An excerpt from an accredited American university sociology class transcript:
Professor: “I would like all the white people in the room to please stand if you would be happy to be treated like how this society, our society, treats our black citizens.”
No one stands.
“I think you misunderstood. If you wanted to be treated equally in our society as black citizens, stand.”
“Nobody’s standing. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening - you know why you don’t want it for you.”
“I want to know why you’re so willing to allow it to happen to others.”
It’s no longer a secret that there’s a rampant police profiling and brutality plague within the United States justice system. To deny so would be racist in itself. When the faces and families of Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner and countless others invade the national headlines, still not being able to resign to the fact there’s even a problem is atrocious.
Fatal Encounters is a crowd-sourced database accumulating information on police killings in the United States. According to the data on 2,808 incidents across the country in which the race of the victim is known: “nearly a quarter are black, a third white, and about 11 percent Latino.” The percentage when compared with the general population of the US, white people, who make up about 72 percent of the general population, compose only about 32 percent of those killed. Meaning that black people are by far and away more likely to be killed by police. A trend which has no excuse to exist.
Among other discoveries made by the study, most black people killed by police are unarmed, the leading precipitating factor for engagement is ‘suspicious behavior’, and ‘feeling threatened’ is the prime excuse officers use when they pull their gun on a black man. Sadly, these seemingly damning statistics rarely culminate in an officer being charged with a crime, with just 3 of 250 officers who killed a black man in 2012 being convicted, according to a MXGM study. Most grand juries and district court judges believe the killings are overwhelmingly justified.
Police officers have an incredibly physically, emotionally and mentally demanding occupation. Their job balances on the line between peaceful society and anarchy; making crucial life-changing decisions is in their daily job description. It’s a job for heroes, not just for their badge, but for their honor and respect of the judicial system. Therefore, it becomes altogether disheartening when there are those who choose to value the authority over the process.
When I first heard of Alton Sterling’s death on July 5, it was numbing. Another family destroyed. Another cell phone warrior who documented the entire encounter. Philando Castile’s murder was even more painful to stomach. Judge, jury and executioner - due process in a parking lot, chronicled with a Facebook livestream.
Why is it that whenever we see video evidence in crime tape the suspect is always immediately presumed to be guilty - yet when there is complete, undeniable video evidence of a cop shooting a black man in cold blood, there’s skepticism?
That’s prejudice. And specifically, racism.
To see a crystal clear sequence of events played out on film condemning the officer, but then justifying his actions because ‘the suspect was pulled over for a reason and he must’ve been in the wrong’ is completely biased. In a fair criminal justice system, bias should never play a role because justice is supposed to be blind. Evidence is evidence and a police officer is not above the laws they are sworn to enforce.
There’s many people that have shouted back “What good will just admitting a problem have?” The answer is a great deal. In 2011, the Las Vegas Police Dept. started training their officers to ‘de-escalate first’ after publicly conceding they could be handling violent situations better. Since then, police shootings with the LVPD have decreased by 36 percent. The Dallas Police Dept. began de-escalation training before any other metropolitan area, according to its own police chief.
This is not a cut-and-dry problem to fix, it’s a philosophical one. If a police officer enters into an encounter with a black man and immediately ‘feels threatened or suspicious’, his hand should never instantly come to rest on his holster.
Instead of ‘danger’, the officer should be thinking de-escalation, conflict resolution and community safety - a true hero’s mentality.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to fix this. The right path involves demographic unity, humility from police departments, and communities embracing forgiveness and understanding instead of reactionary violence and hatred. The wrong way was showcased in Dallas, Texas.
The Dallas shooting was an example of one man with an anarchist mentality ‘taking matters into his own hands’. It was calculated, horrible, cruel and his actions did not symbolize the intention of the Black Lives Matter movement. The shooter is no more representative of the African-American community than the Charleston, S.C. shooter was representative of whites.
In truth, the sensationalized disparity between blue and black is the core issue. The deepset mentality that you’re either on one side or the other is a ludicrous thought. I want black people to be treated with equal respect as everyone else in this country. I want our police officers to be safe and to do their jobs well. I don’t think I’m insane for wanting the best for both.
We all want the same things. Peace of mind. Health. Community.
Let’s join a movement to change the system.
Let’s stand up.