Why Live Video of Police Violence Is So Traumatic — and So Revolutionary | Wesley Lowery

What I think is remarkable even in the time
that we’ve been having this conversation if you trace the beginning of the current
conversation to 2014, maybe to Ferguson or to Eric Gardner, right. How much the technology has developed and
how the tools are now there in ways that they are not. It’s easy to forget that just two years
ago when Ferguson was happening there was no live video capacity the same way. There were live streamers who were out there
but there was no Periscope or Meerkat. There was no Facebook Live. There wasn’t even Twitter video yet. In order to upload video people had to use
Vine or Instagram, right. And so what this allows is, the same way that
all social media creates kind of a more democratic media process. People in real time can share their own stories. Live video allows us physical access to things
that we never would have had otherwise. I mean the video that Diamond Reynolds takes
of her boyfriend Philando Castile after he’s shot changes the world, changes our perception
of these shootings, starts what ends up being one of the flashpoints around these issues
where we go from beginning with Alton Sterling then Philando Castile and then to Dallas. And without that video it’s very unlikely
that officer would have been charged as he has been now. And it’s unlikely we would even know the
name Philando Castile. And so that tool, that ability for her in
two taps of her phone to start sharing with the world the moment she was in is like I
said it just has the capacity to change the world. It was that video was just so remarkable in
that it was traumatic. As you watched it you felt like you were physically
there, in the car and someone’s just been shot by the police. That was different than the feeling of the
Eric Gardner video, even the Walter Scott video in part if only because we knew it had
been live. And I think that was just a, like I said it
was just a turning point I think in the way video has manifested and has played a role
in these cases. The major question that lies at the heart
of our inability to deal with and to actually create changes to a system that would lead
to the decrease in use of fatal force is a refusal to believe black and brown people. Black and brown people have been saying for
generations that this was the case. They were being beat up. They were being pulled over, getting arrested
on fraudulent charges and we essentially for generations said we don’t believe you. We’ve had case after case for decades, for
years of people who are unarmed or who were shot in the back, who there was a weapon perhaps
planted and we, the media, and we are as a society just did not believe these people. What video has done is expose the level to
which our refusal to validate the stories of people of color and people who are telling
us about this trauma they’re going through, the extent to which that has masked injustices. That now that we can see this with our own
eyes we can see that some of these shootings should not be happening and that someone should
be held accountable for some of them. So yes, I think it’s just a window into
a world that has always existed. These videos are forcing us to look at things
we otherwise don’t want to see. I think that out of discomfort potentially
comes change, right. That we have for generations willfully ignored
this. We don’t want to talk about this. We don’t want to talk about police reform. We don’t want to believe that that dead
man perhaps didn’t deserve to be killed. We want our police shootings and our killings
by police officers, we want them to fit into a tight little narrative. We want to be able to put a bow on them and
say well, police shoot bad guys and that’s what happens and we want to absolve ourselves
emotionally of having to think about it anymore. And I think that what video does is it complicates
that narrative. It complicates this good guy/bad buy narrative,
right. We teach our kids to play cops and robbers,
right. That these interactions with the police are
on this binary where either you’re the cop or you’re the robber. The cop is always the good guy and the robber
is always the bad guy. And I think that what we see it brought to
light via this protest movement and via this moment where we’re talking about policing
with this nuance and this level is that that is not, in fact, how it always works. And then you have police shootings of people
perhaps even who were the bad guys, who had committed a crime. But that does not erase the question of okay,
but should this person be dead. And there’s a nuance there, right. And I think that again that’s a nuance that
we’re uncomfortable with. We’re very often uncomfortable questioning
that type of police authority because it raises these real questions about what is the role
of the government and the police in our lives and who should be dead and who should not
be. But I think that, I definitely think that
video beautifully complicates that and forces us to grapple with what might actually lead
to different outcomes, right. And I think that that’s kind of the point
of what a lot of the activism has been about.


