17 Honest Thoughts From a Black Man After Watching That Walter Scott Video


1. On Saturday, Michael T. Slager, a white police officer from North Charleston, South Carolina, fired eight shots into the back of an unarmed black man named Walter Scott. The attack was caught on video. 

2. This is a good thing, people say. But another black family may forever be haunted by the last few minutes of their loved one's life cut short by none other than the "law" that was meant to protect him.

3. On Tuesday, Slager was charged with murder.

4. This is justice, people say. But legal charges and bloated prison cells can never make up for the loss of black lives. Death is not justice. Black people alive is.

5. Since late last summer, we have marched, protested and sung under the banner #BlackLivesMatter, because some in this country still don't believe they do. 

6. This is progress, people say. But after all this time — and all these songs, and all these chants — we still have failed to convince everyone that while "All Lives Matter," all lives are not disproportionately ended by police violence. Black lives are, so often that it's hard to stomach all this evidence of black people being ridiculed, beaten, choked, tasered or shot by police as it surfaces, over and over again. And every time I am forced to watch another act of police abuse, I am reminded that body cams and smart phones are no match for a justice system that seems to almost always grant police impunity.

7. Tuesday, the day this latest video of a black man being killed in broad daylight by a white police officer broadly surfaced, is the same day many in Ferguson, Missouri have been on the streets encouraging neighbors to get out and vote. 

8. This is activism, people say. But can we continue to put faith in a system that keeps failing us? How can we, as black Americans, trust a public safety system that has not only profited by criminalizing us, but continues to remind us that several hundred days of protest may not be enough to keep black people safe?

9. Soon, our social media timelines will undoubtedly be flooded with another hashtag memorial, this time to Walter Scott. Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr will become a virtual graveyard, overflowing with the names of victims we will fight to remember. 

10. But already, we are getting used to the equation: A black person who allegedly committed a crime when engaging a police officer might end up dead while the officer, at best, might end up jailed. 

11. The intervention of the Department of Justice in Ferguson and elsewhere might be incremental progress, people say. 

12. But substantive progress does not look like the DOJ finding evidence of racial antagonism displayed within the very department that supported the exoneration of its own officer, Darren Wilson. 

13. Right now, justice seems to be escaping us, while tragedy continues to befall us. 

14. Be vigilant, people say. Death by police should not be common. 

15. But black people dying after being shot or choked by police should not be moments we must be on the ready to capture on smart phones.

16. Now is time for change, people say. This is a 21st-century American tragedy of epic proportions. None of this should be normal.

17. And yet, it already is.