Why are African American’s targets for Police Violence?
Many journalists and newscasters have reported police brutality in minority groups, more specifically the African American group. There is no solid evidence as to why police violence is higher in the African American race. Many people have given opinions about police brutality, but nothing has been proven. Evidence from each case, whether it involves teens or adults, has been seen, but has not given any justice to the matter. This research project will discuss the overall evidence has to why police violence is high towards African Americans, why African Americans are shown more attention in crime cases, and the effect of brutality. This research will conclude to show a better understanding as to why police brutality is higher for African Americans and how they can avoid possible violence situations with police officers. Along with giving this information that will help protect African American families, this research will help African Americans prepare for a potential violent situation with a police officer.
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Police brutality, what exactly is it? US Legal describes police brutality as “a civil rights violation that occurs when a police officer acts with excessive force by using an amount of force with regards to a civilian that is more than necessary.” Although, in my own terms, I believe that police brutality is an act of excessive force towards a civilian, which mainly attends to a minority. Police brutality is more broadly seen towards African Americans. Over the years, police violence has become a rising issue that the justice system refuses to stop.
Unfortunately, many citizens from minorities, especially African Americans, have reported that growing up as a minority caused them to be around a large amount of police activity (Flexon et al. 21-22). The younger a child is, the more influenced they will be by the actions around them. This is yet another reason as to why many Blacks have been on the bad side of police violence. The people that become victims are more likely to have seen someone close to them harmed by a police officer, which later can cause resentment issues to all officers. It has been proven by many scholars that children and young minds are influenced by the actions around them.
There are so many more reasons as to why blacks are a major target in police violence. Another big reason would be racism. Even though many may not see it, some officers that are racist want to assert a dominance over minorities, especially minorities that are viewed as a threat. This is also influenced by the district that officers work in according to Price and Payton (680). The officers that live in districts with higher violent crime rates and greater concentration of minorities had an increase of implicit biasness (Payton and Price 680). This means that in the area officers mainly patrolled influenced and may have slightly clouded their judgement to have a racial view of how to take on a situation. This also has the probability to raise different stereotypes because officers are used to how certain minorities act in their patrolling area, so they are more willing to treat other people of the same minorities as the average stereotype.
One thing that seems to be shared across all the officers that are involved in police brutality are that they act before they think. For example, with Tamir Rice, after police were called to the scene, the officers called shot Tamir right after they arrived (Miles 120-121). Even though the person that called the police said that Tamir was likely a kid and had a toy gun, the officers acted before thinking (Miles 120). This happens to be a common thing with police brutality cases. Any evidence that has come out to show that these officers don’t think before acting has been disregarded. Citizens see it on the news, social media, and sometimes in person, yet when the actions of an officer are questioned, justice is almost never served. For the past years, many officers have killed people, especially minorities and African Americans, without thinking before acting. It is time for the legal system to take action and see the truth through the corruption of their officers. In the words of James Miles and Michael Jackson, “They don’t really care about us” (Miles 120). So, what better way than to make them care than showing them that we, the people, the minorities, the African Americans have had enough of the corruption.
Now, many minorities have family members in the police force. Many of the families have different reasons as to why their family member joined the police force. Maybe it was because they wanted to make a difference or maybe they wanted to be on the inside of a job so their family would be protected. Everyone has their different views on the police force, especially when it come to police violence. Police brutality against minorities is a very controversial thing because sometimes the officers behind the crime are the minorities. This is also when many citizens that don’t believe police violence is an excessive force term say that the officers are just doing their jobs. Granted, sometimes the actions of other officers are learned when rookies enter the department. That is why rookies are paired with older cops that have a good record, so they can learn from someone while on the job.
When this becomes the case, many minority officers that have never been in a police violence situation freeze and do not know what is right and wrong. It has even been shown that some lower race officers choose to participate in police violence against African Americans because of the common stereotypes that the public has been raised to believe. In all honesty, not every stereotype that officers see count towards the entire race. Because these stereotypes may be seen more in higher crime rate areas, all officers are forced to react to them. Even though it may not seem like the truth, many officers, especially African American officers, have proven that they would act faster in shooting an armed African American than an armed Caucasian and would shoot an unarmed African than an armed Caucasian (Price and Payton 679).
