[Update: The cop in the video, Officer Eric Casebolt, resigned on Wednesday.]
How does a country measure social progress? If the past weekend's incident at a Texas pool party was any indication at all, it's looking pretty dismal. On Monday evening, Jon Stewart tackled the Texas pool party incident on "The Daily Show" with Jessica Williams delivering a scathing commentary on social progress in America.
"How do you go from a pool party to this?" Stewart asked, on his segment, "Assault Swim," on Monday, cocking his finger in the shape of a gun.
He was talking about a video capturing one Officer Eric Casebolt's handling of black teenagers at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, that made national headlines for the cop's brazenly violent actions. Casebolt was filmed cursing and pulling his gun on the teenagers, throwing a 14-year-old girl onto the ground then kneeling on her back. The video caused nationwide outrage, as people pointed to the incident as yet another example of police brutality.
At one point in the video, Casebolt was seen telling the girl: "Get your a** on the ground!" Stewart had this to say:
He's telling her to get her ass on the ground and I believe it is literally on the ground. Not only is he being an a**hole, he's redundant.
For further perspective, Stewart called on "Senior Texas Aquatics Correspondent" Jessica Williams. Donning a pink bikini and full body armor — "a McKinney bikini" — Williams said that the incident actually demonstrated progress. Bewildered, Stewart reminded her that "a cop pulled his gun out and dragged a 14-year-old girl to the ground by her hair."
"Jon," she said, "it's progress because a cop pulled a gun on a group of black kids and nobody is dead."
Though the exact events leading up to Officer Casebolt's rampage remain unclear, media outlets reported that parents of the party's host called the police because some teenagers were allegedly present without "pool passes."
Brandon Brooks, the 15-year-old who filmed the video, said that race absolutely played a part in the incident, adding that he was scared when Casebolt acted the way he did:
I was one of the only white people in the area when that was happening. You can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kinda like skips over me and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down.
I think [the 14-year-old girl] was quote unquote running her mouth, and she has freedom of speech and that was very uncalled for him to throw her to the ground. When he pulled his gun my heart dropped. As soon as he pulled out his gun, I thought he was going to shoot that kid. That was very scary.
The video has spurred many calls for Casebolt to be fired — he is currently on administrative leave — but others claim that the situation was blown out of proportion; that the teenagers were at fault for not obeying the police's orders.
But whether or not the officers were having trouble containing the situation, the disproportionately aggressive reaction was uncalled for. If the essence of policing a community lies in diffusing difficult situations, what Casebolt did was yet another example of the deep systemic problems in policing tactics across the country. Perhaps the need for an overhaul is most loudly spoken for when such confrontations have not only become a painful norm, but when we actually feel fortunate that they don't result in a death.