The Internet is a wonderful/horrible place. There are beautiful, funny, intelligent folks creating amazing work, speaking truth to power on nuanced topics, and generally pouring themselves into intellectual endeavors that make the world a better place. Then there are vile trolls–violent people who lurk around trying to pollute, poison and abuse others. It’s a fucked up give and take, but it’s one that we live with and constantly try to improve.
With quick access to camera phones and social media comes by-the-minute dissection of tragedies, most notably, violence against Black folks at the hands of police. We have watched in horror as Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and countless others were killed or abused and taken into police custody. The videos of these tragedies quickly go viral–often with the well-intentioned hope that the video will lead to justice.
The truth is that a video of a Black person being killed by police doesn’t result in more convictions. Something that definitely results from the shares? Emotional trauma for the family and Black folks who identify with the victim.
The world is a complicated place, and this is a nuanced issue. So I’m not going to tell you to NEVER share videos of police brutality (you know, “never say never”). But I am going to tell you to think real hard before you re-tweet a video of a person’s last moments. At the very least do these two things before you share: 1) give an explicit trigger warning for racialized violence, 2) bury the video in a post (after a TW) so it doesn’t pop up and auto-play in someone’s feed.
Remember that the person in the video has family watching, and their world is falling apart. Remember that the person in the video looks a lot like someone else’s best friend, mom, dad, sister, brother, friend (or themselves).
Remember that the video is of a human being. This is not a movie. It is not something to consume and spit out casually. It isn’t something to garner more social presence. The videos you share are of irrevocable harm, the worst kind of violence, and they spread trauma. When is it worth spreading for awareness? I don’t have the answer, but I do know that you should tread lightly, and always, always follow the lead and request of the family in question and/or Black activists in your life.