‘Must black death be broadcast, consumed to be believed?’

The video of Philando Castile’s death is jarring. Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. asks why black death must be broadcast to be believed.

I wasn’t going to write this.

On this subject, I felt I had already spilled enough outrage onto enough pages to last a lifetime. I needed a break from the emotional carnage.

Then I saw the dashcam video that was released last week.

Granted, it told me nothing I didn’t already know. I knew how a black man named Philando Castile was pulled over last year in a Minneapolis suburb. I knew how he politely informed the police officer that he had a legal firearm in the car. I knew how the officer panicked and started shooting as Castile was complying with a request for his license and registration.

But as it turned out, I had the facts, but not the visceral truth. I didn’t know how shattering and sudden it all was. One moment it’s a traffic stop and then — bangbangbangbangbangbangbang! — it’s an execution.

That video shocked me. It left my heart trembling. It left my thoughts tumbling.

I thought of the NRA, which supposedly exists to protect law-abiding gun owners from government overreach. Obviously, that extends only to law-abiding white gun owners, because it’s been nearly a year since Castile’s death and, at this writing, the group has uttered barely a peep about a black man who was martyred for that cause.

I thought of all those people who assure me, with a smugness found only in the profoundly ignorant, that if black people would just treat police with respect and obey their commands, they wouldn’t get hurt. I would ask them to tell me which of those things Castile failed to do.

I thought of that time Sean Hannity explained how, when he is stopped, he informs the officer that he has a legal firearm and it all goes smoothly after that: “’Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ writes me a ticket, ‘Thank you, sir,’ and that’s it.” I thought of the frequent inability of…

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