Point of View Columns

Murder by Cop and the Lurking Demon

It seems as if the story is the same. Only the location and the names seem to change. This time it is South Carolina. This time a white policeman shoots an unarmed black man in the back and kills him. This time the demon lurks in the background. The only difference, this time there was a videotape of the entire atrocity.

When North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager shot Walter Scott in the back eight times on a Saturday morning, he was continuing the dreadful American legacy of lethal violence against black Americans under the color of law. This incident recalls recent murders by cop in Cleveland, Ferguson and Staten Island. But it also recalls the historical tradition of black Americans being subject to lethal consequences simply because they are black Americans.

And all the while the demon lurks.

It bears repeating that since this part of the world was colonized by Europeans, Americans of African descent were always subject to a different set of laws. From the black codes to the legalization of slavery, the lives of black people in this country have always been worth less than white lives. And killing black people resulted in little or no consequence.

Even after the abolition of slavery, the legally sanctioned terrorism against black Americans continued to be the sad soundtrack of the American narrative. One need go further than to read “Without Sanctuary – Lynching Photography in America”, by James Allen, to witness the tragic banality of evil that was a part of black life in America, and was a part of white life in America. And whether the next unlawful slaying of a black American under the color of lawful conduct takes place in Missouri or Ohio or New York or………South Carolina, history tells us that it will not be the last time.

Meanwhile, the demon lurks.

Perhaps the most appalling aspect of the death of Walter Scott is that without the video of his slaughter, Officer Slager’s lies would have been the facts that accompanied Mr. Scott to his grave. Without the chance glimpse of his barbaric acts, Officer Slager would be on duty in North Charleston, as if nothing had happen. And that raises a rather obvious question.

How many other black men and women have been slain under the color of law without a video record? And how many of these silent witnesses to their own demise are unable to claim justice because the blue web of lies and misinformation shroud their corpses and shield their killers?

Meanwhile the demon lurks.

And that demon is the slaughter of black Americans by other black Americans. According to FBI data, there were 6309 black homicide victims in the U.S. in 2011. The homicide rate for black victims was 17.51 per 100,000. The national overall homicide rate was 4.44 per 100,000. For whites, the national homicide rate was 2.64 per 100,000. And finally, 93 per cent of the killers of black Americans were black Americans.

If 6309 black people were being killed by the police every year there would be righteous indignation. But 5500 black people being killed by black people are not viewed as the public health and public morality issue that it is. The fact that the homicide rate in the black community is 8 times higher than that found in the white community is the demon lurking behind every story of a black person dying from murder by cop.

Being outraged about murder by cops and being outraged about black carnage in the black community are not mutually exclusive. No purpose is served in trying to compare atrocities. All atrocities are atrocities and all atrocities should be denounced and stopped. The orphan, the widow, the grieving parent doesn’t care whether the killer wears a uniform or sneakers. Their pain has no limits.

It is long past the time to walk and chew gum at the same time.

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