Although this may not seem to such a shocker, it is this still proves that officers are quicker to shoot a superior race more than another minority race. In police training, every officer should treat every threat the same, but why are African Americans and other minorities treated like a higher treat? The answer could range from the way an officer was raised to the actions of the community. Despite the fact that we may not see it, police violence is happening in our own backyards. Nothing is stopping an officer from threating someone that they view as a part of a lower race. Even though the Constitution and the Amendments may say that we are all equal, we truly are not. The justice system is not helping when the rights of the victims are being revoked. Nine times out ten, an officer might only be indicted for his crime of police brutality when he is in the spotlight and all the evidence points to him. Yet, sometimes the spotlight and evidence aren’t enough.
We are all human, we all make mistakes. Whether using too much force in a situation or accidently hospitalizing someone, they can all be counted as mistakes. It is up to the court to decide whether or not the officer in the victimizing situation will be punished. Unlike treating a threat, you can’t treat every case the same. Simply because not every case is the same. Every case may be extremely serious, but the details change. One circumstantial piece of information could be the reason why one officer is indicted, and ninety-nine officers are not. Even though we now have police body cameras, they don’t really give us a lot of information of what is going on inside of an officer’s head. In fact, that could be the main reason why an officer is not punished for using force that was not necessary. If you place anyone in the same situation that the convicting officer went through, not everyone will have the same mindset. One officer may have this perfect plot to kill, whereas others are thinking that they reached the end of their life and may never see their family again. Therefore, officers need to go through trainings to ensure that they can clear their minds and focus on the core value at work (Roiphe 511).
When it comes to talking about core values for police officers, some may believe that America should compare the values to other countries. Which, in all, would not exactly be smart because other countries have different values and different definitions of police brutality (Roiphe 512). This also brings up the topic of what core values majority of the populations approve of. Yes, everyone may want to see the crime rates go down, effectively decreasing the reports of police brutality, but how do the departments plan on teaching the officers these values. Would they go with the flow, military train them, or allow the trainees to create their own methods? It is too many flaws that could go wrong. At this point, it seems safe to teacher our younger generation to protect themselves and stay away from crime.
At the same time, teaching our younger generation is failing because many children are growing up around these police occurrences (Flexon et al. 22). It has become common that police officers patrol the neighborhoods with high population of minorities because of the crime rates. It is time that parents and guardians start teaching their youth about the possible situations with the police. Speaking from experience, it is better for your child to know how to act in front of an officer despite how they act towards family members. Even if you are just teaching your child gestures, staying calm, and listening to the officer, you can help protect them and lower the risk. This gets more important as children grow up because when they are in this events, their parents may not be by their side. As of now, the best way for anyone to protect their child from the risk of them becoming a victim of police violence is through the lessons they learn from their parents.
Although it may not seem like it, police brutality can involve entire communities, whether it be a neighborhood or a county. One documented police brutality moment was in Prince George’s County, Maryland. According to Jonathan and Rodney:
Prince George’s County has been fighting racist police brutality since the 1980s. Police brutality was still stronger after the demographic shift in the late 1980s. Majority of the population involved African Americans after the shift. In The Washington Post, evidence rose to say that the officers in Prince George’s County had more citizens killings per officer than the other 50 largest cities. 84% of those killings were African Americans. These killings happened between 1990 and 2000 (Hutto and Green 89).
Hutto also discussed:
That many social movements were moving throughout Prince George’s County after the 1970s. Even though the officers were racist and biased towards African Americans and other minorities, many of the white citizens disagreed with their opinions. In a way you could say that the county was overrun by white supremacist that felt the need to ensure minorities would be kept under control. As time has passed, many of the African Americans killings have gained attention as the evidence of the case was suspicious. It also does not help that the police department in Prince George’s County is supplied with weapons that resemble weapons for military warfare. This occasion has also brought much attention and suspicion to Prince George’s County (Hutto and Green 89-90).
