An honest question for those who defend the Spring Valley police officer

This won’t be a full-fledged essay, or a carefully crafted bit of logic to convince you that you should care about the life of a child in South Carolina, if you don’t already. (If you haven’t seen the video yet: click here.) I’m wrecked by the viciousness of these police attacks, by the frequency of them — but in this moment, I just want to ask a simple question to those who respond with some version of the statement, “But we don’t know the full story.”

Just as it’s been with other brutalization videos, I’ve seen so many people write that we don’t know what happened before the video started, we don’t know what the girl did “to deserve it” (as if anything could justify a child being terrorized by an adult), we should trust the process or the administrators or the justice system. I just want to ask you one question:

How would it change your life if you were to defend the child?

Many of us have lived a life in which the police are good, and many of us have lived a life in which it’s easy to avoid confrontation with the police. That’s ok, that’s good—that’s how it should be for all people. I understand the resulting desire to defend the police. But after you watch a video like the Spring Vally High one, how is your life lessened by defending the child? How is your life lessened by watching a video and saying, “That shouldn’t happen. Full stop.”?

Next time this happens—and there will be a next time—take a deep breath and a big step back and challenge yourself: Who am I defending? Why? Who needs me more?

Of course, there will always be a story that we don’t know. But then again, perhaps the person doing the attacking—the one with the gun, and the body armor, and the nightstick; the one who is twice the size of the other—perhaps that person doesn’t need our empathy and trust and help as much as the person who is being thrown across the room, as much as the person who is being sat on and choked, as much as the person who is being shot.