  1. It ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIES ME as a law abiding blk person that pays all my taxes and even serves in the military reserves that I can be IN THE SAME Philando SITUATION and if I don't pull out my phone and start recording, I PROBABLY WILL NOT BE BELIEVED if I get pulled over and things go south.

  2. "Wahhh, they shot a black thug after he commited a crime and attacked police"

    This channel is called big think, not "identity politics, post modern, factual inaccuracy, think"

  3. "The cop is always the good guy" as someone who doesn't even pay much attention to american matters, I Can name three cases from the past few years of cops being charged with murder after being filmed killing a criminal, as opposed to maybe twice as many being legitimte police killings,

  4. Yeah it's absoultely terrifying and traumatic that people draw conclusions from a video that DOESN'T EVEN SHOW the encounter between the cop and the civilian. Instead they base their opinion on the level of emotional involvement. That's truly scary.

  5. No one denies that there are individual cases of racism, racism is the worst kind of bigotry and prejudice
    but this doesn't mean the racism is institutional.
    Big think should make that distinction.

    but the number of blacks in prison suggest something else…. we should hold people responsible now, we should hold culture responsible.
    Look at the number of black kids with single parents…. it suggests, if anything at all, that this has more to do with culture.

  6. Live video can always be misinterpreted, everything can be misinterpreted. That's what court cases are for and even then it can't be 100%

    You are watching an event take place, you don't know what lead to it or how. Especially with most news sites playing part of a video. People receiving only half of the information leads to witch hunts.

  7. I don't see the need for concentration on Race. it's part of the issue certainly but can we reel back just a little bit and see that our entire police force is out of control? Race is a piece of it, and I don't deny that… But here we are still saying "I don't believe you" when white people surface who have been beaten. Who have been wrongly stopped. Wrongly accused of crimes. This does actually happen to… and I think you do a great disservice to sweep it under the rug.

  8. LOL at trumptards and cuckservatives get all triggered. If y'all want to see more butthurt retards check out the comments of Buzzfeed and TYT. Lots of mental gymnastics going there.

  9. I think this is a biased opinion. We don't see it as often ( because it doesn't get as much attention) but there are videos of police justification of exessive force. There are police forces that use video to their advatage and have saved officers from persecution because they had the evidence to prove they acted correctly. but apparently thats not a cause to stand up for in this world. Rodney King is what everyone wants to see.

  10. upset whites in the comments as usual. they think every African American who die by the hands of police are thugs and deserved to die….good old america

  11. As long as people have access to weaponry, cops will be overly cautious when faced with a potential threat to their life. The only thing that footage proves is the both sides are incompetent and that people need to learn to chill the fuck out around cops. The only reason people are getting shot is because they aren't doing what they're told or are perceived to be dangerous.

  12. This guy is insane, the world he is describing does not and never did exist. If people get themselves into interactions with the police and then get uppity and resist arrest or disobey the instructions of the police or become violent then they are putting themselves in a situation which will likely not end well for them and that has nothing, absolutely fuck all, to do with the colour of your skin! Big Think is really scraping the bottom of the barrel and has been for some months now.

  13. The predictable way these Big Think posts go down is hilarious. Topic that can be considered liberal, check. High downvote ratio, check. Conservative bitching in the comments, check.

  14. I guess the question is why is the violence of those who tear up their community, violently attack innocent individuals and shoot police not traumatic but are exalted. Excuse me but your white guilt is showing. As someone said below you cannot tell the whole picture in a snippet of video, unless the video contains what led up to the shooting it needs to be investigated before any judgment can be rendered. As you said the technology has advanced and you do not need to be a professional to do creative editing of videos.

  15. I know how to resolve this problem once for all: don’t run, keep quiet, don’t resist arrest. If you are innocent there's nothing to worry about.

  16. The number of racism-denying, state oppression-denying fascist fucks in the comments is staggering but not surprising.

