On Wednesday night’s episode of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah devoted the second half of his monologue to his devastation after seeing the just-released dash-cam video footage of the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year. Last week, the officer was acquitted on all charges, including manslaughter.
“Yesterday on the show, we spoke about the killing of Philando Castile and the verdict that exonerated the police officer who shot him. And honestly, I thought that I felt all I could feel about this story — until I got home, and I watched a newly released video,” Noah told his audience. “And if you have already watched this video, you don’t have to watch it again. I wouldn’t say anyone has to watch this video, but if you haven’t seen it, it is graphic, and you probably should watch it. And we’re going to play it for you now.”
After he showed the video, Noah continued:
I won’t lie to you. When I watched this video, it broke me. It just — it broke me. You see so many of these videos, and you start to get numb, but this one? Seeing the child, that little girl, getting out of the car, after watching a man get killed, it broke my heart into little pieces. Like, I thought of every joke people make about “Oh, the most confusing day in the hood is Father’s Day”: “People don’t know where their parents are, ha-ha. Black dads.” That’s a black dad that’s gone. That’s a child that grows up not knowing what it’s like to have somebody in their life.
You watch that video, and you know what’s the most painful thing? For years, for years, people said that there’s a simple solution to police shootings: “Just give the police body cameras. Film everything. Then there will be no question about what happens.” Yeah. And black people have already taken that initiative, right? Thanks to cellphones, every black person has a body cam now.
Black people have been saying for years: “Just give us an indictment, just an indictment. You know, what, just get us in front of a jury, in front of a jury of our peers, of our fellow citizens. We’ll show them the video, the evidence, and then they will see it, and justice will be served.” And black people finally get there, and it’s like: “Wait, what? Nothing?”
You hear the stories, but you watch that, and — forget race. Are we all watching the same video? The video where a law-abiding man followed the officer’s instructions to the letter of the law and was killed regardless. People watch that video and then voted to acquit? And the saddest thing is that wasn’t the only video that they watched.
[Shows footage from Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, whose Facebook Live stream after the shooting went viral last year. She says, “You shot four bullets into him, sir."]
“You shot four bullets into him, sir.” It’s f—ing mind blowing that Diamond Reynolds has just seen her boyfriend shot in front of her. She still has the presence of mind to be deferential to the policeman. In that moment, the cop has panicked, but, clearly, black people never forget their training. Still, in that moment, the black person is saying, “Sir, I respect you, sir. I understand what I need to do, sir.” The same thing Philando Castile did.
But still, according to the law, the jury had to make a decision. That decision is, “Do you think this policeman was justified in thinking that his life was in danger?” And their opinion, having watched that video, having listened to that exchange, they still said, “Yes, yes, I can see why that cop was afraid.”
But why? Let’s be honest. Just why? Why would they say he was afraid? Was it because Philando Castile was being polite? Was it because he was following the officer’s instructions? Was it because he was in the car with his family? Or was it because Philando Castile was black?
It’s one thing to have the system against you — the district attorneys, the police unions, the courts — that’s one thing. But when a jury of your peers, your community, sees this evidence and decides that even this is self-defense, that is truly depressing. Because what they’re basically saying is in America, it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because they are black. And that’s the truth of what we saw with this verdict.