You know what happens every time I hear about a young black person whose life ends, senselessly at the hands of police officers? I wonder, when the revolt will begin. Similar to slaves revolting against their ‘masters’ with violence, people of color are being pushed into a corner, ready to strike back. Officers are using their authority within the law to render minorities vulnerable. “Lawful stop” “probable cause,” “lawful arrest,” and “reasonable fear for one’s life,” are words used to justify restraining, brutalizing, and killing young people.
Within mainstream media, police officers, trained enforcers of the law, are painted as the protectors, and they, not the suspect, are given the benefit of the doubt. Even when demonstrated by daily reports that Officers abuse their authority to harass minorities unnecessarily, society continues to believe that officers are just doing their job.
When pressured, Police Chiefs present statistics about Latino and Black gang violence, crime, and increased occurrences of drug sale and use in poor minority neighborhoods. Officers become irate, repeatedly pointing to the statistics as proof that they are doing their job, that they are right. The problem is, statistics lie, numbers can be manipulated and science can disguise prejudice. Let’s not forget Eugenics and the scientific belief that people of African descent have smaller brains, and are therefore inept, or the use of the bell curve and standardized testing that ‘proves’ Latino and Black academic deficiency.
Tools are only as honest and accurate as those using them. So, if we have a department lead by an unscrupulous Police Chief who sees no reason to reign his officer’s in when they brutalize the community they are meant to serve, shoot suspects before assessing cause, or routinely perform acts of terror to keep suspected criminals in check, the numbers will say what those officers need them to say: that minorities are the trouble makers and officers are reacting to real and present threats. .
The world that we want to live in begins with recognizing even the criminal as a human being. When the police officer treats all people with the respect humanity demands, then I might have more confidence in the justice system. However, when the entry into the justice system is rife with prejudicial discretion and bigoted stereotypes, true criminals, real murders like Holmes get to pursue their education, murders like Zimmerman get primetime interviews, and minority youth differ. Young people who have barely lived lie dying in the streets as society reduces them to pictures, political platforms, and promises of a better tomorrow.
So, when mother fight back, throwing rocks at officers who shot and killed their sons, and sisters break bottles on the heads of officers who bloodied their brothers, wives leave scars on the faces of officers who paralyzed their husbands, remember that a spirit can only be pushed so far, before it pushes back. People of color are crouched low in the corner, it wont be long until the force of that anger is unleashed. Society would be better served listening to those oft silenced voices; they must be heard.