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The Ahmaud Arbery shooting: Video should not be required for racial justice

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Where did the video come from? Alan Tucker, a local defense attorney, identified himself Thursday as the person who shared the video with the radio station. The arrests came hours later. In a statement, Tucker said he wasn't representing anyone involved in the case, but he wouldn't reveal how he got the tape.

He released it, he said, "because my community was being ripped apart by erroneous accusations and assumptions."

So was much of the nation. The case immediately drew comparisons to the death of Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old whose death stirred national fury after he was killed by 28-year-old mixed-race George Zimmerman in Florida. The neighborhood watch coordinator shot Martin in a scuffle after stopping him because, as Zimmerman said later, he suspected the youth was "up to no good."

Charged with murder, Zimmerman was acquitted. There was no video to back up the case against Zimmerman, just as there was no video of another police shooting victim, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked days of protests in local streets.

But I think a closer comparison can be made to the shooting death of Walter Scott in 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. He was shot and killed by Michael Slager, a North Charleston police officer who had stopped the black man for a broken tail light. A nearby witness's cellphone video showed the officer shooting Scott in the back, and the officer later was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

 

In racially charged cases like these, the sad question lingers: Why does it take video evidence before black victimization can be believed? It's not that simple, of course. There are some cases in which the nonwhite suspect is guilty of a crime and using racism as an excuse -- or, in some cases, even making up a hate crime that never actually occurred.

But those sins are not limited to any one race. Every time injustice is exposed through the fortunate presence of video, it should not bring us relief. It should make us ask, why aren't we doing better?

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2020 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

 

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