Anyone who has watched the video of Walter Scott being gunned down by Officer Michael Slager in the streets of North Charleston, South Carolina, should be absolutely shocked by what occurred. Mr. Slager, a sworn officer of the law who was charged with murder on April 7 (three days after the shooting), was also fired from the North Charleston Police Department after he resorted to using deadly force on Scott following a routine traffic stop. To be exact, Walter Scott was shot at eight times (struck by five of the bullets) while running away from Slager. And what do we know about Walter Scott? He was an American father of four who was engaged, had served in the Coast Guard in 1984 and received a general discharge under honorable conditions. While he had been arrested about 10 times throughout his life, they were mostly for what many would deem "minor offenses," such as failure to pay child support or show up for court hearings.
This killing was clearly abominable, and I, as most, was disgusted upon viewing the footage. After taking some time to process the situation, I immediately wondered how the community of North Charleston would react. According to the United States Census Bureau's 2010 Demographic Profile Data, North Charleston's population is 47.2 percent black or African-American, while 41.6 percent is white. A city of 100,000 residents (the third-largest in the entire state of South Carolina after Columbia and Charleston) could have easily erupted into something we have witnessed in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, over the past few months. Amongst many things, there has been looting, rioting, violent protests and a general cloud of destruction blanketing Ferguson.
And yet, there does not seem to be a desire to burn and loot the city of North Charleston, where peaceful protests and rallies have been held, all relating to a case that is so clearly egregious and supported by video proof. This is contrary to the case of Michael Brown, in which Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted by the St. Louis County Grand Jury. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Justice cleared Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting and concluded that he shot Brown in self-defense.
Advertisement - story continues below
So what do we make of this? Why do we see riots in Ferguson but not in North Charleston? There may be more discontent and racial tension inside and outside the city of St. Louis, but people in North Charleston are setting an example for what this nation needs: a peaceful attempt to effectuate meaningful change in their community. The tragic shooting of Walter Scott provides the city with an opportunity to acknowledge any shortcomings the police force may display, while simultaneously setting a stage for powerful discourse. It is vital for the community to realize that people who engage in thuggish behavior and refuse to follow the law should not be glorified and viewed as some type of "heroes."
There needs to be a mindset of objectivity where we can all sit down together and have productive conversations instead of painting each other in the worst light possible. The building of relationships is crucial, and it is important to get police involved early on in the community so that the first encounter a young person has with a police officer is not a hostile one. That is the type of thing that will make a huge difference in this country. We need to create relationships, because they are key to resolutions of problems. The building of relationships is a two-way street that cannot be avoided, and in order for it to prove beneficial for everyone, we must all be invested with a positive mentality.
The people of North Charleston should be proud of their strength and peaceful response to such a horrible act that occurred within their community. While there is certainly a feeling of resentment and anger regarding the cold-blooded killing of Walter Scott, police injustice can only be solved through sensible steps that foster actual change. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." That doesn't necessarily need to be the case, but a peaceful relationship and an ability to walk the streets without fear is a sound start.
Advertisement - story continues below