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Police brutality is sadly, but inevitably, becoming a common trend in America. Tensions among the public and specifically the African American community are rising due to the latest cases of police brutality. Many believe that we have come far as a whole, but in reality, racism is still extremely popular. The use of brutal and lethal force by some police officers leading to unnecessary deaths have individuals on edge to live their everyday lives. Law enforcement, people whom we trust with our lives, are sadly the very same to take it. Some people may want to argue that these cases such as the shooting of Michael Brown and choking of Eric Garner are isolated incidents. Many would also argue that the work of a police officer is too difficult and that sometimes an officer needs to use such force in order to enforce the law and protect themselves while on duty. However, with the effort from everyone, we can stop those atrocious individuals, and create a safer environment for civilians. One organization that works tirelessly to do this is the ACLU. The ACLU “aims to preserve and extend constitutionally guaranteed rights to people who have historically been denied their rights on the basis of race”. Raising awareness, as well as having organizations that try to help these individuals, make the world a safer and more comfortable place to live.
One of the major commonalities that become clear from these incidents, is that many of the individuals who are shot or killed by police are unarmed to begin with. A perfect example of this situation occurred between Oscar Grant and officer James Mehserle. Grant had been “restrained by BART transit officers on the train platform in Oakland, California, following an altercation” (Bach). He was unarmed and was asked to lay on the train station platform, to which he complied. He was then shot by “Mehserle, who claimed to have mistaken his gun for his taser” (Bach). The officer released his statement claiming the event was a complete accident and received no consequence whatsoever. This is not an isolated incident though. Another act of police brutality occurred in July between Eric Garner and an officer from the NYPD. Garner “was suspected by the NYPD of selling untaxed cigarettes. When he refused arrest, an officer put the asthmatic man in a chokehold. Garner repeatedly screamed, “‘I can’t breathe!’” and died soon after” (Bach). It is unacceptable for an individual to die at the hands of a police officer when they have no weapon on them and do not pose to be an immediate threat to the officer. After the public hearing about these instances, many are suggesting “a new law that would require law enforcement to wear cameras to avoid police misconduct and maintain a higher level of accountability” (Bach). In hopes that this new law would be put into place, studies were conducted “in which officers have been asked to wear cameras” and “one California study found police brutality plummeted when cops were recorded” (Bach). This shows that when police are being watched, they are less likely to violate an individual’s constitutional rights. It is disappointing that grown individuals have to be watched like children to ensure they do not hurt others whom they find to be inferior to them.
The main reason police mistreat certain individuals comes down to one factor, the color of their skin. Redditt Hudson, an individual who became a police officer to use the power of being an officer to help his community to help his community, states that “a couple of officers ran a website called St. Louis Coptalk, where officers could post about their experience and opinions”. The site became so full with racist comments that the administrator shut down the website. In the chat, “cops routinely called anyone of color a ‘“thug,”’ whether they were the victim or just a bystander” (Hudson). This brings to light how racist police officers truly are. Hudson recalls that police would abuse their power often, and would “respond with force to even minor offenses” (Hudson). The reason that police do this is often because they feel that they are superior to these minorities, and also because of their hatred towards those individuals. The one thing that seems to be consistent with all of these instances is that “cops are rarely held accountable for their actions” so they do not “think too hard about the consequences” (Hudson). If more officers were punished for these crimes, then there would be fewer incidents, and therefore fewer people killed or hurt as a result of excessive police force. Those who are meant to protect the public should be the last people that individuals have to fear.
Statistically speaking, the amount of police brutality cases in America are significantly higher for minorities than Caucasians. According to the ACLU, “seven in ten blacks said they are treated less fairly than whites are in their dealings with police”. This is primarily due to the large amounts of racism that is in the police force. This is proven to be true considering “most of the unarmed people killed [in 2017] were people of color (48 were Black, 34 were Hispanic, 2 were Native American and 2 were Pacific Islander — 50 were white, and 11 were unknown)” (D’Onofrio). These numbers make it insanely apparent that minorities are solely the ones who are targeted. In addition, “27 percent of people killed by police were Black. In all killings, only 1 percent of the officers involved were charged with a crime” (D’Onofrio). It is for this reason that so many people are upset with the fact that there is no punishment for officers who abuse their power role. Without proper punishment, things will not change.
The ACLU is one of the many organizations dedicated to raising awareness of the mass amounts of police brutality cases. They argue that “the authors of the Declaration of Independence outlined a bold vision for America: a nation in which there would be equal justice for all. More than two hundred years later, it has yet to be achieved” (ACLU). This is as a result of people being naive to what goes on behind closed doors, or simply turning a blind eye to these occurrences. Though many may not know, “despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than blacks do, blacks are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites” (ACLU). The average individual would not have known this information before reading it, which is why the ACLU provides the public numbers to give individuals something more plausible. The ACLU also harps on one of the most well-known movements today, the “Black Lives Matter Movement”. This movement’s “unrelenting work on the issue of police corruption, helped incite the release of four unprecedented U.S. Department of Justice reports that confirm the widespread presence of police corruption in Baltimore, Chicago, Ferguson, and Cleveland” (ACLU). This is a perfect example of how bringing awareness to social issues like police brutality can make a difference. This allows people to have a voice as well as allows to neighbors fight side by side for what they believe in.
As stated above, movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement keep people from feeling alone in their fight for equality. Thanks to social media, BLM was the first U.S. social movement in history to successfully use the internet as a mass mobilization device” (ACLU). Social media such as Instagram and Twitter, are one of the many ways that individuals empower each other from afar. The ACLU also mentions that the “five years of…#blacklivesmatter has influenced our contemporary moment and given us a framework for imagining what democracy in action really looks like”. This provides people with hope for the future and refrains from allowing people to feel like their voice does not matter. Luckily, many have joined in the fight considering “the movement’s measurable impact on the political and legal landscape is undeniable” (ACLU). It is important that America comes together for these issues, especially because there is strength in numbers.
The ACLU is extremely supportive of those who fight for what they believe in to bring about change. One of their major beliefs is in affirmative action, which “is one of the most effective tools for redressing the injustices caused by our nation’s historic discrimination against people of color and women, and for leveling what has long been an uneven playing field” (ACLU). The only way that the government will hear Americans is through collaborative action. The organization also says, “a centuries-long legacy of racism and sexism has not been eradicated despite the gains made during the civil rights era” (ACLU). With this being said, it is imperative that individuals continue their fight against police brutality. Lastly, the ACLU reiterates that “we need affirmative action now more than ever”. Change cannot be brought about if no one is brave enough to stand up and make a difference. It is important that Americans stand up for one another and show their support to those who are victims.
From this information, it is imperative that individuals display the ways in which police abuse their power and use that information to become a voice for those who do not have one. It is important that people know how many minorities receive brutal force from officers when they are unarmed due to racism. It is also just as equally important that people know the ways in which they can join the movement and help by donating to non-profit organizations such as the ACLU. It is and will be a relentless and tiring fight to bring about change to this exceedingly eminent issue, but the day that police brutality due to racism vanishes, will be the day that Americans become closer to receiving the equality that is deserved.
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