  17. We studied personality types who want to be, cops. Just Google it. They're published, easily accessed, and peer reviewed. I'll let you come to your own conclusions :/

  18. So in another words, if your boyfriend is shot and bleeding , the heroic thing to do is pull out your iPhone and videotape him for Facebook . All video does is prejudice the public into believing that an incident is more persuasive than it is. More whites are shot by cops than blacks, but for some reason the only video we see is that of a black person being the victim

    Now statistically, how can that be…

  19. live video disproves the false narrative that most cops are good when they are really narcissistic, violent thugs with too much arbitrary authority #blessed

  20. This guy has no self-awareness at all. Snap judgments and narrative weaving involved making the police out to be the bad guys too. Supposedly all police shootings against black people are all unjustified now. Why oh why can't people avoid going from one extreme to the other?

  21. It's really simple… We all have the same rights. When stopped by Law Enforcement do as instructed and you have nothing to worry about. People getting shot during engagements has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the amount of crime commited in certain areas and how suspects perceive being stopped by authoritative figures. Seems like a lot of these suspects have a preconceived notion that they are above the law and do see race as an issue. So a person that thinks their entitled to a different standard of rights compared to everyone else based on skin color is totally not racist right? Gimme a break.

  22. What about all the whites that get killed by blacks??? I care about my own people until America starts caring about white people I don't give a fuck about blacks…

  23. Unsubscribed. Fuck you. Blue lives fucking matter. Not the thugs who usually claim to be saints and is praised by a bunch of people who want dead cops.

  24. It had essentially no impact on how I understood police violence. This one looks like friendly fire. This is something known to happen in rare cases. Generally, the videos show good shootings. A few occasionally occur on the media where there was questionable behavior. It almost always happens in some place where there appears to be widespread corruption, under Democrats, and this is part of the problem. Throughout the last year or two most cities and suburbs where I've discussed this with people have had some odd incident, often involving a bus of black folk from Chicago who came to their city to see if they could cause trouble, and normally they cannot, AFAICT. While I get these reports from people I know, and you can find more online sometimes, and occasionally a police department on the news will mention that "a group arrived from out of town", there has not been a study of this occurrence afaict. It seems those people who are supposed to be doing that stuff are asleep at the wheel. It looks like people want to stoke partisanship.

  25. Is it just me (or maybe my phone) but did he constantly switch between different shades of skin colour?! Is this some genius stylistic device or just a technical issue??

  26. "Raaaa you don't think people should be killed damn liberals" the question here objectives rights and wrong with no grey area but no someone said black people are oppressed and you people loose your god damn minds

  27. What so may of you seem to forget is police are people too. They get called in to deal with the worst dregs of society on a regular basis. Is it at all surprising that many start to think all humans are scum? I have seen all too many videos showing protesters calling for the killing of police. The media then hypes it up for ratings, in the end, the media is helping to fuel an explosive situation and sitting back with their cameras pretending they have no part in causing it. Even with all that violent crime, including police killing innocents, is on the decline. Shame on the media trying to stoke a fire for their own benefit. For the record, I do believe a number of people are, and have been, inappropriately arrested and harassed. This guy's premise that we didn't believe it, fails from the start.

  28. I think the percentage of dislikes on this video is due to that not wanting to think about it described in the video, prophetic.

  29. Video has supported both sides of the story. Genuine cases of police overreaction and murder as well as situations of suicide-by-cop with political motives. Video is the evidence but it isn't the story. It's still important we hear both sides of the story and see which one the evidence supports on a case-by-case basis. The worst thing in the world we should be fighting is 'guilt by statistical probability'. It is just prejudice plain and simple.

