoot first then ask questions later. They spend time justifying their actions by describing their victims as low-lives, worthy of the treatment they received and basically responsible for their own deaths.

They say it and a broad swath of the American people accept their version of what happened and hail the officers as heroes.

What happened to Botham Shem Jean was a travesty of justice. Who cares if he had marijuana in his own home? How many police officers – and others – have marijuana in their homes? This young man was in his home, eating cereal and minding his own business when his home was invaded by this woman. He was killed in his own home. He was doing nothing wrong.

He should be alive, and this woman should be tried for first degree murder and put into prison for a long time.

White supremacy is an illness. It is as virulent as is any cancer which has metastasized. It is America’s rotten core, and it is getting worse. It is a despicable belief system which has made those who believe in it act in immoral and amoral ways, and it has pulled a lot of people into its center.

Botham Shem Jean is dead, and he should not be. Amber Guyger is being given the benefit of the doubt. White supremacist thinking, and police culture are acting in tandem to try to make Jean’s death not so bad by communicating that he had marijuana in his apartment.

What they are doing is despicable.

Rev. Susan K Smith is available for lectures, workshops and preaching. Contact her at, or visit her page at