Why We Need to Stop Sharing Videos of Police Killings

Another day, another death. It is sad and exhausting, to put it plainly. What I am tired of, is seeing videos of police killings all over the Internet, at every turn. I appreciate the trigger warnings that some people use before posting these videos, but we must stop. Now, I know these videos are important. They allow us to see what happened in these harrowing moments, it makes it easier to make sense of the contradicting stories that often surround these tragic events. I get why we watch them–we want to judge for ourselves if the excessive force was warranted. We need to see how our officers treat citizens in the field. For all these reasons cameras are great. They give us a sense of understanding; they are useful in investigations. However, the victims’ families could tell you that these videos don’t lead to convictions the majority of the time. And in their wake, we are left a nation of people gathered around TV screens projecting bleeding bodies and gun smoke. Here lies the dilemma.

Crime in general is intra-racial, we commit crimes against people we know – typically of our own race. We commit crimes where we live, typically in our own neighborhoods. It’s not a hard concept to understand, and it makes sense. But our violence is 99% of the time perpetuated by the idea of senselessness- while white crime is examined and studied as fascinating-at times even brilliant-and given primetime shows like 48 Hours, Dateline, Cops, Alaska State Troopers, and more. Senseless killings by whites are things that we deem out-of-the-blue atrocities: bank robberies, mass shootings, deranged family members, crazed serial killers and employees “gone postal.” Black crimes are always pushed aside in media as having no motive, not worthy of caring about. Gang dynamics and violence draw a few curious TV programs, while the mob mesmerizes everyone. Our communities are castigated for “not snitching” without even realizing the context and fear behind which these statements are made. Black criminals fill the screens of our nightly news far more than white criminals. After watching the nightly news in my own town I find it hard to believe there are less black people in jail than whites. News articles constantly throw out statistics about how many black men have been arrested or are in jail without bothering to mention that the majority of them AREN’T in prison and HAVEN’T gone to jail. So all these things pile in your mind and form a sense of criminality. This is not me excusing or condoning our criminality or bad attitudes toward the police, it’s simply observations.

Police brutality happens to white people too, but they often don’t protest or place themselves within the larger problem, so it all falls silent, untouched. Yet when we are brutalized, beaten, killed or otherwise, it is everywhere for the world to see. We are portrayed as the evil, the unimaginably strong, the ruthless, the criminal, the slain, the dying, the grieved, the too rebellious to live. Meanwhile, our Caucasian counterparts run from, fight, and provoke the police with not so much as an officer’s fingertip placed on his weapon. The families of those slain however, can’t turn a corner of the Internet without seeing their beloved die on the screen over and over and over. Imagine that.

I also imagine an officer waking up today hoping to do his job well, trying not to be another cop paraded across the screen for killing a black person, yet finding himself in that very position. I imagine his children scared for what people will think about their father, I imagine them having to confront whether or not their father is one of those mean or prejudiced men on the news. I imagine them refusing to watch the video and having to avoid all corners of the web. I imagine them seeing the video and believing that their dad’s life was at stake. I try to picture what it’s like to tell yourself the other man had to die. That perhaps it was unfortunate, but necessary. It was you or me. What have we come to that we get to decide who dies in the street and for what purpose? Outside of shootouts, and invasions and blatant self-defense, who are we to justify the end of anyone’s life without trial and find comfort in that? How much power have we given the badge in our country? Are we playing a russian roulette game of comply or die? Isn’t it interesting that black officers face these situations every day and they don’t end up killing people this way? Hm.

We have to stop sharing these videos because they are traumatic and they promote the image of death, suffering, and public shame that has plagued our communities for years. Our [black Americans] suffering has long been a spectacle, a form of entertainment, a desensitized visual to gawk, gasp and stare at from afar. Our pain is consistently on full display and buried within the context of criminality, inhumanity and justifiable death. There has always been a reason in this country why it was okay to kill black people–reasons that seemed ludicrous, and reasons that seemed valid. When placed in a grey state, where right or wrong is not easily identifiable, the ax will always err on the side of guilt when it comes to a black person. We have been dying in public for the community to see since we were stolen and brought here: we’ve been hung and quartered in front of crowds, we’ve been beaten in streets, and for decades upon decades shot dead for the sake of a white male’s defense. And today, less than a minute after you log onto the computer, there is nothing but images of black people being gunned down, of children and mothers crying over their deceased family members, and people of color screaming in agony because none of it will end. Stop sharing. We can’t keep spreading these images of ourselves being executed for our sins. These “virtual lynching crowds” we’re creating must cease.

It’s okay to provide a link to these videos and allow each person to decide if they want to watch, but please do not post visuals of people of color being senselessly shot, beat and wounded–by their own race or anyone else. We have a stronger system to fight. We have a system that denies us rights to the 2nd Amendment and Stand Your Ground laws, because they weren’t written with us in mind. We have a system that will perpetually defend it’s officers even if they made a bad decision. We have a system that excuses the loss of life behind the guise of “bad training,” “mistakes,” “fear,” and “being caught in the moment.” They will want everyone to see the officer as an individual apart from his uniform–which is how we should all be viewed, ideally. Except as a black person in America we are held accountable by our brother’s actions–one wrong move by one black person screws up everything for the rest of us. We are judged not individually, but collectively bound to the previous misbehavior of someone who shares our color and nothing more.

It’s proven that resisting arrest is not an effective form of protest, so we have to find another way. Hate does not solve the problem either. Being upstanding is essential, but it doesn’t change the plight of our country’s most vulnerable citizens. So what are we to do? Keep fighting, keep praying for clarity, keep believing in your own value. And use “the sword that heals (nonviolence).”