  30. Cop vs Robber – the cop is always the good guy, the robber is always the bad guy – this is always true but with one exception – sometimes the cop is a bad guy What I just said is inherently true because the Robber named as such is necessarily a bad guy because Robbery is illegal. Also I do not think this perspective fully brings the social anxiety and the concept of "being there" fully out of the quagmire. And this is why – I invite Mr. Wesley Lowery at his earliest convenience to travel to South Side Chicago and start capturing on video the thousands upon thousands of murders that occur there each year. I grant you the fact that some police are bad and shoot people that do not deserve to be shot and murdered in the street – for any number of reasons. However, I couldn't help noticing your praise for the defamiliarization which this footage captures – it viscerally opens the space for us to be present to the horror of police shootings. If video is such a powerful tool then it is sorely needed in Chicago and other metropolitan areas in the country. Moreover – by falsely suggesting that the police are infallible you (we?) set them up as straw men and the proof of this comes out when a black man shot by a (black) police officer emanates from the Internet into popular culture. Having said all this it is unthinkable to me that (while keeping the thesis of this video in mind) Wesley Lowery will not produce sometime in the next 6 months about 12 hours of video footage that shows the benefit of a pseudo-physical participation in 30 or 50 murders in Chicago – and I mean specifically black on black murder. In fact, I think most people are fair minded and thrifty enough to realize the benefit of Lowery's concept of the impact of the video on the American imagination of police violence that perhaps there are people right now who have footage of gang members being murdered in a turf war, or an innocent little children who gets a stray bullet in a drive-by or even footage of some guy shooting geriatrics while robbing them.

    There is a lot of video to go around my friend

  31. I think that the people denying whatever argument put forth alluding to institutional bias are too invested in an ideology that deprives them of clear thinking and realizing that what happens in these videos are morally wrong.

  32. It does not make me uncomfortable, nor is it traumatic. I simple don't care.

    Caring about things would require effort on my part, and I'm too lazy for that shit.

  33. I have an acquaintance who is a uniformed police officer and he has made a conscious decision to remain on the street even though he has been offered fast track to detective. He was one of the most reasoned people I have ever met and we agree on much about policing but he points out issues that are insane to justify and cannot see the absurdity. A police officer, (fortunately now retired), who had been on the force for decades and was considered so high risk that when there was a police presence sent out an officer was assigned to literally watch this officer. He never denied that he knew of dozens of bad actions by other police officers but indicated that because he never actually did any of these things and in fact stopped or mitigated bad behaviours that it was all okay. We remain friends but ultimately as I pointed out to him that he is part of the problem because he protects other bad officers. Advocates of the police keep touting "just a few bad apples… maybe at worst 10%" but what does that mean if the other 90% covers up for their bad behaviour?

    To this date he still does not have answer for that and ultimately I accept that he is a force for good so I do break his balls on the issue but I still keep bringing it up in the hopes that he can understand that there is a covenant between society and those who we allow to protect society and this is not to be taken lightly.

    So for people like Robert Perlini who think he can distill this down to "a bunch of angry black folks who just don't know their place" I would say you probably didn't like Castro but his cops behaved with the same impunity that seemingly want to proffer your police. To paraphrase Mark O'Mara "everyone is certain about law and order and the legal system until they or a family member is suddenly subjected to it whereupon their views upon mandatory sentencing, incarceration and personal privacy go through an amazing mindset shift."

    That is not to say that police are evil but to suggest the counterpart that their behaviours are always virtuous and do need not require monitoring is equally foolish.

  34. Aaaand there it is. Being told I am willfully ignoring because I am a racist. Good job, you alienate me again with your broad brush strokes and wrongful accusations. Then you wonder why Trump appears so much more welcoming to me. If you want to win over white people as a group, you have to stop your war on white men.

  35. Wesley Lowery is the cub reporter that help start the current "racial wars" in America. He was the idiot who covered Ferguson. Complaining about police brutality, because he was being kicked out of MacDonald's for being a non paying patron and stealing electricity.

    YET…. at the SAME TIME, outside of the SAME MacDonald's, the paid rebel rousers who had been bussed in from Chicago were being arrested. Lowery went on to write that all of the disturbance was due to police – resident issues. COMPLETELY ignoring outsiders!

    BEFORE WAPO's Pulitzer had been formally announced for their coverage on Ferguson, Lowery went around bragging that he got a Pulitzer, EVEN THOUGH HE NEVER HAD A BI-LINE!! He got his job at Washington Post BECAUSE of his wealthy background connections.

    He needs an award! Being the man who helped restart racial wars in the U.S.

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published