‘[He] wasn’t roaring; [he] was weeping’

How Looky-Loos can save the day

Can Police Take My Cell Phone For Recording Them?

One of my earliest memories of my father was of his acerbic tirade against looky-loos at a bad car accident on the foreshore in Cape Town. I think we were returning from the circus (this was back in the days before the elevated freeway was built near the docks on the reclaimed land) and the night was a kaleidoscope of flashing emergency vehicles, which mesmerized my five-year-old self, as did the prospect of seeing something so gruesomely awful.

But my father’s clear disdain for people drawn to the horror of an accident scene, labelling them as schadenfreudian monsters, has had me try valiantly to avert my eyes from crash sites ever since, or be filled with guilty fascination if I happened to catch sight of wreckage of any kind.

I have battled over the years to understand how journalists have been able to stand by and photograph victims of war and famine without helping the injured and suffering, although I do understand on some level why they do. And I am incensed by students who hover around the edges of fights and film acts of bullying, instead of breaking up the attacks and have often blamed social media for encouraging such incidents.

Until April 2021.

And Darnella Frazier’s shocking film of George Floyd’s murder.

The young woman who filmed the loathsome execution of George Floyd may well have changed the course of history with her film, in much the same way as Nick Ut’s Pulitzer-winning shot of a naked nine-year-old  Phan Thi Kim Phuc (known as ‘napalm girl’) shattered any delusions that the Vietnam War was a noble enterprise (as if any war is!), or the heart-breaking vision captured by Kevin Carter (which also won a Pulitzer) of a starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture in 1993, forced the world to sit up and take notice of the famine in drought-stricken Africa.

Perhaps NOW there will be a change in the United States appalling policing of black ‘criminals,’ ‘driving while black’ being their main offence. One is reminded of apartheid style security police measures and excuses for murders during their detention without trial in the notorious John Vorster Square.

Chris van Wyk’s poem, In Detention, foreshadows a list in an an article published by Brandon Giggs of CNN https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/20/us/living-while-black-police-calls-trnd/index.html of all the ludicrous 911 calls made about black people going about their daily business- just the ones they reported on recently:

Operating a lemonade store

Golfing too slowly

Waiting for a friend at Starbucks

Barbecuing at a park

Working out at a gym

Campaigning door to door

Moving into an apartment

Mowing the wrong lawn

Shopping for prom clothes

Napping in a university common room

Asking for directions

Not waving while leaving an Airbnb

Redeeming a coupon

Selling bottled water on a sidewalk

Eating lunch on a college campus

Riding in a car with a white grandmother

Babysitting two white children

Wearing a backpack that brushed against a woman

Working as a home inspector

Working as a firefighter

Helping a homeless man

Delivering newspapers

Swimming in a pool

Shopping while pregnant

Driving with leaves on a car

Trying to cash a paycheck

Chris van Wyk’s 1979 poem devolves into meaningless sentence fragments as the absurdity of the security police’s excuses for the murders of anti-apartheid activists becomes obvious:

In detention-Chris van Wyk

He fell from the ninth floor
He hanged himself
He slipped on a piece of soap while washing
He hanged himself
He slipped on a piece of soap while washing
He fell from the ninth floor
He hanged himself while washing
He slipped from the ninth floor
He hung from the ninth floor
He slipped on the ninth floor while washing
He fell from a piece of soap while slipping
He hung from the ninth floor
He washed from the ninth floor while slipping
He hung from a piece of soap while washing.

But Chris van Wyk was writing in the seventies. George Floyd and these US citizens being victimised #WhileBlack are being victimised in 2021 in the supposed ‘land of the free.’

The one person who can claim to be a citizen of the ‘home of the brave’ is Darnella Frazier, who, according to Michael Moore deserves an Oscar for filming the most important film of the year. https://web.facebook.com/mmflint/posts/294248015406143?_rdc=1&_rdr

Gung-ho cops may think twice now about falsifying reports and perpetrating violence against arrestees, thanks to her courage.

I hope that Darnella will receive the trauma counselling needed to overcome the enormity of the horror she and her young cousin witnessed. It is worth noting that Kevin Carter committed suicide a few months after winning his Pulitzer for his Sudanese picture and despite the fact that he chased the bird of prey away and the child reached a United Nations Aid camp thanks to him, the abomination he bore witness to, destroyed him. Let that not happen to those who watched helplessly as George Floyd died.

And let us not EVER forget that the photographer reflects the war that needs to be stopped, the dead and the dying, the bully’s victims. They are human beings first before they are icons of tragedy. And make no mistake there is a war against black people still.

Let more teenagers filming bullies of any sort do what Darnella did though – turn the film over to authorities with the integrity to bring about change and just reparation, not just the internet, so that the world can edge just a bit closer to justice by their actions.

Black Lives Matter. As the famous struggle song by Bright Blue Weeping intones, ‘It wasn’t roaring; it was weeping.’  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeecXiqNzWA