Two black men were brutally murdered by police this past couple of days. Watching the video of their cold-blooded murder by the hands of those who were sworn to protect them was excruciating, devastating, but hardly surprising. After the news of the shooting of Alton Sterling by Louisiana police emerged, I messaged my colleague telling her that the next police killing “will only be a couple of days from now.” The police didn’t miss a beat. Shortly after, a police officer in Minnesota murdered Philando Castille in front of his girlfriend and daughter.
Related: Philando Castile Shooting
When I thought that it couldn’t possibly get worse than this, racists and white supremacists made sure to prove me wrong. They found renewed energy to pour their vitriol and racist comments all over social media. They justify police brutality by smearing the victims as thugs, criminals, and other derogatory terms I wouldn’t allow to be inked in this piece.
TV personalities and columnists are not much better either. Several media outlets, such as CBS News, NY Daily News and the Blaze highlighted Alton Sterling’s troubled past as if it has anything to do with what happened. Their action, intentional or not, fed a narrative to racists and white supremacists to smear the victim, suggesting that his life is somehow worthless and that the outrage over his death is unwarranted.
This is not an isolated case. The NY Times attacked Michael Brown’s image by saying that he struggled with “drugs and alcohol,” how he was a “handful” when he was a child, that he showed a “rebellious streak,” and even pointing to his rap lyrics that were “contemplative and vulgar;” anything possible to smear his image.
What’s more disturbing is even that the police try to damage the character of the victims in court in an attempt of gaining the sympathy of the judges or the jury; a technique that has proven to be quite effective. Police intentionally released video of Michael Brown’s robbery to attack his character. Lawyers sought Laquan McDonald’s juvenile record to unearth whatever dirt they can on him.
These victims, regardless of their histories or past troubles, shouldn’t have been killed at the hands of the police. By seeking to damage their character, white supremacists are seeking to justify police brutality. The punishment for having a criminal record should not be the capital punishment. Period.