The media coverage surrounding the recent police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana and the outrage and vitriol spread over social media illustrate a growing problem within our modern society.
People feel qualified after reading a headline to immediately judge the legality and morality of decisions of others without knowing any additional context. We see it with the response to these police shootings; we saw it when a child got into a zoo enclosure in Cincinnati and a gorilla was shot. We saw it with Cecil the Lion, with the Trayvon Martin case, and with countless other examples every day.
Reality is far more complicated than any sound bite or video snippet can ever properly reflect. The police involved in Minnesota and Louisiana haven’t been exonerated. They were put on leave because the shootings are being investigated, by people who have the right skills, training and experience to do so. Eventually state and federal prosecutors will make a decision on whether to press charges, and eventually if needed a jury will evaluate all of the facts (not just the ones that fit into the evening news) and make a decision as to their guilt.
Reading a headline or watching a snippet of video does not make you an expert on the full circumstances of any situation, and having a knee jerk social media dogpile effect does not solve anything. And when our elected officials speak out prematurely to fan the flames of hate and score political points they make things worse. Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota, less than 24 hours after Castile was shot, held a press conference and said:
“Nobody should be shot and killed in Minnesota for a taillight being out of function… Would this have happened if those passengers and the driver were white? I don’t think it would’ve.”
It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise then that we see retaliatory shootings of police happening in Dallas and Tennessee as the media, the general public, and even the leaders of our own government make snap judgments about things they don’t actually know. Fanning the flames of racial hatred has consequences.
It takes a great deal of time to properly investigate a shooting, and until all the facts are in we don’t know what actually happened, and we ought to stop pretending that we have the right to pass judgment off of an emotional response to a headline. Let the investigators do their jobs. Not everything gets resolved in a 24 hour news cycle.