Even though many of our, the United States, allies have seen police violence, our congress does not seem to see the issues that many families and victims see. It has been seen all throughout the states that police violence against minorities, especially Hispanics and African Americans, has taken a toll on America. Viral videos that can be seen on the news and social media prove that police brutality is there in the world but has not been dealt with. Dyson has given eleven fantastic and descriptive points as to why congress needs to enforce a consequence on police brutality. Dyson decided to take an unbiased route so that the readers could attempt to understand both sides of Dyson’s points. Many of Dyson’s points spoke to the people and the Congress about how to deal and judge police brutality. One point that Dyson made was “Even when the officer is a minority, it is still institutionally enforced racial oppression” (Dyson 28-34).
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One point that Rosenthal used was that when attempting to indict an officer, it is far in court to use criminal prosecution (Rosenthal 3). Rosenthal’s point is far because although to an audience and the offending officer, every case is court has some substantial amount of evidence that points to criminalization. Although not every case gets this opportunity, this leads to a chance where, if appealed enough times, Congress will be able to make a decision about dealing with police violence in every situation.
Now we have different meanings to racial oppression or even being racist. Racist is when a race, or racial group, believe they are superior over another racial group. This can go to both minority groups and groups in power over a country. When Dyson made his point about minority officers being racist, is ultimately true in many factors. For example, if a Hispanic officer grew up in a neighborhood where whites were racist to blacks, then the Hispanic officer could possibly show some of the racial opinions that the whites had when they were growing up. Despite how someone was raised, their opinions can still affect someone else. Especially officers and minority officers. Even though it is not really seen, many minority officers attack groups that they saw were attacked when they were younger. Therefore, it is important that Congress and the people try to stop police brutality as whole rather than stopping police brutality is the fields that are seen.
One point that I do feel is important for everyone to know is that everyone, including minorities are entitled to their rights. Although, majority of the population does not know their rights, which makes it harder to fight to protect yourself in the words of law. For us to make a fair fight when our civil rights are tested, we need to understand them ourselves because officers that plan to use their power to harm minorities and African Americans will use the mis-knowledge of our rights against us. If you don’t know your rights, then in any situation that involves police, you are at risk for being taken advantage of. Knowing your rights should be taught to everyone, including young children as they grow up.
Another thing that families should teach their children, especially teens, is how you act towards and with an officer. When a child or teen lack this knowledge, they are put at risk when the get involved with officers. More directly, teens come to a bigger risk when they start driving. When teens are allowed to drive, they may not know how to act when they are pulled over. Teens need to know that they need to put their hands on the dashboard or steering wheel, have their license and registration where they can find it, and remain calm. If they do not know this, then they could be harmed when they are pulled over. It is just too many risks of our teens and children not knowing what to do in these situations. So, it is up to the people to take all of their life experiences and trainings to teach their children. This lowers the risk by a lot when our families know what to do in these situations.
According to Onyemaobim:
Here is another case that proves police brutality has gone to far. Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed, African American was killed on August 9, 2014. Brown was shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. After his death, many protests in Ferguson rose against racial police violence. A few weeks after Brown’s death, the Ferguson grand jury voted not to indict Wilson. The jury’s decision caused another uproar of protests. Now Michael Brown’s case is just one of many cases that have made it to a grand jury and decided not to indict the officer (Onyemaobim 157-158).
Cases like Michael Brown’s, or any case that involved police brutality, involves physical and psychological effects (Onyemaobim 158). Although, majority of the time, the psychological effects are on the victim’s family and friends. Regardless of police violence being caused by racism or supremacy, psychological effects can make anyone become a victim of a police shooting or crime. Many minorities, more commonly African Americans, have been victimized when they were in a harmful mental stage, but the justice system is more quickly to put off this information by stereotyping the African American community. To make things even worse, officers are professionally trained to kill a threat that is endangering lives, yet whenever a Caucasian man is the one behind the weapon, the man is arrested and overpowered in a dangerous situation. Whereas a black man, who presumably would match a description an eye witness gives, is shot and killed in a non-threating situation. Another difference between a minority race and superior race would be that a superior race, whether male or female, would be more likely to get off of their charges if they were determined mentally ill. If a minority member was charged, and determined mentally ill, they would possible spend their sentence in a mental hospital or insane asylum.
