Police Brutality And The Issue of Race
CNN displayed this statistics and a friend shared it on Facebook to show that the police in US don’t discriminate against African Americans when it comes to shooting people to death. It was further commented that race and hence distinguishing the victims of police brutality along racial lines divides people and therefore is not a good idea. But as reassuring as it is to know that the police are “equal opportunity” murderers, I beg to differ. First of all, who exactly are those 311 who constitute the “unreported race” group? But, even if we disregard those, while the whites’ population is over 5 times that of blacks (63% vs. 12.3%), their fatalities in the hands of the police is less than twice (1.8 times) that of African Americans, which means that blacks are 3.5 times more likely than whites to get killed by police. So, clearly, there is a bias and disproportionality as to whom the police are more likely to murder. But, even that doesn’t tell the whole story because not all killings are the same. The police are indeed likely to shoot and kill a white man who shoots at them or at others, as they are blacks, but their bar for killing blacks is much lower. They’re much more likely to shoot a black man fleeing the police or refusing to obey their commands, for example, than a white man in similar situations. They’re also more likely to plant evidence on their black victims compared to whites.
While obviously race is used to divide people and scapegoat minorities, denying how racism actually affects and victimizes minorities and how it translates into more widespread police brutality against the victims of racism is tantamount to denying the existence of racism. Despite possibly good intentions expressed by stating that race or focus on race divides people and therefor we should not distinguish the treatment of the minorities from that of the majority, people cannot and will not be united unless the existence of racism and its effects on its victims is acknowledged, understood and dealt with. What divides people is racism, not its acknowledgement or emphasis. People don’t get united against oppressors by simply saying we’re all the same because minorities know we’re not and therefore such a comment comes through as insensitive and disingenuous and isn’t helpful. Unity can only come by acknowledging how we are all treated differently and by uniting to raise the issue of discrimination together, not by denying or defocusing it. Unity must be around the lot of the lowest common denominator and the most oppressed. That doesn’t mean we should not focus on the brutality against the majority, but we should also focus on the fact of the discrimination and acknowledge it as part of and prerequisite of unity.