by Rayiah Ross
Police brutality in contemporary life has become very controversial on a global level, primarily because of its interpretations. The beating and imprisonment of African Americans has split a majority of the population into multiple categories including sides of Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, or even All Lives Matter. Although the multiple interpretations, the fact of the matter is that police brutality is a living and breathing issue that must be stopped.
There are those who believe the brutality of African Americans are justified because it is the African-Americans who initiated the aggression or because an officer felt “unsafe.” These Blue Lives Matter advocates are ignoring the countless murders of unarmed African Americans and their attempt to survive in a democracy built to work against them. Police brutality is justified because of the fear of a black man while these same “feared” people were tormented and punished for over 300 years because of the color of their skin. Other justifications lay in the hands of All Lives Matter advocates who use their platform to undermine the issue of police brutality and inequality by pointing out the fact that other races have problems too. This nationalized outlook on the treatment of people of color is a common misconception in today’s time period.
Trayvon Martin was only a teenager when he was murdered for wearing a hoodie and ‘looking suspicious.’ Stephon Clark was holding only his cellphone when he was fatally shot by two Sacramento police officers 20 times. This act of cold blooded murder is not about fear, it’s about power. According to the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, though African-Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015. The 13th amendment, which had the purpose of abolishing slavery, has a loophole in it, one that has been ignored rather than excused. When made to end slavery and involuntary servitude, the quote, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” has continued to be looked over. Imprisonment has replaced the act of slavery by enslaving people of color in jail cells and stripping them of their rights and humanity. By doing this, we erase not only that one person’s rights, but a whole generation after them. It’s a vicious cycle of discrimination and unfairness. We are in the 21st century, living in a democracy paved by Jim Crow laws and black codes. Writer, civil rights advocate, and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, Michelle Alexander, explains in the documentary 13th that, “so many aspects of the old Jim Crow are suddenly legal again once you’ve been branded a felon. And so it seems that in America we haven’t so much ended racial caste, but simply redesigned it.”
Unarmed men, women, and children are being murdered because of an image that was biastly and unfairly painted of them in the 1600’s. People always ask how people let lynching and slavery go on for so long. They ask, “how could people tolerate that?” The sad truth is, we are still tolerating it. We are living it. “If a black man bumped into a white woman, that could be construed as an affront to white supremacy. If he glanced at her too long, the idea was that he’d violate her, that he’d attempt to rape her. The glance was an affront to white supremacy by looking at a woman he shouldn’t…. So, it really depended on the whims of white people.” E.M. Beck, a retired sociologist at the University of Georgia and the co-author of “A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings 1882-1930 stated “It’s not the method in which a person is killed, it’s the context in which they are killed,”
African-Americans are looked at as monsters because of the color of their skin, but the real monsters are the men and women who devote their lives to protecting. The people that live in their white privilege without recognizing it exists. America is a monster; one untamed, and not yet defeated.