Walter Scott was not murdered by ISIS overseas, he died in his neighborhood. Walter Scott was not murdered by foreign drug dealers trying to evade his Coast Guard detail. Walter Scott was not killed by a deranged student with an illegal gun. Walter Scott was murdered by an American police officer, who had sworn an oath to protect and serve him. What message does it send to society when a number of American citizens, who are sworn to uphold the law, murder other American citizens? How should we evaluate these situations? These situations are unfortunate, but not altogether surprising. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund recently named 76 unarmed black men and women who were killed in police custody in less than two decades. The response to these killings has not created an effective framework for community leaders and police representatives to address the root cause of the problem. Effective public leadership must honestly address the complexities of historically underserved communities and the opportunities afforded by community policing.
The political leadership of the South, which largely results from the implementation of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, has created a dynamic that looks and sounds like the “Old Confederacy.” Civility is a casualty of our new American political reality. I do not see any significant effort being made to address issues such as civic duty, poverty, and race relations. A “Stand Your Ground” culture defends those who murder children walking home in the rain, because they do not know them. Americans murdering Americans. It defends the murder of another because he plays his music too loud. Americans murdering Americans. All American citizens should be alarmed and demand that those who take an oath to serve and protect Americans actually serve and protect us all. 1946, Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote a speech about Nazi Party during the Holocaust that is as significant today as the day he wrote it. It says:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
The video of the death of Walter Scott is devastating on so many levels. How does a 50-year-old man with a busted taillight get shot in the back? What real threat did he pose? How could this officer have believed that this was the right thing to do? When an officer is found lying, how does it affect the perception of every other officer? The initial report given by the officer is not consistent with the details shown in the video. Fortunately, a young man taped the event and so the real truth could be known. This officer demonstrated the behavior that every African American parent fears when their child leaves the house. However, the family of the victim has not met this situation with hate and malice. They have professed a hope that this would never happen to another family. Will policymakers follow their lead and seek to address the real problems that are damaging America at its core?