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Opinion Why African Americans are terrified

The fatal shooting of Walter Scott by officer Michael Thomas Slager in North Charleston isn't the first time video captured South Carolina police shooting unarmed civilians. Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart discusses why routine traffic stops aren't so routine for black men. (Editor's note: This video has been updated.) (Video: The Washington Post)

I didn’t even have a chance to emotionally process what happened in Baton Rouge on Tuesday when what happened near St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday was added to a grim list of black people who died at the hands of police.

Staten Island, N.Y.

Ferguson, Mo.

Beavercreek, Ohio.



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North Charleston, S.C.




Forgive me if a police shooting or killing of an African American is not listed above. There have been so many. And that list doesn’t include Waller County, Tex., where Sandra Bland went from routine traffic stop to hanged in her jail cell in July 2015. Nor does it include McKinney, Tex., where a video showed a police officer tackling Dajerria Becton, a bikini-clad 15-year-old, at a June 2015 pool party.

The Post's Jonathan Capehart was reminded of a provocative headline as he watched the video from the McKinney, Tex., pool party. (Video: Tom LeGro/The Washington Post)

And if you take all that above and add the horror of Charleston, S.C., where nine African Americans were killed, allegedly by a white supremacist, in a historic black church, perhaps you will begin to understand the trauma black people across the country are suffering right now.

A broken taillight can get you killed (Philando Castile). Selling CDs outside a convenience store can get you killed (Alton Sterling). Selling loose cigarettes can get you killed (Eric Garner). Playing in a park with a toy gun can get you killed (Tamir Rice). Shopping in a Walmart can get you killed (John Crawford III). A missing license plate can get you killed (Samuel DuBose). Worshiping in your church can get you killed (the Mother Emanuel nine). A routine traffic stop can get you shot (Levar Jones) or killed (Sandra Bland, Walter Scott). And as every African American knows, a routine traffic stop is never routine when you’re black.

The facts in all these cases vary, and the victims involved are not “perfect.” But this is how we see it. And we’re terrified.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj