Goldie Taylor: Keith Lamont Scott Shooting Shows Black Cops Can Be Biased Too

charlotte-kls-protest

The prejudices that have shaped the policy and practices for policing non-white communities run deep in America—and black cops have been complicit too.

by Goldie Taylor

As the first images of Charlotte protesters flashed across the television screen, I sat straight up and balled my fists into my chest as I began to rock and cry—for the scene unfolding Wednesday night, for the centuries-long injustices that have divided cities and towns like it across the country, and for the death of another reportedly unarmed black man.

I tried, with no avail, to soothe myself with the words of Dr. King: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” 

That the police officer who shot Keith Lamont Scott to death—as he sat waiting for his child’s school bus to arrive—was black changed nothing for me. It almost certainly did not for the throngs of black, brown, and white people who filled the streets of the Queen City for three consecutive nights. It is, after all, comparatively rare for an African-American cop to kill a suspect in the line of duty.

According to tracking data released by Pro Publica, black officers pull the trigger in only 10 percent of all fatal incidences. And, when they do, eight out of 10 of the suspects are black. That statistic was not likely known to the mass of protesters who took over Tryon Street and other avenues, climbed atop the marquee of the uptown Ritz Carlton Hotel, or bashed random car windows.

The language of the unheard. 

Keith Scott was black—an allegedly unarmed, black husband and father, living with disabilities. He had a traumatic brain injury, sustained in a 2015 motorcycle accident. The officer who shot him was black too, but the demonstrators would have been no less prone to believe the shooting was unjustified if he had been white.

The only color they saw, the only one that mattered for them, was blue. Still, I watched tearfully and conflicted as an all too familiar set of events played out. There had been Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, and Oakland.  

Despite calls by some social justice activists to diversify police departments and specifically recruit officers to serve in their own neighborhoods, there is no evidence that those demographic ties would result in fewer shooting deaths—even when the officer and the victim are both black. Implicit bias in policing, believing a black suspect older and more prone to criminality despite no specific prior knowledge of an individual’s background, crosses the racial divide.

While the lion’s share of officers involved in the fatal shooting of suspects are white—responsible for nearly 70 percent of the people of color killed—the number of unarmed victims of color is exponentially higher no matter the race of the officer.   

I embraced the pain for a time, as the mayor called for a midnight curfew, allowing it to burn through me like the fires that alight on the streets of Charlotte, wondering how or even if the city would reconcile itself to the work that undoubtedly lay ahead. There are two Charlottes—one largely black and poor, the other mostly white and affluent. 

The shooting death of Keith Scott laid bare the economic and racial divide that has persisted throughout its 261-year history. The social contract, built on post Jim Crow self-segregation, maintained a fragile peace for decades. 

Charlotte believed itself to be different, a post-racial city, only to see its differences rupture with a single flashpoint. 

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SOURCE: The Daily Beast