Police brutality is a very controversial topic that can be argued about. Many citizens in America that put majority of their trust in the police force and justice system will not view police brutality as violence towards a race, but an accidental overuse of power while protecting the people of America. Another group of citizens, possibly the racist citizens in America, would not view violence downed upon another race as brutality because they may very well believe that the race being victimized deserves it. Anyone that does not believe in, or understand, police brutality would say that any case made public and viral, is just a case that was given too much attention. Some officers are even willing to ignore racial police movements in their precinct because they want to rid their area of crime. Quite realistically, if it was up to the people of the United States, police brutality, or the topic of police violence as cases, would not be spoken of, shown, or given any justification. Even though everyone’s opinion of police brutality is not partly backup-ed with facts, they are still entitled to believe anything they would like to believe. Whether it be day, weeks, months, or years from now, their opinions may never change, but the facts and evidence will always rise.
African American victims of police brutality are exposed to the violence in everyday life. They are exposed by mental illness, racial stereotypes, overexposure to police activity and/or violence, and more throughout the different cities and states they live in (Carbado 163). Police violence is not only a racial and supremacist move, but an attempt by members of other minorities to contain and hopefully get rid of crime. The justice system is not helping the people prove police brutality is real because roughly only 1% of the officers on trial are indicted (Bryant-Davis et al. 854). Many citizens will also try to avoid, if not destroy, the topic of police brutality to establish a better racial, superior outcome for them. All in all, the best way to protect yourself and children from a potential police violence situation is basic understanding of respect, knowing your rights, and how to act in view of an officer.
- Bryant, Davis, Thema, et al. “The Trauma Lens of Police Violence against Racial and Ethnic Minorities.” Journal of Social Issues, vol. 73, no. 4, Dec. 2017, pp. 852–871. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/josi.12251.
- Carbado, Devon W., and Patrick Rock. “What Exposes African Americans to Police Violence?” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, vol. 51, no. 1, Winter 2016, pp. 159–187. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=117541195&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Dyson, Maurice R. “Excessive Force, Bias, and Criminal Justice Reform: Proposals for Congressional Action.” Loyola Law Review, vol. 63, no. 1, Spring 2017, pp. 27–75. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=130280706&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Flexon, Jamie L., et al. “An Examination of Police Stops and Youths’ Attitudes toward Police: Do Interracial Encounters Matter?” Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, vol. 14, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 21–39. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/15377938.2014.997953.
- Hutto, Jonathan, et al. “Social Movements Against Racist Police Brutality and Department of Justice Intervention in Prince George’s County, Maryland.” Journal of Urban Health, vol. 93, Apr. 2016, pp. 89–121. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s11524-015-0013-x.
- Miles, James. “They Don’t Really Care About Us.” Teaching Artist Journal, vol. 14, no. 2, Apr. 2016, pp. 120–125. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/15411796.2016.1188526.
- Onyemaobim, Ikedi O. “The Michael Brown Legacy: Police Brutality and Minority Prosecution.” George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal, vol. 26, no. 2, Spring 2016, pp. 157–182. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=116259931&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Price, James, and Erica Payton. “Implicit Racial Bias and Police Use of Lethal Force: Justifiable Homicide or Potential Discrimination?” Journal of African American Studies, vol. 21, no. 4, Dec. 2017, pp. 674–683. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s12111-017-9383-3.
- ROIPHE, REBECCA. “The Duty to Charge in Police Use of Excessive Force Cases.” Cleveland State Law Review, vol. 65, no. 4, Oct. 2017, pp. 503–517. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=124548750&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Rosenthal, Lawrence. “Good and Bad Ways to Address Police Violence.” Urban Lawyer, vol. 48, no. 4, Fall 2016, pp. 675–736. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=121640818&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
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