There is no need to ask my mother, father or any other surviving family members for their permission to tweet, Facebook, Instagram or broadcast the final moments of my life being shot, choked, kicked and punched out of me. I’m black, therefore, in America’s white supremacist society, if a cop kills me, the implication is that I had it coming. I want the world to see that I did nothing wrong.
After the release of video last week showing Walter Scott , and even more recently, Eric Harris , being killed by police, many have taken to social media to express how such videos do nothing more than demean the lives of those who were brutally killed. Critics of such videos being released suggest that neither the victims nor their families are given the opportunity to consent to their release. Some reactions even suggest that we should stop sharing such videos all together.
I understand the mental health issue these videos can cause—they are traumatizing—but I think such commentary focuses too much over “share versus don’t share” and less on how we should more carefully handle such violent and triggering footage. These videos are essential for lawyers to use as evidence in court and to counter the narrative of cops supposedly “fearing for their lives.”
A recent Washington Post article reveals  that one of the main reasons some 54 officers were charged in the death of a civilian over the last ten years was because there was video of the incident. It makes sense. Hundreds of black people are killed by cops each year  and most of them never make national news. And, if we really want to be honest, the only reason most people are taking about Eric Harris’ death today is because video of his shooting was released. The man was killed last week. If a cop kills me, I have little faith the American legal system would prosecute him or her without video evidence.
As horrific as these videos of black people being killed by cops are, the footage is not the problem. Police officers who knowingly abuse their power, and the legal system that allows them to get away with it, are the real issues. If police officers were not so confident that they about getting off for killing black people, there would be fewer videos of our deaths, because there would be fewer deaths. Shining a light on this abuse is the only way we can come close to forcing the cops to change their ways. The reality is in our efforts to end police brutality, black people will also have to suffer the residual trauma that comes with that—namely, having to endure videos of our deaths on social media.
Unfortunately, it often takes the final product of anti-black savagery to evoke outrage in America— especially among white people. For example, the open casket funeral of Emmett Till, in 1955, was a moment that truly sparked outrage across the nation. Media coverage of the barbaric attacks by police officers against protesters on “Bloody Sunday,” in 1965, served as a crucial catalyst during the Civil Rights Movement. Black people endured racism for decades, but it took moments like those to wake the nation up. Fifty years later, very little has changed in that regard. Our words still mean little in America. Many people need to see the brutality we experience in order to take action.
In fact, I think sharing with your family whether you want video of your death to be shared publicly or not is as important as deciding if you want that sticker on your drivers license stating you want to be an organ donor. It’s really that deep.
I wish black people didn’t have to make such decisions, but as long as we want to make America the home it is suppose to be, these are the sacrifices I feel we are forced to make. I don’t believe I am sacrificing my dignity in doing so, either. To the contrary, I feel I would be giving The Movement permission to use the final moments of my life, as needed, to fight for the liberation of black people still living.