So yesterday, a bunch of people shared a link with me of a surveillance video recording showing a man, apparently out with his family, abruptly pull a pistol on a Black man who was standing behind him in line at a sandwich shop.
The video undoubtedly appears to show a man standing in line to order food with a woman and small child. Behind this gentleman is a Black man wearing a hoodie, who appears to be looking at his cellphone while patiently waiting in line. Suddenly, the man with his family, who happens to white, pulls out a pistol and points it at the Black man wearing the hoodie. The man in the hoodie puts his hands in the air and the man with the pistol spins him around and appears to pat-him-down, assumedly to see if he has a weapon.
After being satisfied that the Black gentlemen isn't armed, the man with the pistol allows him to go ahead of him in line to order his food. While the gentleman in the hoodie appears to be ordering his food, our gun slinging hero stands off to the side menacingly staring at the Black guy in the hoodie. At some point, there is another brief exchange of words between to the two men, and Pistol-Pete appears handle his gun again and threaten the man in the hoodie. Finally, more customers can be seen coming in the store and the 2:06-minute video ends shortly thereafter.
After I watched the video a few times, I thought that indeed it clearly appeared to show a man with a pistol reacting as if he thought the Black man in the hoodie was a threat. By my own personal observations, I couldn’t see anything that the Black man did that would have warranted such a response. Unfortunately, there is no audio with the video. So all one has to go on to figure out what happened is just the video's imagery.
The video was spreading like wildfire on Facebook, after it was posted on a page called, “Your Black Reality.” The title of the video shared on the page was, “Armed Citizen ‘protects’ his family from a hooded black man who wanted to buy a sandwich.” Scrolling through the comments I found more than a lion’s share of people discussing how this either was or was not an example of racism in America. Additionally, there was plenty of people discussing how this was an example an American gun culture that was out of control. Truthfully, after watching the video it was difficult for me to argue any of those points and indeed I was more than prepared to discuss how this is a sad reality that Black men have to live with in America today.
However, as I watched the video a few more times, something just didn’t seem right.
As some of you may have heard me mention before, my academic background is in behavioral science and cognitive psychology. Specifically, my research and focus is on human consciousness and perception. Basically, in addition to a whole lot of other things I engage in, examining human behavior happens to be one of them.
Wearing both my police Lieutenant and cognitive psychologist hats, I began to securitize the video.
First of all, as many of the people who posted comments on the original video mentioned, the actions of the man with the pistol appeared to be consistent with him being a police officer or in law enforcement. Personally, I think that was very keen observations by some amateur eyes. However, what might have been lost on novice observers was the man’s actions were not consistent with him being just an average cop. Rather, he moved like a trained gun fighter.
To make a long story short, the man pressed forward, his angle of motion and the swift yet methodical way he patted the man down for weapons all told me this guy wasn’t some amateur Georgia gun show cowboy. This guy was well trained not simply in law enforcement tactics but trained to be a gun fighter. Hmmmmm….
Don’t get me wrong, plenty of police officers can be well trained in the specific art of gun fighting. However, that isn’t exactly what they commonly teach at police academies. Sure they teach you how to shoot a gun and whatnot. However, they typically don’t teach cadets how to be operatives with a handgun.
I also noted that the Black man in the hoodie didn’t seem to really react as if he was overly alarmed at the entire situation. Sure he seemed to be mildly inconvenienced. However, after having a pistol pulled on him, abruptly grabbed and groped by some strange man, he seemed to simply go on up to the front of the line and order a foot-long cold-cut trio, like everything that had just happened was no big deal.
I watched the demeanor of everyone else as they came into the sandwich, I noticed that people seemed to be paying attention to the interactions between Andy Oakley and the man in the Hoodie, however, NOBODY seemed to be overly alarmed. In fact, one woman came in with another small child, and simply sat at a booth and let her child lay across her. I assume for cover in case a gun battle broke out. Now, I’m not one to tell others how to parent their kids, but personally, if I thought there was about to be a shootout at my local Subway, I might consider that to be a great time for a Big Mac instead of a sub. Especially, if I had my kids with me.
Finally, as I watched the entire video again, I noticed something else that was drastically contradictory to modern American culture. The Black man, and several of the other customers, clearly had cell phones in their hands. However, not a single one of them started recording a video of what was going down or linked up for a Facebook Livestream. No offense my fellow Americans, but I’m around a lot of intense and sometimes tragic scenes. The thought of not a single person recording cell phone video…well, it just seems almost unthinkable.
Basically, something just wasn’t right about this entire event.
Ultimately, I decided to put on my intelligence agent and investigator hat and embark on a journey to see what I could find out about this video.
I’m not going to lie, it wasn't easy to find any information on this incident. The time stamp on the surveillance video indicated that the incident occurred on August 19th. Maybe, it had taken 11 days for the video to be released by the business and it had yet to be picked up by any major or even fringe media sites. Seriously, it seemed like this video and incident was an anomaly. Not even the most politically jaundiced of websites had anything on this incident.
