For Charlotte, there is no easy way out

For Charlotte, there is no easy way out
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There’s no right way to grieve the sudden and traumatic shooting death of your father. But when Lyric, one of Keith Lamont Scott’s seven children, live streamed the aftermath of his fatal shooting death at the hands of CMPD Officer Brentley Vinson, people had opinions.

Throughout most of the video, the female narrator behind the camera hurls hateful insults and racial slurs at police. But about 3/4 of the way through the hourlong live stream, her rage crumbles into deep, heaving sobs.

A child has just learned, live on the internet, that her father has died in the hospital. And she heard it secondhand through media reports. Hers is a grief so raw, so vulnerable, it seems wrong that hundreds of thousands of strangers are watching and judging in real time.

Social media gives us unprecedented front row access to some of the most gripping, emotional, controversial and divisive issues of our time. When news breaks, everyone with a smartphone is a reporter. How we process and share that lightning-fast information is critical.

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A 10-year-old boy holds his "Don't make me a hashtag" sign at Trade & Tryon

A 10-year-old boy holds his “Don’t make me a hashtag” sign at Trade & Tryon

I hate so much of what Lyric Scott said in that emotional video on Facebook. But I hate what spurred it more. And that, I think, is what’s important to identify here. What’s happening below the surface of this viral moment captured in time? What is the disease that caused the symptom?

It’s easy to see her anger and tell her to calm down. It’s easy to lock in on her choice of words and say she’s out of line. It’s easy to nitpick her narrative and fact check her claims about a complex and rapidly evolving investigation.

But it’s hard as hell to imagine the very real fear, distrust and injustice that would push someone over the edge of an anger so fierce. Unless, of course, that same fear, distrust and injustice permeates your own life.

Protestors at Trade & Tryon

Protestors at Trade & Tryon

In the 36 hours since Keith Scott died, two cities of Charlotte have emerged—one where this couldn’t possibly be happening and another where it was a long time coming.

Charlotte, like most large metropolitan areas, is a city of abundant wealth and opportunity for some and a place of economic struggle and inequality for others. And the glaring disparity between the two sometimes makes it hard to see the other side.

Tuesday and Wednesday night in Charlotte, we saw and heard one side loud and clear.

It would be easy to see the nighttime protestors’ anger and tell them to calm down. It would be easy to lock in on their actions and say they’re out of line. It would be easy to point to inconsistencies in the Keith Scott “It was a book” narrative in an attempt to delegitimize their movement.

But it would be hard as hell to consider the uncomfortable possibility that their anger is justified, that their actions are a reaction to a bigger, badder problem and that Keith Scott’s death isn’t the only thing fueling the fire of their discontent.

Protestors on the steps of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Protestors on the steps of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

I in no way (no. possible. way.) condone the violence, destruction of property and hate-filled rhetoric that has overshadowed thoughtful and peaceful demonstrations and brought the city of Charlotte to its knees these last two days. In fact, I hate it. But I hate what spurred it more.

Simply resolving the Keith Scott case will be little more than a bandaid over the gaping wound that was torn open this week. Because this isn’t about who can be most right about what happened Tuesday afternoon. Did he have a book? Did he have a gun? Did he point the gun at officers? Release the video!

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This unrest didn’t spring up overnight as the result of one isolated local incident. Charlotte now stands in a national spotlight on race relations and police brutality and what we do next has the power to redefine who we are.

What’s happening in Charlotte right now is a symptom of a much deadlier disease that it’s time we finally address. And for all of us, there will be no easy way out. But the only way out, I assure you, is together.

Writer’s note: I spent 4 hours marching with peaceful protestors at Trade & Tryon, Marshall Park and Little Rock AME Zion Church from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The images in this story reflect those passionate demonstrations. 

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