Reece Maxwell-Crawford ended up on the ground, screaming in pain, pinned down by transit fare inspectors and police officers. That much is horribly clear. The cellphone video footage of the scene doesn’t show us what happened before that—silent security cameras footage does. But what you see when you watch that video depends on who you are, your own biases, and who you want to believe.
There’s no question that amateur footage has been an invaluable tool in exposing racial profiling and assault, and abuse of power by law enforcement. But we don’t often talk about what we bring to the video when we watch it. In the case of 20-year-old Maxwell-Crawford, who is now suing the TTC for assault and racial profiling, a court will have to determine what constitutes a “lunge”, what, if anything at all, the young man was staring at, and if he was ignoring questions from off-duty fare inspectors or simply didn’t hear them. That’s a lot to hang on some silent CCTV footage. How should we parse inconclusive video in an age when we’ve all finally become aware of the biases and racism that can be factors in reading them?
GUEST: Jennifer Yang, Identity and Inequality Reporter, Toronto Star