As a race, we are again confronted with what has become an all-too-familiar atrocity — yet another unarmed Black man killed by a white police officer.
Yes, you have read, heard and seen correctly, Black America once again mourns the death of yet another unarmed Black man. But hold a minute. Let us not smile too fast through our collective tears.
This time, we collectively think – we got him on video. This time Michael Slager cannot say, as Darrell Wilson had said in Michael Brown’s case, that the victim was charging him and he “feared for his life,” hence the use of his gun.
We saw the whole murder on video.
But wait – we also saw the whole brutal murder of Eric Garner on video, even to his notifying the aggressor that he was unable to breathe.
Well, this one is different we could say – this time they actually called it murder. But… but… but… didn’t the coroner officially label Eric Garner’s death a homicide, i.e., murder?
I am immediately going to cut close to the chase, no beating around the bush, pray tell me can we hold out hope this time that unlike the Ferguson Police Force in Mike Brown’s case, or the New York Police Force in Garner’s case, maybe the South Carolina Police Force will be fair and not uphold that “thin blue line?”
Dare I believe that even though Michael Slager originally lied and said Walter Scott attempted to take his taser and he “feared for his life,” before the video showed that he shot Scott eight times as he tried to get away, and then dropped his taser beside him, that maybe they’ll be fair.
Recent reports about the past give us a not-too-optimistic look at the South Carolina Police Force’s history of dealing with the truth in protecting their own.
According to a newspaper report, Slager went to the home of the wrong man, pushed in the door, pulled him out of his home and tased him as he held up both hands, then tased him again as he lay on the ground screaming in pain.
After the man and his family filed a complaint, the incident report showed that Slager said he could not see one of the victim’s hands and “feared he might be holding a weapon.” He also said he observed sweat on the victim’s shirt, which he perceived as evidence that he could have run, and was forced to enter the home and use his stun gun when the victim “struggled with him.”
So in this case, as in the cases of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Tamir Rice and the many thousands of Black men who have been gunned down and lied on, we cannot look to the police department for justice.
In this case, as in the cases of Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and dozens of others that have been recorded in the era of smart cameras, we can expect the powers that be to give the murderers-in-blue every benefit of the doubt, and not rely on their “lying eyes” for the truth.
After no indictments following the 2014 police-related deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., an officer facing serious charges might seem like the kind of resolution many have been protesting for months, even years.
Usually, when an officer maintains his actions were spurred by fear for his personal safety, any other extenuating circumstances, such as an unarmed suspect or one who did not pose a clear threat, are often overlooked and dismissed.
In the case of Eric Garner, after protestors turned the chant “Black Lives Matter” from a hashtag into a national movement and a call for official action, Slager’s indictment should feel like vindication. Is it really, or just a momentary delusion on the Black psyche?
Still, as we have learned too often, an indictment isn’t a conviction, and a conviction does not necessarily mean prison time. So let’s get that straight, cooked and ready on our plate. In addition, bitter recent history has shown even video does not guarantee justice. Now the world has seen what happened to Walter Scott, and awaits the justice that eluded Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
I cannot remember the last time I read about a police officer being convicted of any wrongdoing against a member of the public.
It has been nearly 25 years since a video camera, by happenstance, was able to capture the beating of motorist Rodney King by LAPD officers. Videos have had an uneven impact on cases.
However, a video of Slager’s arraignment made the social media rounds, and as Slager faced the judge – the Black judge – the Black judge who looked really mean – the Black judge who denied Slager bail, I couldn’t help but think, and hope that maybe, just maybe, this time justice might prevail.
Although I am not holding my breath. My mental survival, among others, depend on it.
Aleuta —- The struggle continues.