Former Florida Congressman Allen West wasted no time weighing in on the police officer execution of African-American Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina. Of course unlike most African-Americans, West is not as outraged by the shooting itself, as he is by the media drawing attention to the killing. West’s blog entry on his web page for April 9, 2015 begins with the sentence:
You just have to wonder how long the media and black activists will try and milk this one in a case where the justice system clearly worked.
His takeaway from the whole brutal incident is “the justice system clearly worked”.
Of course, West overlooks the fact that had it not been for a brave bystander surreptitiously capturing the incident on cell phone video, the system wouldn’t have worked at all.
Prior to the footage of the shooting surfacing, the official narrative was that Scott had fought with the officer and that the shooting was an act of self-defense. This is evident in original media accounts of the incident, such as this article from the April 4th edition of Charleston’s local newspaper, The Post and Courier:
A statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him.
That did not work, police said, and an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device. Police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer.
The officer then resorted to his service weapon and shot him, police alleged.
Contrary to West’s assertion, the system was not working towards justice, it was working to push a false story to justify the police execution of a motorist, who posed no threat to the officer who shot him. The police department even lied about trying to revive Walter Scott.
The system failed Walter Scott. An officer was able to murder him in cold blood. Had the execution of Walter Scott not been captured on camera by a witness, there is little doubt that the “official version” of how the incident unfolded would have prevented the officer from even facing charges.
The system itself failed miserably, but what did not fail is the power of the citizen observer armed with a camera to capture the truth. Police departments have a bias towards protecting officers who exercise lethal force, even if their actions are unjustified. Juries have a bias towards believing the words of a police officer over the unspoken words of the victim. For the victim, forever silenced by bullets, is unable to render his account of the story. The camera, however, only has a bias towards the truth.
The problem for Allen West is that the murder of Walter Scott validates a truth that West is uncomfortable confronting. That truth is that the American justice system is not color blind and that police brutality against people of color is all too often excused or pushed under the rug. The North Charleston incident isn’t an isolated case; it just happens to be a case that was caught on camera.
For Allen West, this is very inconvenient. West, after all, is a man who has made a political career out of carving out his niche, by defending the system. In the process, he routinely throws fellow African-Americans under the bus by contemptuously dismissing their concerns. West is so enthralled with defending the American criminal justice system that he can’t even acknowledge the failure of that system even when it is patently obvious. This is one of those times.
However, rather than offering sustained criticism acknowledging police misconduct, West instead chastises the media for fussing about another police shooting. In West’s mind, the system works fine as long as he isn’t the black man being shot. This even comes through on his blog, when he writes:
I am 54 and the death of Walter Scott serves to remind me once again just how blessed I have been in life.
West concludes by saying “and all lives matter”, but his dismissive approach to Walter Scott’s execution suggests that in Allen West’s mind, the only black life that really matters is his own.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.