Feature Image: Screenshot NYDN video
Here we are again. Last weekend, another unarmed Black man was killed by a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, reducing his life to a hashtag. After last year’s string of deaths that fueled months of protests and spawned the #BlackLivesMatter movement, I was hoping that 2015 would be different. Unfortunately, it’s been more of the same.
Former North Charleston officer Michael Slager fatally shot Walter Scott, a 50-year-old father of four, multiple times in the back as Scott ran away. Initially, Slager claimed he “feared for his life” because Scott wrestled away his Taser. However, a video filmed by a bystander contradicted Slager’s story.
Unlike in Ferguson and Staten Island and Los Angeles, where the officers who fatally shot unarmed African Americans remained on the force after pulling the trigger, Slager was terminated from his position with the North Charleston Police Department and charged with murder. But that was only after the horrific video of Scott’s death surfaced.
Since it became public, the video of Scott being shot multiple times and collapsing to the ground has been making the rounds. The gruesome clip has been talked about on the radio; shown on local, national, and international news; and has been passed around the Internet for all to see. Many have called the video a “snuff film” and criticized the media for continuing to show Scott’s death, while others argue it’s important to see exactly what went down so it never happens again.
For me, the debate surrounding whether or not the media should broadcast the video is complicated, particularly because I’m a mom.
Like many Black parents, for the past year I’ve talked to my son about the death of one African American person after another at the hands of police. So far my 9-year-old son hasn’t seemed too distraught by the killings and is still obsessed with typical kid things like playing with his friends and watching cartoons. But seeing Scott gunned down on our TV is something different.
Yesterday, my son stood motionless as he watched, and re-watched, the clip of Walter Scott being shot and his body falling to the ground.
I could almost see the wheels of his mind turning, trying to make sense of what he was watching. To him, police are still the people you call if you need help, the people he smiles at when he sees them in 7/11.
But in a few years that will probably change.
As a parent, my first instinct is to shield my son from the ugly parts of the world. But then I wonder if I’m doing him a disservice if don’t expose him to the truth.
Though we’ve talked about racism and why I don’t like him playing with toy guns because that isn’t always safe for boys who look like him, we have yet to dive into discussions about the ways in which police officers may view him as he grows older. I haven’t told him that he’ll likely be seen as suspicious, a threat, and even dangerous simply because he’s a young Black man. I’ve been hoping to hold off on making him hyper aware of how others view him because he’s still a child and should be able to enjoy being a child for as long as this world will allow.
But the video of Walter Scott bleeding to death in a dusty lot in North Charleston, South Carolina might be the beginning of the end of my son’s childhood. Watching a Black man die at the hands of a police officer who seems to have so little regard for Scott’s life, might just be the catalyst for the conversation I don’t want to have.
MommyNoire, Are you allowing your children to view the country-wide incidents? How are you responding to your children?