The Black Cop

When video surfaced of 50-year-old Walter L. Scott gunned down eight times in South Carolina, I was numb. I don’t ever watch videos of people killed because I find such voyeurism distasteful and dehumanizing. But I watched this time because I saw a Black body in uniform, hovering over a dead Black body, and taking orders from a white cop who fired those deadly shots.

Warning: This video is extremely graphic and full of triggers. I only posted to expose the Black cop who was complicit in racist criminality.

Officer Michael Slager, who unsurprisinglyfeared for his life” when he executed Mr. Scott and planted evidence, is charged with murder.

But my mind, heart, and spirit are exclusively concerned for the Black men and their families involved. The Black officer Clarence Habersham is proof that racism is more than Black and white, it’s institutional.

The institution of law enforcement — connected through legislation, agencies, policies, and authority —  is inherently racist. Founded from the need to control slaves who dared to revolt, law enforcement agencies carried the ideal that white communities needed protection from Black slaves.

Low-income whites were employed to control slaves, after wealthy white landowners grew anxious of early organizing efforts between poor whites and Blacks. After shifts in demographics and social mores, Blacks eventually gained access to law enforcement agencies.

However, despite Black inclusion in law enforcement agencies, the underlying racist current which defined the methods by which they police and surveil communities held steady.

And here we are. With a Black officer aiding in the racist corruption of a white man.

I’d imagine that to be a Black cop means to always be in the clutch of crisis and compromise. That their Blackness becomes secondary when they put on that uniform that speciously validates illegitmate racist authority.

I’d imagine that to be a Black cop means to always be a target of suspicion; from white counterparts, colleagues, and higher-ups within a suffocating environment that breeds on distrust between racial groups, to Black communities who are rightfully suspicious of law enforcement given routine civil rights violations and authoritative disrespect.

I’d imagine that to be a Black cop means to choose between traumas; either the trauma of indifference or the trauma of resistance.

As I watched that Officer Clarence Habersham cradling over Walter Scott’s body, I couldn’t help but grimace. As Officer Slager (who noticeably never touched Scott’s lifeless body except to handcuff him and check his pulse), instructed that Black officer to do his dirty work, I saw a slavemaster and a slave. I saw a power dynamic which reaffirmed that no matter how close we get to racism, we can never truly be racist ourselves because we simply do not possess the political, economic, or societal power to act on our prejudices.

Editor’s note: I’d love to hear from Black cops who’ve been confronted with their Blackness in blue. If you’re willing to share your story (anonymously if more convenient) please send me an email at arielle@blackmillennials.com.

photo 1Arielle Newton, Founder/Editor-in-Chief. Get at me @arielle_newton. Get at us @BlkMillennials.

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13 responses to “The Black Cop

  1. this is just extremely sad. my heart goes out to that man and his family. I don’t understand how an unarmed person running away from the police officer can be gunned down. and what is the purpose of handcuffing a seriously injured person, or one who is on the verge of dying? Are policemen not trained in how to capture and restrain an unarmed person? Does the law enforcement code not state that you cannot shoot a person who is not shooting at you or who is not endangering life of an officer or civilian? Where do they get these people they employ in the police force? and where was the black officer when the white one was busy killing that man? in the squad car? What? I shudder to think what the story would have been without the video to show what really happened!
    This breaks my heart. Keep writing Arielle, clearly voices that bring to light murder and abuse of this kind are sorely needed.

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  2. Pingback: Walter Scott, Mumia and abolishing whitness | Form Follows Function·

  3. I have been thinking a lot lately about the Black cop in California, do you remember him? He went on a shooting rampage of cops and their families and then was killed by cops while hiding out in the woods. His last letter speaks to the level of cognitive dissonance and mental anguish that finally caused him to do what he did. Thanks for this piece, important thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. we all need to understand that whites in general don’t feel our pain, it’s not happening to them they suffer in other ways they’re not going to allow us to shoot/kill them, not even black cops period. let band together & do what we need do & take care of us, no one is going to do that. remember some of them still think we are less than 3/5 of human pay close attention to history & presence…peace & blessings to all.
    George j

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  5. George….. No one should allow killing other people. People of any race can relate to the suffering of people of any race. How can anyone completely understand the experience of the actual family members (regardless of race) who lost a loved one do to violence perpetuated by people (regardless of race) who have been entrusted with the protection of the public? People who see very thick lines separating each person wrongly conclude those lines actually exist. A racist officer who kills another person based on how the officer perceives that person based on appearance more than likely see great-gaping lines/boundaries separating himself and the one he is perceiving. If we didn’t have such perceived boundaries separating this person or that person with their individual grouping of characteristics from ourselves, wouldn’t we as humanity be less able to commit acts of violence against others because of how they differ from us? “…. whites in general don’t feel our pain, it’s not happening to them….” writes George ….. This is an over generalization drowning in prejudice. I see other HUMAN BEINGS suffering in many different ways on the news and I can relate to them because they’re suffering in a human way and not in an alien/non-human way. If I see someone who appears to be of my same race, gender, sex, culture, nationality suffering a loss of a loved one do to violence, I don’t think “we are suffering….” and “… others who are not the same (race, gender, sex, culture, nationality) as us, the ones suffering on the news, cannot empathize along with the others who view themselves as belonging to the same category as the person suffering.” When I see another report on the news about anyone being slaughtered unjustly (or so-called justly by some majority of people related to any category), I can and do empathize but I cannot in a heathy way decide another person’s individual experience of suffering in any group is also my own. If I had an actual father, mother, son, daughter, grandchild, spouse, aunt, uncle, cousin or friend who was a victim of violence, I would be able to empathize in even a stronger way with others who suffered loss do to violence even if they were a part of a different category than the one I was placed in or the one I placed myself. How does taking on those negative feelings of suffering belonging to another person’s personal experience of loss and suffering only because that suffering person is identified as belonging to some arbitrary, label/category-of-person-type that I (and the majority of the involved culture) place myself, drawing a distinctive barrier/boundary around myself and all others who identify the same way, make it helpful or positive in my own existence or in the world of humanity? Doesn’t taking on the suffering of another as my own, not because the same or similar thing that caused the suffering for that person happened to me but only because that person is perceived to belong to the same grouping (race, gender, sex, species, nationality, culture, political or religious affiliation, generation, age, etc.) of human that I belong to, almost belittle the magnitude of that person’s suffering? If you haven’t personally lost a loved one or a friend, or someone you actually knew as a result of violence, you cannot understand, comprehend, or fully realize the magnitude of suffering that results even if that person and that person’s family and friends (actually suffering that loss) belong to the same group of humanity. The “us and them” perception or mentality perpetuation no matter if you belong to the “us” or the “them” group is a part of the whole mentality that leads to people inflicting violence against “them” only because they are “them” and not “us.” When will we (humanity) realize, There is only “us”?

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    • no disrespect, I think u misunderstood me & that’s the greater prob, we don’t understand. we are not equil, when it come down to it, some pain & power, blacks have been & is still in slavery to this day. white cops/kkk etc have been killings, hanging, & raping us forever very very little or nothing at all have been done in a positive way. where have u been ?… we all see/hear it every day…may I ask, what’s ur race, age, gender & where did u grow up & please be truthful, that might be why u don’t get ? and a lot of other people untill the madness start to happen to them nothing changes,

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