Last night after I put the kids to bed I logged onto my computer. In between catching up on emails, searching for recipes and scheduling in appointments I stumbled across a news story about a police shooting that was streamed live on Facebook. I clicked on this woman’s profile and proceeded to witness, along with millions of other Facebook users across the globe, a first-hand account into the shooting of 32 year old Philando Castile.
There he lay, in the front seat, barely breathing, while his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds narrated the scene. It struck me that she was strangely calm. I realised that what seemed shocking to me, and others who haven’t lived this sort of prejudice and fear, was an all too familiar recurrence. That her reaction wasn’t heartless, merely a practical way of dealing with this new trauma.
It wasn’t until Diamond was handcuffed in the back of the police wagon that she broke down. Her four year old daughter could be heard saying “It’s ok, I’m right here with you.”
That struck me like lightning, and broke me out of my screen watching stupor. What exactly was I watching? I saw a bloodied man sitting in the drivers seat, I heard her muffled cries, a thud, there was darkness, then a clear blue sky, then a crying mother next to her daughter in the back of a police wagon. Was it news or voyeurism? Was this taking couch commentating to a new, macabre level?
In the case of #blacklivesmatter – the personal is the political. And for those witnessing this type of brutality day in and out, this sort of raw footage is one of the few ways to hold those in power, namely, law-enforcement officials – accountable.
But what kind of responsibility do we have in consuming this sort of information?
As a mother, I empathised with Diamond’s grief. My heart cracked when I saw her daughter on screen, comforting her mother, a little girl who just witnessed the death of a loved one right in front of her very eyes.