Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Can This Course Help Explain Why Police Killings of Black Men Keep Happening?

As the course was getting started, two more police killings sparked national attention and protest.  On September 16, Terence Crutcher was killed after his car broke down outside Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The officer responsible, Betty Shelby, has been charged with first degree manslaughter. Four days later, Keith Scott was killed in Charlotte, NC, as he got out of his SUV in an apartment parking lot (a mourner is pictured at left).  As of today, no one has been charged.

Scott's wife released a harrowing video she made as the incident occurred.  After coming under quite a bit of pressure, the Charlotte police department released some of their video footage.  Today, the London Daily Mail tabloid ran a story claiming that Scott was a gun-carrying former convict whose wife had filed a temporary restraining order against him last year.  And so it goes.  Terence Crutcher was clearly unarmed, and Keith Scott appears to be unarmed, at least to me, though the video released so far has not settled the issue.  The New York Times ran a piece collecting some of the videos of the shootings that have put the issue of police killings on the national agenda.  Rakeyia Scott's video is like the one made by Philandro Castile's girlfriend outside St. Paul, Minnesota last July as he lay dying.

The "causes of noir" that I mentioned on Thursday refer to historical, cultural and social factors that create conditions in which actions like the killing of black males becomes more rather than less likely.  While discussion of individual cases often focuses on direct causality (whodunit and why), the course analyzes indirect causality as well.  This is when background or contextual forces shape events, often invisibly and beneath the surface.  We'll see whether by mid-way through the course we can shed light on the indirect causes of the killings that are increasingly being called an "American epidemic."

Crash Procedure English 193 Fall 2016