When the McKinney video started trending I wasn’t in a state to watch so I read the commentary. Now that I have, the whole thing is completely messed up but at least three parts especially unnerve me:
- The completely unnecessary commando-style dive-and-roll that introduces Corporal Eric Casebolt. Some reports describe it as a trip but to me it looks like he’s playing a Hollywood action hero stunt double. Has he just been watching too many of the police videos he’s been collecting on YouTube?
- That none of the other officers saw his derring-do and said “yo Eric, stand down.” Is this something cops just don’t do? And if not, why not? We all know what it’s like to be hopped up on too much adrenaline. I know people do weird stuff when their reptilian brain fight-or-flight mechanism cuts in. It seems that officers should be on the lookout for just this sort of overreaction and have some sort of safe word to tell one another to take a chill.
- The videographer was a “invisible” white teenager. He walked nearby – and occasionally through – the action without being questioned. At one point Casebolt seems to purposefully step around him to put down his dark-skinned friends. The videographer told news reporters that he felt his whiteness made him invisible to Casebolt.
I never quite realized all the race politics behind the switch from public pools vs private pool clubs. I grew up in a Philly suburb with two public pools and very much remember the constant worry that Philadelphia kids might sneak in (“Philadelphia” was of course code for “black”). The township did have a historically African American neighborhood so the pools were racially integrated but I’m sure every dark-skinned township resident was asked to show town ID a lot more than I was. And it’s hard to think it was entirely coincidental that both public pools were located on the opposite ends of the township from the black neighborhood.
There are no public pools in the South Jersey town where I live. A satellite view picks out thirteen private pools on my block alone. Thirteen?!? There’s one private pool club across town. There’s a lot of casual racism around here, primarily directed at the mostly-Mexican farmworkers who double the town population every summer. If there was a town pool that reflected the demographics of the local Walmart parking lot on a Friday night in July, we’d have mini-riots I’m sure — which is almost surely why we don’t have a municipal pool and why wealthy families have poured millions of dollars into backyards.
(My family has joined the Elmer Swim Club, a pool located about half an hour away. While the majority of members are super nice and I haven’t heard any dodgy racial code phrases. The pool is diverse but is mostly white, reflecting the nearby population. That said, I’ve read enough Ta-Nehisi Coates to know we can rarely take white towns for granted. So.)