The Difference between ‘It’s a Tragedy’ and ‘Stuff Happens’

There is a reason that I look at YouTube videos of police interactions. Every once in a while, you’ll find a bit of sheer genius amid all of the idiocy. This is one of those cases.

Here, a black man is pushing a motorcycle down the street when he is stopped by the police, to investigate whether the motorcycle is stolen or not.* The officers run the license plate of the motorcycle, then they run the VIN number, just to be sure. Both come back clear, they both match, and so on. The black man isn’t real happy about being stopped, and at 0:22 one of the officers explains that the man has a “completely disturbed attitude.” It’s not really the officer’s place to decide that, but the interaction gets better.

At about 4:44 in the video, the suspect asks the second officer what he thinks about all of these shootings, referring to the earlier comment he made about black men, especially unarmed black men, being killed by police officers without the officer ever being convicted. The officer responded:

It happens.

And then the suspect, in a moment of genius, asked the officer about the five Dallas officers who were killed by ambush. The officer’s response was very different:

That’s tragic.

Our suspect immediately pointed out the disparity in the attitude of the officer, that “s**t happens” if it is a civilian who is being killed by the police, but “it’s a tragedy” when any officer is killed. The officer won’t address that, but points out that the individual was violating a traffic law.†

The sad part is the officer never understands what the man is saying. The officer just doesn’t get the difference between an attitude that says “s**t happens” and “it’s a tragedy.” To spell it out, that attitude is one that says that a police officer’s life is more important than a non-officers life. Our suspect then makes it crystal clear (at 8:10):

The next that somebody kills a s**tload of officers, say that to yourself, well, s**t happens.

That is absolutely brilliant.

There is a distinct problem when police officers believe that their lives are more important than the lives of the citizenry that they are sworn to protect. This video points out that attitude in a way that is hard to dismiss.

*That’s arguably reasonable suspicion, although it is also arguably racial profiling. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that it is reasonable suspicion.

†Although I believe this to have happened in Texas, I’m not sure. I’m also not sure that there is a traffic violation involved, but even giving the officers the benefit of the doubt, that still doesn’t address the man’s concerns.