At a certain point as a nation, we must all stop looking at things through the facile lens of coincidence, and start realizing that patterns have emerged. This week, Americans have had to endure yet another headline concerning police use of excessive force, particularly toward the African-American community. Officer Michael Slager has been charged with the murder of Walter Scott; Slager fired eight rounds from his sidearm into the back of Scott — who fled — after a routine traffic stop.

 

Slager’s report of the incident claims that Scott fought the officer, resisting arrest and wrestling for control of the officer’s stun gun. Video of the incident tells a different story; Slager shoots Scott in his back as he runs away, then drops what appears to be his stun gun next to the lifeless body. While a scuffle may have indeed occurred, the video does not portray the officer to be in the mortal danger required to used lethal force. In the face of overwhelming evidence that Slager acted excessively, he faces 30 years to life in prison for murder.

 

Former officer Michael Slager. He is charged with the murder of Walter Scott. (nytimes.com)

Former officer Michael Slager. He is charged with the murder of Walter Scott. (nytimes.com)

This has become a near ubiquitous problem, with similar stories emerging all over the nation, from New York to Ferguson, and now South Carolina. Primarily white police forces have proven time and time again that they lack restraint, utilizing lethal force when completely unnecessary. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that we live in a “post-racial” America, if we keep letting this happen. The violence and protests these incidents cause are not the only concerns. America as a whole loses credibility as an international symbol of justice and freedom, if we let this perceived institutionalized racism continue.

 

It’s hard not to develop a cynical point of view when faced with this perpetual problem, but we must endeavor to find a silver lining in the tragedy. South Carolina acted swiftly and effectively, serving up Slager to the justice system to answer for his actions and providing messengers suitable to the general public. South Charleston officials, as well as African-American Senator Tim Scott have urged calm, as well as faith in the justice system, among those on the cusp of outrage.

 

The existence of the bystander video must also be praised. As more and more police have to contend with internet savvy onlookers, the more accountable the nation will hold them to their actions. We can all choose to contribute to the solution, if we make our voices heard.

 

Do you think America is slipping backward in its handling of race relations? Do you think Slager’s potential punishment fits the crime? Let’s talk here, or find me on Twitter @connerws