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Mike Sholars Headshot

How Will It Look When It's Time For Me To Die On Camera?

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terence crutcher
A still image captured from a video from Tulsa Police Department shows Terence Crutcher after being shot during a police shooting incident in Oklahoma on Sept. 16, 2016. (Photo: Handout via Reuters)

I've watched Terence Crutcher die eight times.

I've watched it with the original audio, with the play-by-play announcement of the helicopter pilot punctuated by Betty Shelby screaming that shots had been fired. By her.

I've watched it with no audio, intruding on my Facebook page when I was scrolling for memes and travel selfies. Once it starts, I can't stop watching. Not until Terence is lying on the ground. I didn't know blood stains were that dark.

I've watched it with Creative Commons music pumping in the background and Helvetica captions explaining the story to me in under two mobile-friendly minutes.

I've watched it with heavy editing, with the moments of the gunshot replaced with a picture of Terence and his twin sister, Tiffany. The following content may be considered disturbing to some audiences.

This undated photo shows Terence Crutcher, left, with his father, Joey Crutcher. (Photo: Courtesy of Crutcher Family/Parks & Crump, LLC via AP)

I've watched him die sandwiched between a video of a Pomeranian playing piano and Justin Trudeau playing a cute game for Buzzfeed.

I watch until I get sick and tired. I watch and then make excuses for not hanging out with friends. I joke about having "The Sads."

And then I watch him die again.

There's nothing redemptive about this. There's no silver lining. But when faced with objective negativity, a lot of people do everything in their power to find one. It's not possible, but they try.

I've had people tell me that at least this is going to raise awareness. As if black people being shot to death by cops who are scared to the point of murder by the mere sight of a Black person is an underfunded disease that can be cured if it gets enough viral attention.

We're apparently one Ice Bucket Challenge away from #BlackLivesMatter really catching on.

What small physical imperfection, what inadvertent stumble will be the reason I'm murdered on a jittery impulse?

I watch him go down from the one-two punch of a Taser and several gunshots to the body. I don't know why they followed up a successful non-lethal takedown with lethal force, but I'm not a police officer.

If you were to take every single piece of shaky cam and mobile phone footage showing police officers killing unarmed or complying black people and splice them together, you'd have a horror movie.

Or a snuff film.

When it's time for me to die on camera, how will it look? Who will film me? What small physical imperfection, what inadvertent stumble will be the reason I'm murdered on a jittery impulse?

It's like flipping to the wrong page in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Bad ending, start over. Your hand got too close to the window of your vehicle.

Terence Crutcher, centre, is pursued by police officers as he walks to an SUV in Tulsa, Okla. Crutcher had no weapon on him or in his SUV according to Tulsa police. (Photo: Tulsa Police Department via AP)

The list of Things Black People Cannot Do Without Getting Killed is so vast and so deep, and I can't help but infringe. And I know when I'm doing it.

I visited Texas alone.

(I was forced by my family to put the address of the Canadian embassy in my phone in case I was wrongfully arrested.)

I travel.

(I've been accused of shoplifting, yelled at for ruining Prague, and asked to my face if racism was real or if I was just being sensitive. This was just in the last month and change.)

I walk around holding a white woman's hand.

(Every time someone's gaze lingers on us throughout Europe, I wonder if this is when the fight starts.)

I speak up and know my rights.

(Against my mom's longtime advice.)

I break up fights when I see them.

(Against pretty much everyone's advice.)

Which one will get me killed?

Will it be recorded by a stranger on the street? Will it go public when the body-cam footage from the officer is released? Do I look like a big bad dude? Do I own too many hoodies?

trayvon martin day
Sixteen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a member of the neighbourhood watch. Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt as he walked to his father's home. (Photo: Family of Trayvon Martin)

Here's something you might not know: if the street is quiet enough, I can hear the sound of you locking your car door as I walk by. I can see you cross the street a few blocks ahead of me. I can turn my head and see you cross back once I've passed.

I've watched Terence Crutcher die as the officers uttered their preemptive excuses for killing him on sight. I've seen a man die by the same reflexes that lock car doors instinctively as I pass.

Instinctively, they protect themselves from me. Instinctively, they protected themselves from him. Trained professionals. Books and covers.

Every time another person who looks like me is murdered on video, I tell myself that this will be the one that makes people angry. This is the hard evidence that says "Yes, we haven't been lying. No, racism isn't over. Yes, it's really that bad. No, it's not just some bad apples."

And every time, it's not enough.

Being upset about murder has become a personal problem, a political stance, an awkward conversation. It gets turned around and presented as more evidence of PC culture gone wrong.

tulsa police crutcher
Rev. Joey Crutcher, father of Terence Crutcher, speaks to the media at the National Action Center in New York on Sept. 21, 2016. (Photo: Joseph Frederick/AP)

I can't educate every single person I talk to and walk them through why this is very real. I need them to take me at my word, I need them to trust that people of colour know the realities of our own lives.

The trust isn't there. Just skepticism and a belief that there's more to the story.

It makes living an act of rebellion.

It makes success an act of revolution.

It makes me tired.

I can't watch him die anymore.

If we're all determined to only acknowledge the truth of someone else's life if they can prove it to us, how many black deaths need to be on camera before someone starts to take our word for it?

No child wants to die on camera when they grow up.

We don't always get what we want.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

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