If a Cop Is Recorded Killing Me, You Have My Permission to Share the Video
If a police officer kills me and someone is around to record what happened, I want the world to know that I’m fine with the video being shared.
There is no need to ask my mother, father or any other surviving family members for their permission to tweet, Facebook, Instagram or broadcast the final moments of my life being shot, choked, kicked and punched out of me. I’m black, therefore, in America’s white supremacist society, if a cop kills me, the implication is that I had it coming. I want the world to see that I did nothing wrong.
Share the video. Please. I fear the cop who would end up killing me won’t face prosecution without it. But I know my view isn’t shared by everyone.
After the release of video last week showing Walter Scott, and even more recently, Eric Harris, being killed by police, many have taken to social media to express how such videos do nothing more than demean the lives of those who were brutally killed. Critics also argue that neither the victims nor their families are given the opportunity to consent to the videos' release. Some even suggest that we should stop sharing such videos all together.
I understand the mental health issue these videos can cause—they are traumatizing—but I think such commentary focuses too much over “share versus don’t share” and less on how we should more carefully handle such violent and triggering footage. These videos are essential for lawyers to use as evidence in court and to counter the narrative of cops supposedly “fearing for their lives.”
A recent Washington Post article reveals that one of the main reasons some 54 officers were charged in the death of a civilian over the last ten years was because there was video of the incident. It makes sense. Hundreds of black people are killed by cops each year and most of them never make national news. And, if we really want to be honest, the only reason most people are taking about Eric Harris’ death today is because video of his shooting was released. The man was killed last week. If we didn't see that vide, would we be discussing his death? Maybe. Maybe not. If a cop kills me, I have little faith the American legal system would prosecute him or her without video evidence.
So, if you’re bystander who captures video of my death at the hands of an abusive police officer, please share it with the media and post it to YouTube.
As horrific as these videos of black people being killed by cops are, the footage is not the problem. Police officers who knowingly abuse their power, and the legal system that allows them to get away with it, are the real issues. If police officers were not so confident about getting off for killing black people, there would be fewer videos of our deaths in the first place. Shining a light on this abuse with video footage is, perhaps, the only way we can come close to forcing cops to change their behavior. Consequently, black people will also have to suffer the residual trauma that comes with enduring videos of our deaths being shared on social media. It's one of the many sacrifices we will have to make to fight police brutality.
Better to practice self-care to handle the videos that roll up on our Twitter and Facebook feeds than stop people from sharing them, which won’t work anyway.
Unfortunately, it often takes the final product of anti-black savagery to evoke outrage in America— especially among white people. For example, the open casket funeral of Emmett Till, in 1955, was a moment that truly sparked outrage across the nation. Media coverage of the barbaric attacks by police officers against protesters on “Bloody Sunday,” in 1965, served as a crucial catalyst during the Civil Rights Movement. Black people endured racism for decades, but it took moments like those to wake the nation up. Fifty years later, very little has changed in that regard. Our words still mean little in America. Many people need to see the brutality we experience in order to take action.
In fact, discussing with your family whether you want video of your death to be shared publicly or not is as important as deciding if you want that sticker on your drivers license stating you want to be an organ donor. It’s really that deep.
I wish black people didn’t have to make such decisions, but as long as we want to make America the home it is supposed to be, these are the choices we are forced to make. I don’t believe I am sacrificing my dignity in doing so, either. On the contrary, I would be giving The Movement permission to use the final moments of my life to fight for the liberation of black people.