When normal gumshoe work didn’t pan out, I decided to go with a more high-tech method of investigation. I used visual analytics of the video itself to scour the web. I could have taken this route first. However, it takes a little more time and honestly, I didn’t expect it to be that difficult to find something out about this video. Ultimately, it would be analyzing and comparing the images of the video itself that would finally pay off.
Ah-Ha! I found it!
Suddenly, I was staring at a news article showing a video of the sandwich shop confrontation, or as I like to call it by this point the bane of my entire existence.
One problem though, the headline of the article read:
“Ação de policial em lanchonete gera polêmica na internet; assista”
It was in Portuguese…
Translated to English the headline would say:
“Police Action in Cafeteria Raises Controversy on the Internet; Watch.”
Indeed, the video did show an off-duty police officer pulling a handgun on a man in line waiting to order a sandwich. Indeed, according to the article, the video had caused quite a stir on the internet and many people felt like the police officer’s actions were motivated by racail bias.
However, the reality is the incident neither showed a crazed gun-toting U.S. citizen or a rouge over-zealous American cop… In fact, the entire event occurred 4,130 miles away from America, in the South American country of Brazil. Which, in a country that had more people killed in 2015 than Syrians who were in the middle of a civil war, it would offer some explanation for everyone's behavior on the film.
Now, in all fairness to “Your Black Reality,” who posted the video that has since gone viral across the United States, the page at no time appears to present itself as only highlighting prejudice against African Americans.
Rather, the page appears to bring awareness to problems against Black people globally. Equally fair to note, the page presents a tad more of an extremist view than I personally think is constructive. Such as a video that shows two Detroit officers using excessive force on a Black man, in which the page admin captions “Why I Don’t Cry When Cops Die.” However, my point is objectively I can’t say that the page ever shared the video with the intent to suggest this incident involved racism in America. Well, at least that’s what I initially thought...
To be on the safe side, I ran a data mining program on the comments of the video to see if “Your Black Reality” had made any comments on the page.
About an hour after the video was posted, I indeed found that a page administrator had made the comment:
“What black people need to understand is that the majority of whites believe that they have full power and control over black life and activities... (this is why they uninvitedly interject themselves into black conversations and black spaces, etc.)
American society is a white-dominated society and therefore the unspoken but widely practiced rule is that every white citizen is honorarily deputized to police the blacks who live under their rulership. And the result of this rule is incidents like Zimmerman vs. Trayvon Martin, and what you see happening here.
This is what Dr. Kamau Kambon meant when he said that whites did not abolish slavery, they simply expanded the plantation and made every white person on earth an honorary slave master within it. We are still on a plantation. It is imperative that black people come to understand that so we can do what is necessary to get out of it.”
Ok, to be clear, I’m not saying that the administrator of this page doesn’t bring up some salient philosophical considerations regarding race in America. Additionally, I’m not by any means trying to pretend that something like what is seen in the video hasn’t occurred or cannot occur in the United States of America. It may upset some people to hear me say that, however, I just spent two hours like the NSA scouring the web trying to discover the truth. Basically, I think being honest is… well, a pretty important.
I also want to make sure that I am perfectly clear in saying that regardless if the video was filmed in Little Rock, Arkansas or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; it’s still disturbing. Let's not forget that in Brazil News One’s original article they mention that Brazilians are concerned that racial bias and prejudice are a factor over the off-duty officer’s actions. Basically, racism, bias, and prejudice are unacceptable in humanity, regardless of the country in which it occurs.
The entire reason that I went to such great lengths to find out the truth behind this video is that either I’m insane, or I think that it is imperative to ensure that we work with truths when trying to discuss the significant social and cultural issue of racism.
Some people may have seen an article I wrote last week, where I mentioned that according to the statistics of my own Facebook page, the general condemnation of racism and prejudice accounts for almost 30%, or the most significant, of topics I discuss. One thing I’ve learned in being so adamant about condemning racism is that any time racial bias is brought up, you are going to face significant oppositional defiance. Significant!
The only weapon that one has against the ignorance of racial inequality is the truth. You must try to ensure that everything you present as evidence of disproportionate treatment is factual. That is why I go to great lengths to collect data, present statistics, or scour as many sources as possible. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a time consuming and often frustrating task. However, it is the best, and frankly only defense against the obliviousness of racism’s existence.
At the end of the day, does it mean you will change everyone’s mind about racism when you ensure that what you are sharing, saying, or demonstrating is as authentic as humanly possible? Of course not. However, what it will do is ensure that when someone doesn’t believe you or listen to you, now it is conscious and deliberate ignorance.
Therefore, we should always ensure we try to seek the truth of peace.
“The truth is a boy stole an apple. The truth of the truth is that the boy stole an apple because he was hungry. The truth of peace is that no one is hungry, so give the boy an apple.” – Rebbe Nachman