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Stories of police brutality and violence in black communities are a common occurrence. Young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than young white men. Statistics like these are everyday norms, from the past to the present police brutality continues to exist, although steps are now being taken to prevent it more awareness on this issue needs to be raised for it to come to an end.
The underlying causes for police brutality run deep. Historically, in the United States the police were the ones who enforced inequality in America. They were the ones who imposed racism and segregation- attacking civil rights protestors, disrupting strikes of black workers, and many other things. Sadly, present day these values can still be seen in the police today. Today, society is not much different. Infact, black communities often face higher rates of crime and thus want good relationships with law enforcement. But that is not likely until the U.S. finds a way to address its history of using the police as a tool to reinforce systems of racial inequity. Police brutality is something that has existed in this country in some form throughout history, and times need to change.
According to the ted talk, Social Justice Belongs in Our Schools, Sydney Chafee quotes a study that stated, 88% of white people harbored subconscious bias against black people- believing them to be less intelligent, lazier, and more dangerous than whites. This quote goes to show exactly that, subconscious racism exists in our society without us even realizing it.
In the United States, police officers fatally shoot about three people per day on average, a number that’s close to the yearly totals for other wealthy nations. But data on these deadly encounters have been hard to come by. According to the Statista Research Department the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 753 civilians having been shot, 150 of whom were Black, as of October 29, 2019. In 2017, there were 987 fatal police shootings, and in 2018 this figure increased to 996. According to the Washington Post, the U.S population in 2018 is made up of approximately 62.0% Whites, 16.9% Hispanics, and 12.6% Blacks. The number of police killings, however is far different as the number of non-armed, not attacking citizens killed by the police are, 44.0% White, 14.0% Hispanic, and a staggering 34.9% Black. This complete unproportionate number of killings goes to show there is no doubt that the police is corrupt and racism does in fact exist among the police when it comes down to shootings. Blacks being killed in 34.9% of these cases is absurd when they only make up about 12.6% of the population. Furthermore, it’s not just blacks, black, Latino, and Native American men — face a higher risk of being killed than white men and Asian American and Pacific Islander men. The estimated number of killings of young black men means that roughly one in 1,000 black men face fatal police violence — a rate 2.5 times greater than that of white men. These statistics show that police brutality does discriminate on race, and that is not a deniable fact. These disparities in police use of force reflect more widespread racial inequities across the entire American criminal justice system. Black people are much more likely to be arrested for drugs, even though they’re not more likely to use or sell them. And black inmates make up a disproportionate amount of the prison population.
According to the serial podcast number 3, the case of a man named Erimus is told. Erimus, a black man was brutalized, beaten, and tasered multiple times when knocking at his neighbor’s door all because he looked a bit suspicious and had a joint of weed on him made me outraged. Hearing Erimus tell his story and everything he had to go through was deeply upsetting for me. In the end for people like Erimus their court trial comes down to it being the word of a cop against that of a citizen. In cases like these it is hard to convince a judge to agree with the word of a black man against that of a cop which is why it is so frustrating to hear these cases. Another extremely sad case that just goes to show how awful this situation is, can be seen in the Tamir Rice’ incident where a 12 year old boy, playing with a toy gun was shot within 2 seconds of the police arriving. That is completely absurd, an officer shooting within 2 seconds of arriving onto the scene. The caller even said that the gun Tamir was playing with was probably fake; However this did not stop the police from shooting down Tamir. Even more absurd than this is that the way a police officer tried to justify this action in a podcast by Serial, by arguing that Tamir Rice was a “big kid”- 190 lbs, and 5-7. However, that is no excuse whatsoever for him being shot within 2 seconds of the police arriving. Even if an officer mistook a fake gun for a real gun and a boy to a man, what was the need to shoot within 2 seconds of arriving onto the scene? Even incidences like the Tamir Rice case aren’t uncommon. There are many stories like these that occur in the U.S.Oscar Grant was shot dead by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009 in Oakland, California. Mehserle and other `police officers had been responding to reports of a fight, and arrested and handcuffed Grant and several others in a subway station. Grant was cuffed, unarmed and lying on the ground when Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot him in the back. In court Mehserle claimed he thought his gun was his Taser. He was sentenced to two years in jail and let out on parole in June 2011.Christopher Harris was walking home in 2009 in Seattle when sheriff’s deputy Matthew Paul slammed him into a wall after mistaking him for an assault suspect. Paul was left in a coma, and still requires massive medical care after suffering permanent serious head and spinal cord injuries. Paul escaped all charges in the incident and remains a police officer. A local police spokesman explained the incident by saying that sometimes ‘ … bad things happen to good people.’ These things happen all the time to completely undeserving people from Tamir to Erinus to Oscar to Christopher.
The impact of police brutality on the well-being of the Black community parallels the effects of racism that exists in so many other aspects of everyday life: education, housing, employment, and health care. That Black people can be harassed and even killed by police is sadly not inconsistent with a system that gives some children, but not others, a high-quality education and that allows skin color to dictate employment opportunity or chances of dying from a preventable disease. Understanding how police brutality affects health requires seeing it both as the action of individual police officers and as part of a system of structural racism that operates to sustain White supremacy. A silver lining is that police brutality has given rise to movements, such as Black Lives Matter and Blacktivist, that resist systemic oppression of Blacks and advocate their rights to live freely and with dignity. However, the existence of these movements does not erase the feelings of powerlessness that affect well-being in Black communities.
These overwhelming statistics and sad stories of the injustices that have occured to many people need to be made more aware in order to solve this problem. Activists like Colin Kapernick, and movements like Black Lives Matter are achieving this, and over time with awareness police brutality cases will change for the better. It is time to change what matters and demand change.
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