The following is a PoliticusUSA editorial by co-publisher and managing editor Sarah Jones.
All of the protesting of the senseless deaths and the brutality at the hands of police has made a difference.
An unarmed fifty-year-old Walter Lamer Scott was shot down and murdered after a routine traffic stop over his tail lights, in what looked like an execution by a police officer. It’s become an all too common story of an unarmed black man being killed or brutalized by the police.
But this time, things were different. Here’s what happens when things start to change. Time magazine, one of the most mainstream publications there is, puts “Black Lives Matter” on its cover.
The cover of Time magazine this Thursday morning:
This cover goes to Time’s new cover story, “In the Line of Fire”.
As Black Liberal Boomer made clear in his opinion piece published in these pages Wednesday evening, it’s not just that Walter Scott’s murder was caught on tape, though I’d say the fellow who shot that tape is a hero for doing it and turning it in. It’s that the North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey did the right thing. Mayor Summey fired South Carolina Police Officer Michael T. Slager, the officer who shot and killed Walter Scott and lied about the events leading up to his shooting of Scott.
The question is, why did the Mayor do this? Mayor Summey did the right thing, but even recently, with evidence, officials have not done the right thing. What is happening is that the largely peaceful protesting of black men’s deaths and brutality at the hands of the police, from Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri to Eric Garner gasping “I can’t breathe” as police officers in Staten Island strangled him, has made a difference.
The protests of police treatment of black men has been determined and diligent, relentless and consistent. They made a difference. They trickled into the consciousness of most Americans, and while every other killing or brutalizing was politicized and largely ignored by officials, Walter Scott’s murder was not.
This tragedy gave rise to a convergence of public awareness thanks to protesters, a Mayor who felt compelled to do the right thing, and documented evidence that can’t be denied.
Since the public had been made aware of the issue with the “Black lives matter” hashtag trending on social media consistently, when the facts about Walter Scott being shot 8 times in the back as he fled were made known via a tape of the murder, public opinion quickly shifted. Suddenly, it was undeniable. There is a problem.
America has a problem with racism. It has infested the police and the courts. It has created a situation where black men are shot down and killed almost routinely. It has created a situation where black men are afraid of the police for the wrong reasons.
But all of the pain, all of the vigilant efforts to keep protests peaceful, all of the loss, all of the tragedy has changed something. The public knows, now. It can’t be denied.
Justice is still out of reach and it’s not right or fair. But minorities know they can’t waste time on fairness. What they can do is force their experiences to be taken seriously. And that is what has happened here, finally.
It would have been better if these well publicized tragedies and the countless unpublicized tragedies had never taken place. But we can’t change that. What we can do is speak up. Make some noise. Grit our teeth against injustice and refuse to be quiet about it. And that is what protesters across the country have done. The families of victims have called for peaceful protests, in what must be their darkest moments. That is real courage. And that courage has led to change.
Even when it seems like everyone is ignoring you, collectively you have a voice. The Time cover proves this. This is how you know you’ve made a difference. This is how you know all of the efforts to speak peacefully, to object loudly but without violence, to quell the desire for revenge and immediate justice, mattered. The protests have been an act of ongoing courage and bravery, because to protest you must hope. To hope in the face of relentless injustice is an act of heroism.
The Black Lives Matter protesters will go down in history for making a difference in how black men are treated by our police and justice system. The fight is far from over, but the tide is finally turning.