As protests against the murder of Black people in America escalate, images of killings are massively shared. What are the impacts of that?

This morning I watched, with horror, a Daily Mail article with access to the body cam footage of the police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks. A young father coming from his daughter’s birthday party, he was arrested and then shot by a police officer.

I could not finish watching the video. I pressed play because I thought it was important to witness the police brutality that I, as a white person, am frequently shielded from. But, here is the deal: Mr. Brooks was scared. Uneloquent, polite, possibly under the influence, scared of getting shot (and he was). But, despite not knowing Mr. Brooks, I know he was much more than just a man trying to defend himself in his last moments of life. If the same happened to me, would I be ok if the only side of me crowds ever got to know was the last I ever showed?

The police officers who shot Mr. Brooks deserve to be exposed, reprimanded, judged by society and a court. Nevertheless, when we share images of killings, do we trivialize violence? We end up exposing citizens shot in moments of vulnerability and pain. The body cam footage does not expose the police officer’s face. It shows only images of Mr. Brooks, losing his life. And, at least in the discourse of right now, we don’t get to see any other side of him.

Maybe there is no other way. Some might argue that portraying the police officer’s misconduct is the only way to enact change. Still… Even in the face of death, white people get to die, be scared and vulnerable, in private. It feels violent to keep showing those images to communities that are already scared and discriminated.

What is your opinion? What are we to do?

Picture of Rayshard Brooks with one of his daughters (released by his family). He was the father of three girls, ages 8, 2 and 1, and stepfather to a thirteen-year-old boy.

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