The StoryCorps Video You Need To Watch After This Week
The country is reeling after this week's violence perpetrated by and on the police. On Tuesday, a Louisiana man, Alton Sterling, was shot to death selling CDs. Then Philando Castile was killed on Wednesday during a routine traffic stop with his fiancée and her 4-year-old child in the car. It sounds unbelievable, but it's actually all too common: Castile was the 136th person killed by police in 2016, according to The Guardian's total. So watch and, more importantly, share this StoryCorps video in light of the ongoing killings of black men by our police.
Share it because this kind of police brutality can sometimes be hard for some Americans to grasp — particularly white Americans who have only had good encounters with the police. And now, after 12 police officers were shot — five of them shot dead — Thursday at a Black Lives Matters protest, the message might be harder to get through than ever.
That's because officers were killed by snipers, at least one of whom who was "upset about Black Lives Matter" and "upset about the recent police shootings" — according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown.
The violent reaction is completely unacceptable. But so is the violence inflicted by police.
So, take a look at this video. Story Corp posted it on Facebook Wednesday in response to Sterling's death. Only hours later would the similarity to Castile's become evident. Entitled "Traffic Stop," it's an animated interview with a mother, Patsy Hathaway, and her son, Alex Landau, who was a victim of police violence during a traffic stop in Denver in 2009.
His fate nearly became the same as Castile's. Even Hathaway, the mother — who's white — never expected her son would meet such a fate. "I thought that love would conquer all and skin color really didn't matter. I had to learn the really hard way when they almost killed you," Hathaway tells her son in the video.
Landau was driving with a friend when he noticed a police siren in the rear view mirror. According to the video, he pulled over and the officer told him he had made an illegal left-hand turn and to get out of the car. Landau says he was patted down and then the officer moved on to the passenger, a friend who was white. The friend had marijuana in his pocket and thus was put in handcuffs. What comes next you need to hear from Landau himself:
I figure that everything is OK, I'm not in handcuffs, I've already been patted down, and plus there's three officers on the scene. And I had never had a negative interaction with police in my life, and so I ask them, 'Can I please see a warrant before you continue the search?' And they grab me and begin to hit me in the face.
His friend calls for them to stop. But they don't stop. They keep hitting.
I was hit several times, and I remember gasping for air and spitting and blood flying across the grass. And then I hear an officer shout out, 'He's reaching for a gun.' I immediately started yelling, 'No, I'm not. I'm not reaching for anything.' And I remember an officer say, 'If he doesn't calm down, we're going to have to shoot him.' I could feel the gun pressed to my head and I expected to be shot. And at that point I lost consciousness.
Perhaps even that wasn't the worst of it. When he woke up, the officers were laughing at him. They said, "Where's your warrant now?" and called him the N-word. Landau says it took 45 stitches to close up the cuts on his face.
His mother, upon seeing him, then had the realization that we all need to. "My whole world view changed that night," Hathaway says in the video. "I was terribly uneducated about all of this. And I learned the very, very hard way, when they almost killed him. ... The problem is racism," she added in an interview with CBS News. For Landau, too, everything changed. "It was the point of awakening to how the rest of the world is going to look at you. I was just another black face in the streets, and I was almost another dead black male," he said.
None of the officers faced disciplinary action following the beating. The Justice Department did not charge the officers either, citing a lack of evidence. Landau was awarded $795,000 from the city in a lawsuit, but the system went on unchanged. Two of the officers were later fired for lying about other episodes of police violence, one of which was caught on video.
Imagine if the officers involved in Sterling's shooting, or Castile's shooting, or the more than 100 shootings this year of black men and women were held to a higher standard — or had been fired for prior offenses. Imagine if their co-workers were prosecuted for police violence against our fellow citizens. Imagine if police spent time in jail for murder. Maybe they'd be less likely to escalate traffic stops, to create confrontation, and perpetrate violence. It's situations like the one Landau explains in this video that cause our black citizens to live in fear of the police in everyday, normal situations.
Share the video. Make sure everyone you know understands how common this is. And make sure we stop it.
Images: StoryCorps (4).