‘How many of you killed a negro?’: Charleston NAACP says cops see shootings as ‘badge of honor’
CHARLESTON — Dot S. Scott, the president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, said this week that the black community in her city was at a breaking point due to the recent mistrial of a former police officer who was seen on video shooting Walter Scott in the back, and because of the ongoing federal trial of Dylann Roof, who admitted killing nine members of Emanuel AME Church.
Raw Story sat down with Scott on Tuesday to talk about how the community was dealing with the news that a jury had refused to convict former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager for the murder of Walter Scott.
“The trial that ended last week with a hung jury was disappointing,” Scott admitted. “I think we fared well in terms of not having any violence or things like that. That was one of my concerns because there should not have been a reason to not have been able to convict him. The video they had as evidence, it’s hard to explain away that any person sane and fair could watch it as a juror and say, ‘I just can’t convict him.'”
“We have come to expect so little in terms of fairness in the justice system,” she remarked. “Because the bar is set so low, the expectations are so low. We’ve seen it, we’ve had video tapes before — that was probably part of why you still don’t have the violent blow up yet.”
“But yet, I feel like we’re on the precipice of something happening, that one next thing. What’s going to be the one thing that we’re going to lose all this peace and Kumbaya.”
Scott said that, so often, officers defend the killing of black men by claiming that they were in fear for their lives.
“Why are you a police officer if the sight of a black man causes you to fear for your life?” she asked. “Did race have anything to do with it? Hell yes. I don’t think that officer would have shot another citizen of another color in the back like that.”
“When you watch him, it was cool, calm like he was doing target practice,” Scott said of Officer Slager. “Obviously [Walter Scott] doesn’t have a weapon or anything, he’s no danger to you or anybody else running away. ‘No, we got to kill him.’ He probably said, ‘Negro, I’m not running behind you, I’m just not doing it.'”
Scott lamented that there had been so many shootings in the U.S. that it had become a “badge of honor” for an officer to kill a black man.
“It was almost like a badge of honor, ‘Let me just shoot one of these black guys,’ and ‘How many of you have killed a negro?’ or something like that. Because we don’t shoot dogs down like that. We will try not to kill an animal quicker than we would try not to kill a black man. It is what it is.”
According the NAACP leader, the Dylann Roof trial is “hard to swallow” because it was forcing the black community to relive the trauma of the 2015 mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church.
“[The defense attorneys are] not trying to say Dylann Roof didn’t do it, you have none of that,” she explained. “But I think the biggest fear for the system here is that they don’t want Dylann Roof to be his represent himself [in court] because Dylann is going to put a mirror in front of them and say, ‘You know what. I did this because I meant to and I’m not so much of an isolated case.'”
Scott also pointed out that systemic racism could never really be addressed until people of all colors — particularly whites — stood up and took public actions.
“It doesn’t help a lot to empathize and sympathize with me behind closed doors,” Scott said. “It helps more for white folks to begin to say enough is enough and it is wrong. But these are people you go to church with, they are people we golf with, these are my business partner — so we don’t say anything. So, it’s almost like we sanction that it’s alright to do that.”
“It’s going to take more — just like all the lynching that was going on and why the NAACP came to be because you had these white Jews and folks who were part of the system that started the NAACP with other folks. If we don’t do that — and I can see that more folks are reaching out trying to do that — but if we don’t do that, we’re not going to move forward in any way.”
Ed. note: This article was updated to clarify that Scott sees police shootings as a systemic problem nationwide that is not limited to North Charleston.