A Jury of One’s Peers

By | July 7, 2016

You may (or may have not) seen video circulating recently showing the last moments of black American men shot by American cops.

Some of my friends think we should see them. Some of my friends think we should not.

I respect them all so much, and those who are against seeing them have my full support, as those who encourage us to show these deaths.

Rather than come down one way another, here’s what I think, if my opinion is worth anything at all:

I think we need to do what we think we need to do. I won’t demand people watch the videos (and I don’t share them, myself, because they are incredibly cruel executions of people I would rather still be alive). And I think many people who watch them are watching them because they cannot believe what they’re watching — humans with the spark of life and the image of God being snuffed out in real time by what they always thought were the forces of good and right. They are experiencing that topsy-turvy feeling of seeing the same thing but in two ways: the normal world we expect, where we are protected and comforted by all the words around us, and that same world with a layer stripped away, with colors and feelings and events brighter, more alive, more overwhelming more demanding.

I’m OK with that.

I also think that overall it’s an incredibly debasing way to look at our brothers and sisters as if they are simply bodies without dignity, displayed as conquered objects used to prove superiority. We would not want to be so displayed in death, stripped of our humanness and made to look like nothing at all. It is the sight of what we most fear about ourselves — to be made powerless and lifeless and nameless.

Maybe we don’t need to see anymore. Even one time should, I think, impel us to demand change.

But … not having these images and videos could lead us to think it is not as bad as it is, and would encourage us to fall back to sleep. We are not good enough to mourn the nameless and faceless. Maybe it is something we need to do after all, to be reminded of what our sleep and forgetting leads to.