Note: This post was written over a year about in a frustrated response to my social media feeds being flooded by people who were not Black sharing videos of police killings. These were often by people who would fetishize the “passivity” of victims as if police had a right to kill anyone else automatically. It unfortunately continues to be relevant over and over again.
Look, here is the man killing another, with no flinch or wavering. His white hands bringing death to another black person looped in digital streams on flashing news sites. Final moments snapped and added to 140 character summaries and spread out across the internet.
As if we must witness the act to be shocked. As if the words alone are not enough to convince us.
I know that when I see those descriptions I do not need to see the video; I know that I will be a voyeur into a deep pit of our inhumanity that I would never see if the victim were not black. When the Charlie Hebdo massacre happened the Guardian censored the moment of death of the French Policeman out of respect. Vicious fanatics were denied their moment of “triumph” to be played out on loop. When ISIS kill they no longer get even the frozen stills displayed. When it is a black man shot repeatedly in the back, evidence dropped so casually next to a lifeless body; or when it is a black man chocked; or when it is another black person chocked; or when it is a young black boy shot; or when it is a black Kenyan university student shot; or when it is any of those times where someone black is the one whose life is taken it is shown, in all its graphic detail. Why must I see the videos every time, each time the same scenes until they bore into my brain, each black body becoming increasingly interchangeable to me, just like they are to those who killed them? I do not want to reach a point when it no longer hurts me, I do not want to blunt my affect.
They say “you must see the video” – but why? Why must I? I have already accepted that the horror is real, already know that if I was in that situation I would flee or fight or go limp from the helplessness of it all. When other murders are reported I have no desire to go over the grimy footage. Why are we insisting on doing it now, shoving visceral images of death into public spaces. These videos are important, and the discussion is important, but you must give space to respect. It terrifies me that so few people grasp this.
They want to share that they are shocked but by stressing the video it seems to me all they are saying is that they didn’t believe something like this could happen, but now they cannot deny the proof. That this is an anomaly.
I debate how much I can say, certainly I cannot say a lot. I will say that we do not have to share these videos. It is enough to know it is done, it is enough to know that we do not do enough to stop it being done again.
And let’s not make up lines about things being better in the U.K. We have black ghosts here too. Shrugging it off like racism is some uniquely American thing is not an option in a country that exported colonial oppression.
This is a vent more than an articulation. For true clarity I would say read this:
About Images of Black Death and the Groundhog Day of Police Brutality
Then read this:
I am so very physically exhausted by all this because I am worried so much that one day I may not have a reaction to these murders. That it will just be another thing I read in the news and skip over. That I won’t feel pained at each death, just another “ho, hum, what do you expect”, and that there will be a moment when every hashtag blurs into one and it all seems too hopeless to bother caring. I never want to not care – I always want to cherish those times a little piece of my heart dies at knowing of such cruelty.