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Social Media Videos May Convey Police Shooting Emotions More Clearly Than Facts


The initial outrage over Tuesday's fatal police shooting in Charlotte of Keith Lamont Scott was expressed on a Facebook Live video feed. A woman who identified herself as Scott's daughter recorded a nearly one hour video in which she repeatedly yelled and cursed at officers on the scene.

"They shot my daddy because he was black," the woman in the video said. "He was sitting in the car reading a [expletive] book." The video quickly went viral and protests in north Charlotte intensified as the night went on. Police said the scenario the video paints is not accurate and that Scott had a gun. 

Charlton McIlwain is a professor at New York University who studies how race and social media intersect. He believes the fact that the Charlotte video rapidly went viral reflects the emotional pain felt by family members and others following this and other police shootings. "Platforms like Facebook Live...give us a window into the pain, the emotions, the impact of occurrences like these in the lives of everyday people," says McIlwain.

Professor McIlwain also acknowledges that a social media video may not reflect all of the facts surrounding a particular incident. "They are a snapshot - they are a particular window into a set of events," according to McIlwain.   He adds that "the prudent thing to do is to be able to weigh all of those perspectives together," and wait for more information before making up one's mind about what happened.

McIlwaine says that to some extent, the facts that accompany a social media video may be secondary. "Whether it's this case or another case, there seems to be enough truth that circumstances like these are happening all too often, and that they're concentrated in communities of color, more often than not."