The realities surrounding Walter Scott’s murder are horrific. Not simply because a Black man was shot in the back by a police officer, but because of the evidence of a cover up to protect the officer. You know it as the “Thin Blue Line”: the bond where police officers protect each other no matter the costs. We all know about that blue line. Black and Brown people certainly mistrust that blue line, knowing that the system will protect and serve itself even at the expense of Justice.
That frightening reality was brought into focus when Walter Scott was murdered and a video surfaced showing the beginnings of the cover up to turn the murder into another story of self-defense, where an officer “feared for his life” and fatally shot another unarmed Black man. But what made this time so much more troubling was the presence of another Black man, a police officer, standing by and participating in the betrayal of Justice.
A Black man stood by and let another Black man die!
People want to know how Ofcr. Habersham could stand by while Walter Scott bled to death. They want to know how Habersham could lie about performing life-saving measures on Walter Scott. They want to know how Habersham could ignore what we all saw: Michael Slager seemingly planting a taser on Walter Scott. But I want to wonder something different.
Clarence Habersham is no different from many of us
Clarence Habersham did no different from what many of us do everyday: turn a blind eye to injustice and even participate in a cover up in order to protect our own self-interest.
Think about it. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have all turned a blind eye or a deaf ear when we’ve seen something oppressive or offensive to Black people. We have all went along with something we should have known was wrong, in order to be a “team player.” We have all stuck our heads in the sand and “stayed in our lane” in order to maintain or advance our position, even if to the detriment of another.
Now, maybe we didn’t literally watch another man die and do nothing. But, I’m sure you’ve all had the White person ask you: “was that racist?” And even though you know the statement or action was offensive, you respond: “No,” or “it wasn’t that bad.” Think of the many Board Room decision, legislative initiatives, water cooler conversations and casual discussions where something was said or done that made you cringe but you bit your tongue and toed the line…going along to get along.
Many of us have stood by and let another die!
But it’s easier for us to single out Clarence Habersham because what he did was so exceedingly egregious. It’s easier for us to point the finger at him, for there is no escaping his cooperation with injustice. It’s almost comforting: for while we point at him, we pat ourselves on the back telling ourselves “at least I’m not like him!”
But he exists because we exist. Clarence Habersham is just an extreme example of who we are: a silent people, willing to cooperate and capitulate to injustice if it will preserve our own skin. And as I consider that truth I’m reminded that “he who wishes to save his life will lose it. But he who loses his life for My sake and the Gospels will save it.”
Are you trying to save your life by seeing no evil, hearing no evil and not speaking about evil? Are you turning blind eyes and deaf ears to the offensive practices done and said in your presence? Are you rubber-stamping oppression because you don’t want to risk losing your position or standing?
It is true: as inhumane as Michael Slager’s actions were, the outcome might have been different if Clarence Habersham had risked his position behind the “Thin Blue Line.” But he didn’t, and now his cooperation is even worse than the murderer’s actions.
What “Thin Blue Line” are you standing behind? And, are you willing to risk your standing behind that line for the sake of what’s right?