Well, I’m truly disheartened to say that the vicious cycle of police brutality against unarmed black men continues, this time, through the story of Walter “Lamar” Scott. The story starts with a routine pull over for a broken headlight, and ends with the officer, Michael T. Slager, firing eight fatal shots into Scott’s back as he tried to flee. What sort of middle could this story possess that would cause it to escalate so quickly? Simple, the story has the same connecting feature that all others of its kind share: fear, both Scott’s and Slager’s. It was fear that caused Scott to flee from his car once he was pulled over, whether it was a fear of arrest, death, or some combination of the two is uncertain. It was Slager’s fear, however, that turned the situation deadly, a fear for his life that must have caused his predator ill instincts to surface, and according to those instincts, Scott was a black male that had to be stopped in one way or another. This fight or flight sensation, this adrenaline, this fear, inherently founded in racial stereotypes and prejudice, is what transforms casual encounters into fatal tragedies. Every month it seems, another story with this same framework occurs, and the name of yet another black man becomes a hashtag.
However, there is one major detail that differentiates Scott’s story from the others: the officer was not only immediately charged after the encounter, he was charged with murder. The quick response to this specific case raises questions surrounding the reason for the speed. Perhaps we as a society are finally cracking down on police brutality, with the same ferocity with which these tragic murders are committed. One can’t help but see this as evidence that some change has taken place, that maybe past victims of police brutality haven’t died in vain. Or, taking the less optimistic path, it could be concluded that police departments around the country have simply chosen appeasement, not justice. Projecting that another slew of protests would take place if Slager was not detained immediately, the police department in North Charleston, S.C. could have seen their only choices as 1) to be denounced by the media and general public, or 2) to be venerated by the opponents of police brutality. The desired choice is obvious, even without taking justice into account. In either case, the truly stifling fact is that it took so many previous accounts of police brutality to reach this point. Though the previous deaths could have been evaded, I hope that we can use them as the stepping stools to finally achieve a society without racial profiling, and all of its consequences.