Chelsea Handler: Atatiana Jefferson Got the Death Penalty Simply for Being Black. We Need Police Reform Now | Opinion

Atatiana Jefferson was the 28-year-old woman who was shot and killed by a Fort Worth, Texas, policeman at 2 a.m. on October 12. A neighbor had noticed that the front door to Atatiana's house was open and called the police department's non-emergency number to report it. Atatiana, whose loved ones called her "Tay," was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew in her own home when she was shot through her bedroom window.

Atatiana had done nothing wrong and had broken no laws, except an informal one: She was living in the USA while black. The death penalty was her sentence, according to Aaron Dean, the white police officer who killed her, who thankfully has been charged with murder but who also remains free on bail while Atatiana remains dead.

This latest police killing of an African American follows the recent conviction of another Texas police officer, who is white and who went to the wrong apartment floor on September 6, 2018, and shot her upstairs neighbor, Botham Shem Jean, who was black. Botham was a 26-year-old accountant from St. Lucia who was watching television and eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream in his home in Dallas before he was murdered.

Botham's crime? He was also living in the USA while black. The death penalty was his sentence, according to Amber Guyger, the white off-duty police officer who killed him in his own home.

The true crime is that there are a lot of police officers who are scared to death of "doing their jobs" because of rampant societal racism, completely inadequate police training and the obscene reality that there are an estimated 393 million civilian-owned guns across America, thanks to the Republican "Guns Over People" Party.

So what do we do about these horrific homicides?

We know what the wrong answer is: nothing.

The right answer is to root out white supremacy, white paranoia and white violence in the police force and in society in general, no matter how difficult and impossible that sounds.

The right answer is to raise taxes to pay for competent, mature and well-trained police officers who can grasp the difference between crime and pigmentation before firing their murder weapons.

The right answer is for Americans to vote for candidates who support public safety, police safety and serious gun control and to oppose candidates whose idea of public safety is an unregulated national shooting gallery that literally scares the nation's cops to death and murder.

The right answer is to admit that colonial and post-colonial America has sponsored 400 years of public policies that have aided and abetted racial ghettoization and income inequality that exacerbate police violence.

All the aforementioned right answers are—surprise, surprise—progressive policies that are religiously scorned by the radically regressive right, which rests on an obnoxious political foundation of entitled whiteness, segregationism, tax evasion and extreme gun violence.

Atatiana Jefferson
Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed by a police officer while she was in her own home with her nephew on October 12. Go Fund Me/S. Lee Merritt

2019 is the 400th anniversary of white American violence against black people in Jamestown, Virginia. We have made a little progress, but not much when we think about the senseless murders of Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Shem Jean and too many other African Americans to count by scared, violent white police officers whose deadly "shoot first, ask questions later" behavior has nothing to do with public safety.

As white Americans, it borders on the impossible that we would ever be shot and killed in our homes by a local police officer while watching TV or playing a video game with a nephew.

Why is it so possible—almost common—with black Americans?

America has a lot of work to do. It begins with every police department in America teaching and testing its officers about Atatiana Jefferson and Botham Shem Jean and rejecting those officers that can't handle the color of another person's skin without a total loss of self-control.

Chelsea Handler is a comedian, author and activist. Her documentary Hello Privilege. It's Me, Chelsea was released on Netflix in September, and her best-selling memoir Life Will Be the Death of Me is being developed into a TV series. Glen Handler is an audit director of a large multinational corporation. He used to change his baby sister Chelsea's diapers when he was a teenager.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.