MSNBC guest says people ‘adultified’ knife-wielding Ma’Khia Bryant because she was ‘a big girl’

A Rutgers University associate professor claimed Thursday evening that knife-wielding 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was shot and killed by a white Columbus, Ohio police officer a second before she stabbed another girl, is being “adultified” by some to justify the officer’s action because she was “a big girl.”

Brittney Cooper, who teaches “gender” and “Africana studies,” was responding to MSNBC host Joy Reid, who suggested that while many people had compassion for George Floyd, they apparently believe that Bryant “deserved to die.”

“Look, the arguments for our movement have never been that black people have to be perfect in order for them to deserve dignity, for us to have good policing, for us to be viewed with humanity, for cops to take a breath before they literally get out of the car, guns blazing,” Cooper began.

“This has never been what the argument for the movement for black lives has been is that you just get to kill black people, particularly when they’re not being perfect,” she went on. “I think about how perfect…the prosecution had to be in order to get the conviction for George Floyd. It had to be impeccable. They had to leave no stone unturned. If that is the standard, then no black person can truly be safe if we cannot be having a bad day, if we cannot defend ourselves if we think we’re gonna get jumped, if we call the cops and they show up and can’t tell who the victim is, who the perpetrators are.”

(Video: MSNBC)

According to Columbus police, the incident began around 4:30 p.m. om Tuesday when dispatchers received a pair of 911 calls regarding an attempted stabbing.

In the first call, a female can be heard providing the dispatcher with an address, saying that there were people “over here trying to fight us, trying to stab us, trying to put their hands on our grandma,” with screaming being heard in the background.

“We need a police officer over here now,” the person is heard saying. “We need a crisis officer over here now.”

In a second phone call, a dispatcher said that officers were en route.

Video from the body cam of Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon, a member of the Ohio Air National Guard assigned to a security force who is reportedly also a trained marksman, shows he literally had seconds to assess the situation after arriving. Footage taken by a neighbor’s security camera confirms that.

“He only had seconds to respond from my point of view,” neighbor and Air Force veteran Donavon Brinson said after the incident. “Watching this, unfortunately, the whole scenario put [the officer] in a bad spot.”

“They were calling each other the B-word, so I figured it was just a girl fight,” he told the Columbia Dispatch. “It was violent and all just happened so fast.”

Another neighbor, Ira Graham III, agreed.

“I believe in truth and facts. Video doesn’t lie. She was in full attack mode,” he told the paper.

Cooper, however, disagreed, saying that police need to be able to distinguish between real threats and “everyday community conflict.”

“But beyond all of that, what are we gonna do about the way we don’t understand black girls as girls? Ma’Khia Bryant was a child…and the way that she has been talked about as this, you know, because she was a big girl, so people just see her as the aggressor, they don’t see her humanity,” Cooper charged.

“They have adultified her. We turn black girls into grown women before they are even able to vote,” she added. “I have watched folks across the political spectrum really defend this and say…and empathize with the officer, say that he didn’t have any other set of choices.

“What are we training police to do if they are not actually showing up on the scene and making the situation better for all involved?” Cooper continued. “If you can’t figure out how to deescalate a 16-year-old, even with a kitchen knife, when you’ve got a gun and you’re a grown man, you shouldn’t be a cop.”

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Jon Dougherty

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