Ex officer gets 3 years for shooting an unarmed black man for absolutely no reason

In 2014, former South Carolina Trooper Sean Groubert shot an unarmed Levar Jones after a traffic stop because Mr. Jones was not wearing his seatbelt...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

For some time now I have been struggling with the viability of incrementalism in America’s progress towards racial justice and equity.

But given two recent events, a guilty verdict in the police shooting of Levar Jones and Donald Trump’s inability to distinguish himself from confederate and Nazi sympathizers, it may be time for all of us to admit that incremental progress towards racial justice in America has died a slow (incremental) death.

In 2014, former South Carolina Trooper Sean Groubert shot an unarmed Levar Jones after a traffic stop because Mr. Jones was not wearing his seatbelt. Groubert shot at Jones four times injuring him as he was backing away from the Trooper with his hands up.

As this shooting took place less than a month after the murder of Michael Brown, the Groubert trial has flown under the radar – even more so now that the Trump show is effectively a media black out on almost all stories that are not Trump-related.

In incremental terms, the conviction of former Trooper Groubert is a victory for those invested in justice and equity in our policing institutions.

But the victory is hollow.

Mr. Groubert will serve just three years so long as he stays out of trouble. And moreover not much of the trial or the verdict has been considered newsworthy at the national level. If there is not even a discussion of this verdict publicly how then can it serve as a deterrent to a policing system that continues to operate with racial biases – both implicit and explicit?

Black Lives Matter, Dream Defenders, Hands Up United and so many other organized groups of activists have worked tirelessly over the last several years to push the issue of state violence against unarmed people of color to the forefront of our political and public discourses.

During the Obama-era and through much of the 2016 campaign, they were successful in these efforts.

But now, whether you blame Trumpism or the media itself; access to these stories and to the work of these activists has been blotted out – blocked from coverage – for a seemingly unending series of presidential mishaps and reality-TV-style conduct.

This “black out” comes from an administration whose DOJ policies are antithetical to equity and racial justice in almost every area that matters most to people of color – voting, policing, and access to education.

Many might not see (or note) the connection between Mr. Jones’ shooting by a State Trooper and this President’s ham-fisted support of well-armed white men subscribing to Nazism and nationalism, but the connections are clear. Armed white men can incite violence with impunity and even garner support from the office of the POTUS while an unarmed Black motorist must fear for his life when he forgets to put on his seatbelt.

Dr. James Peterson is the Director of Africana Studies and an associate professor of English at Lehigh University and is a contributor of MSNBC. Follow him on Twitter @DrJamesPeterson.