Earlier today, University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing was charged with murder in the death of Sam DuBose, a man Tensing stopped for a traffic violation two weeks ago. Tensing has turned himself in, and the city seems poised to distance themselves as far as possible from him, using words like "senseless" and "asinine" to describe his act. If you're an optimist, this relatively decisive action shows that the police force and top city/county brass there is at least attempting to make some progress. And, if you're a cynic, it shows they're aware of the explosive potential of this act, and are just willing to throw Tensing under the bus as quickly as possible to prevent any Baltimore/Ferguson-type unrest. Either way, it's doubtful Tensing will ever be a free man again.
This decisiveness is no doubt due to the footage of the traffic stop, which was just released to the public this afternoon. In it, Tensing can be seen asking DuBose about his license plate and to take his seatbelt off, and it literally goes from "mundane traffic stop" to "cold-blooded murder" in less than three seconds. There's no warning. No real build up. Just "Get out your car." "Oh, you're not getting out your car and might drive away?" "Bang, you're dead." This may seem like hyperbole, but you have to see it for yourself. Words can't describe how surreal this footage is.
Some of you may have already seen it. Some saw it for the first time while reading this. And some of you will not watch it, for perfectly understandable reasons. Perhaps you're experiencing "Black people being killed on dashcam footage" fatigue. Maybe you haven't fully recovered from how you felt when watching the footage of Sandra Bland's arrest. Shit, maybe you didn't even watch Bland's footage because you haven't fully recovered from Eric Garner's. Or Tamir Rice's. And maybe you just stay away from them all because they're just too devastating, too heart-breaking, too infuriating to watch.
Again, I understand. But this is precisely why you must force yourself to watch them. Those feelings; that devastation, that heartbreak, that rage — they exist for a reason. They are not accidents or distractions. They're necessary. You're supposed to feel this way. It is supposed to hurt. It's supposed to scare you. It's supposed to anger you. You should not be able to watch it and go on with the rest of your day, like you didn't just watch a person get murdered by someone sworn and paid to protect him. Each person killed in each of these videos was a person. A fellow human who, as painful as it might be, deserves your attention. It is vital to both our humanity and in recognition of their's to allow ourselves to experience those moments; to watch those videos even though we know what's on them and how we're going to feel after watching them.
So sit down somewhere. Find the clip. Brace yourself. And watch it. All two minutes and twenty eight seconds of it. Watch how suddenly everything happens. Think about the lie Tensing told about being dragged by the vehicle. Put yourself in DuBose's place, and think about how that could have been you; one angry word, one act of perceived disrespect away from a simple speeding ticket or a night in a cell turning into your murder. Imagine your name as the next trending topic and hashtag; your face on every news station. As well as the faces and words of your distraught parents and friends and spouses and siblings.
Feel it all. Take it all in.
And then do something about it.