SHAUN KING: Say His Name, Walter Wallace

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When I am speaking or writing about police brutality in America, I often focus on individual stories rather than numbers or statistics.

Statistics sometimes encourage comparisons, which when trying to fight systems of oppression, is not useful. People like to compare American slavery to the Holocaust or one countries genocide to the other. The reality is every tragedy has distinctly different causes and each calls for specialized solutions.

But the numbers cannot be ignored. Let’s focus on them for a second.

On average, American police murder two to three people a day, sometimes more. No other similarly developed country comes even close to this number.

This is not normal.

This is not a world standard.

This is an outrageous fact that could only be true in America.

According to the organization Mapping Police Violence, in 2020 alone, police have killed 874 people. Twenty-eight percent of those victims were Black, despite Black people making up only 13% of the American population.

In eight of the country’s largest 100 cities, police kill Black men at higher rates than the U.S. murder rate. Let me break that down. This means that police officers are murdering more Black men than the actual murderers they are supposed to be stopping. Less than two percent of killings by police actually end with an officer being charged. Police are perpetrating government-sanctioned murders against Black men at extremely high rates.

One of those men was Walter Wallace.

Walter was a 27-year-old Philadelphia resident. He was a father, son and twin brother. He suffered from mental health issues of which his mother was aware of. In the video of Walter’s final moments, which has since gone viral and sparked protests, his mother can be seen walking close behind him, urging her son to answer her calls as well as the demands of the arriving police officers. He is holding nothing but a knife and standing several feet away from the officers, a generously safe distance.

Suddenly, the officers open fire. Walter is murdered. His mother begins to wail.

On today’s episode of The Breakdown, Shaun unpacks this devastating story and what he believes comes next.