Kim Potters' Tears

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Kim Potter's crying in court is more than an expression of remorse; it’s part of a history of white women weaponizing their tears against people of color.

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Tiffany Bui reports:

The jury in the trial of Kim Potter is deciding whether she is guilty of manslaughter for killing Daunte Wright. The 12 jurors have spent over 14 hours in deliberations. Late Wednesday afternoon, the jury asked the judge what happens if they can’t come to conesus.

On Friday, Potter took the stand as a witness in her own defense. She was visibly distraught, at times sobbing, when questioned about specific parts of the incident. She recalled her fellow officer’s face while they struggled with Wright.

“He had a look of fear on his face. It was nothing like I’d ever seen before,” Potter testified.

Bianet Castellanos, chair of the American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota, said Potter crying is more than an expression of remorse; it’s part of a history of white women weaponizing their tears against people of color.

“Potter's tears showcase her fear, thus marking her as vulnerable, as a victim, even though she was one holding and firing the gun,” said Castellanos. “And so by claiming to be afraid, her fear excuses – if not justifies – her use of deadly force.”

Castellanos pointed to cases like Carolyn Bryant, the white woman who falsely accused Emmet Till of sexually assaulting her, spurring white men to lynch the young teen. The film The Birth of a Nation perpetuated the racist fear that white women were vulnerable to being raped by Black men.

“Historically, white women have been idealized as these vessels of innocence that we have to protect. But again, protect against whom?” asked Castellanos. “Their vulnerability has been used as an excuse to control and punish black people.”

The tears of Black women and other people of color aren’t afforded this same power, Castellanos said.

“In the case of Kim Potter, her tears are critical in her defense case,” said Castellanos. “But then we think about Daunte Wright’s mother's tears and his family's tears. In most cases those tears don't get an action or a response.”

Castellanos said not all tears are weapons. She said some tears get ignored altogether.

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