The Other Columbus: What the killing of another Black man makes you do

Scott Woods
Casey Goodson

Consider all of the things you could be reading right now instead of this column about Casey Goodson, the Black man killed by a sheriff’s deputy as he entered his home, carrying his dinner, shot from behind in front of his grandmother and two toddlers, his family said.

We could be talking about aliens. That’s a thing that’sactually happening in the news right now. A former Israeli science official is literally in the literal media saying that there are literal aliens as part of a literal galactic federation literally in touch with government officials. I’d love to drag that guy for a few paragraphs. Problem is, when you mention an alien invasion to me right now, I can’t help but compare it to the way law enforcement trolls Black neighborhoods, as if they are on some seek and destroy mission in another world, and we must hide to avoid abduction.

No one is forcing me to write about Casey Goodson. I just can’t help it. I can’t write about the things that are not senselessly murdered Black people today. Half of my city is haunted by this killing. The list of Things Black People Can’t Do And Not Be Shot By The Police remains an ever-unfurling scroll of mundanities. Just when we think we have all of the angles covered, a new entry comes out of left field, more ludicrous in its tedium than the last. Each entry brings with it old rage and even older fear. 

A week ago I posted online about the phrase “defund the police.” I wrote about how ludicrous it was that anyone thought that the reason why the needle wasn’t moving on addressing police violence was that the branding was too on the nose and not that the police were still killing people without recourse. One respondent suggested I was leveling a false equivalency. Someone else said that proponents of the message were cruel and essentially bullying people into accepting their position. Another thought that if all that was holding back well-meaning people from supporting the movement was the phrase, then what was the big deal in changing it? Two days after my initial post, Casey Goodson was killed. As of this writing, that third person is still weighing in on the efficacy of the phrase, as if Goodson’s death did not happen at all, as if his death were not both priority and answer.

What it must be like to possess the luxury of public safety. How invigorating the water must be where the privilege of such distance exists, where one feels free to suck up the air in Black spaces debating the theoretical benefit of its signage while its community mourns another unnecessary and very real death. Oh, to be a white person with all of the answers and none of the skin in the game.

If someone ever asks you what white privilege looks like, tell them it is the freedom in a clapback made over the chalk outline of an unjust murder; that it is being able to write about aliens and the boring things that shouldn’t end in a hail of bullets but do. Tell them it looks like being able to live constitutionally, to think nothing will happen when you open your doors, to be able to truly and freely go home.