On the weekend that marked the one year anniversary of the police killing of Michael Brown, there was another disturbingly similar case making the social media rounds: another unarmed young black man shot dead, another police officer on administrative leave holding the smoking gun, another rush to convict the dead. But there was one difference.
This time the human being who the Arlington Police Department reduced to a hashtag is 19-year-old Christian Taylor. This time the story was also immediately circulated through the sports pages, as Christian Taylor was a college football defensive back at Division II Angelo State. This time the story was picked up by ESPN, Yahoo Sports, and of all places, the NFL’s website, NFL.com. This time his killing was noted by Serena Williams, the greatest athlete of our time, on Twitter, who wrote: “Really??????!!!!!!!!!!? are we all sleeping and this is one gigantic bad nightmare? #ChristianTaylor how many hashtags now?”
All of this demonstrates just what an imprint the #BlackLivesMatter movement has had on the sports world. The idea that the NFL’s official website would have noted the police killing of a Division II college football player without the movement that has exploded in the last year would be laughable if the implications weren’t so tragic, and there is no shortage of visible, public tragedy around this latest killing.
The Twitter feed of the Angelo State football team is a stream of retweeted sadness with the official account saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Christian Taylor. Your presence will be missed, but not forgotten. #ramfam”
The Rams coach, Will Wagner, sent out the three word message: “Heart is hurting.”
Yet, despite the messages of solidarity that rang across social media, there is so much more about the case that forces one to wonder just how much some have learned since Michael Brown’s body had to lie on that Ferguson street for over four hours one year ago.
This part of the script is depressingly familiar: slander the dead, with the assurance that the media will fall in line. The basic message from the Arlington Police Department has been that Christian Taylor deserved to die. They have supported this by sending out a video of Christian Taylor allegedly driving through the fence of a dealership and then Christian Taylor allegedly driving through the front window. (The video is from the dealership security system, not the police.)