Wednesday, April 8, 2015

White cop kills black man: Is it automatically racism?

A white North Charleston police officer was arrested on a murder charge after a video surfaced Tuesday of the lawman shooting eight times at a 50-year-old black man as the man ran away.

Walter Scott, a father of four, died Saturday after Officer Michael Slager, 33, shot him in the back.

It is a tragic death, and Officer Slager has been rightly charged with murder. Even a homeowner protecting himself from an intruder would likely be charged with murder if he shot the intruder in the back.

What is particularly sad is that this terrible incident in North Charleston will likely be used to fan the flames of racism in America. Following the incidents in Ferguson and NYC in which black men were killed by white cops, Americans are ripe with tensions, especially when false narratives - such as the phantom "Hands up, don't shoot" scenario - are set forth as the truth. It was determined that Michael Brown, the black man shot in Ferguson, never said those words or took such a self-defensive posture, but it made for good emotion-baiting across America.

Now with the latest incident involving Scott and Slager, you can be sure the outcry over white cops killing black men will intensify. I share the moral outrage and sadness over Scott's murder. But it is important we don't let emotions guide our reason. It is a question that won't likely be asked by too many, but just because the officer in this case is white and the victim black, does that suffice as automatic proof that racism was the motive? Could Officer Slager simply have had other issues - like anger or impulse control issues for instance - that may have lead to this tragic turn of events?

Unfortunately, I believe such questions won't be considered very broadly, if at all, and instead this event will be used as "proof" that Americans - particularly white police officers - are racist, and that such violence only underscores the increasing calls for an unarmed police force (much like the farcical Bobbies in London) or a federal police force - such as they do in France, another group that is unarmed and hence basically useless in protecting the public. 

But overall we're seeing an unfortunate response to this situation as is expected. When we use tragedies as emotional weapons for affirming certain narratives -- e.g. America is deeply racist -- without looking underneath the surface for the real reasons behind actions, we squander the truth. Sensationalist rhetoric becomes the substitute for facts and then bad decisions are made based on unproven things.

But in today's 24/7 information digital age, imagery, such as the terrible video of Officer Slager gunning down a man in retreat, will be all many people need to draw their conclusions. What we're left with is a society increasingly mistrustful of each other and brimming with anger, without knowing the real source. That simply cannot be good for any of us.

What do you think?  Click on the comments link in the bar below to share your thoughts. No registration necessary

No comments:

Post a Comment