Viral videos of Black men and women being shot, brutalized or killed at the hands of police have fueled protests and a cultural reckoning. These videos often capture the last moments of full lives and some argue that the mass consumption of police brutality footage is dehumanizing.
“One of the things that gets lost in these videos is that when it becomes fatal we’re looking at children having to live with parents entombed online.” — Allissa Richardson, professor
When is bearing witness necessary for social movement and when does it become exploitative?
Listen: Allissa Richardson on the problem with police-shooting videos.
Allissa Richardson, Assistant professor of Journalism at the University of Southern California, recently authored a piece for The Atlantic, “The Problem With Police-Shooting Videos,” addressing the humanity around the distribution of footage of police brutality.
“One of the things that gets lost in these videos is that when it becomes fatal we’re looking at children having to live with parents entombed online,” says Richardson. She says while these videos allow people to see firsthand the insidiousness of police brutality, and may mobilize people as a result, it can also desensitize the public and dehumanize the people in the video.
Richardson suggests these videos be removed and placed in a space reserved for a more contemplative gaze.
“When white people die violently and there’s video of it, it is quickly retired to a shadow archive, I’m asking for the same thing to happen with videos of Black people,” says Richardson.