Has White Privilege Failed Betty Shelby?


On September 16, 2016 Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by Officer Betty Shelby in the middle of the street. Tulsaa World, a local news medium, reported that Crutcher was having trouble with his stalled vehicle and left it unattended momentarily. Upon his absence, Officer Shelby investigated the stalled vehicle along with her partner Officer Tyler Turnbough. As Crutcher approached them, an altercation ensued. Officer Shelby claimed that Crutcher “appeared to be on something”, according to ABC news. Officer Turnbough tasered Crutcher while Officer Shelby proceeded to shoot him. Crutcher died of his injuries later that day while in the hospital. Crutcher was unarmed during the entire altercation, and was only trying to get assistance for car trouble.

This pattern of unarmed black men being shot by police is slowly becoming a common instance among society ; the same way one may view a common store robbery. A black man is targeted for looking “suspicious”; police murder him; the officer(s) is traumatized and placed on paid leave. Immediately following this, the media portrays the victim in the most negative light. We are led to believe that he  was a former criminal. We are shown mugshots for his pictures instead of regular family photos. We are told that he was not complying with the officer’s orders, and that he deserved to be shot. The list is almost endless at this point. The narrative has never changed. The offending officer is always some decorated hero who just so happens to love the black community, and feels remorse for their actions–yet this situation seems to be a little different.

Unlike most other officers who have been caught on camera, Officer Shelby was actually arrested and placed in jail following the incident. Charges were brought against her almost immediately, along with negative comments about her years as an officer. From drug abuse allegations to claims of misconduct, Officer Shelby seems to be the only police officer who has been targeted negatively by the media. Could it possibly be because she’s the first woman to in mainstream media to be charged with such a crime? Or could it possibly be that the justice system is feeling some sort of pressure after the death of Mr. Crutcher, who happened to be a positive, law abiding citizen? This is a case that may actually have the chance to prove that black men have been the largest target of police for years, and for the justice system to make an actual change. Or this could be the first time that white privilege happens to fail the offending officer. Whatever the outcome may be, it will certainly be one that will have an interesting effect on the relationship between the black community and the police community.