If you have been watching the news, checking your social media accounts, or living above sea level in general, you are most likely aware of the ongoing string of “incidents” of police brutality against minorities which have been occurring since that fateful night of February 26, 2012. That night a failed citizen’s arrest lead to the homicide of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. The homicide of Martin lead to the acquittal of then 28-year old George Zimmerman. The acquittal of Zimmerman ultimately lead to a spark of nationwide “racial tension” reminiscent of the aftermath from the acquittal of 5 LAPD police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King. Yet, there were no burning buildings or looted storefronts this time. The dropped 2nd Degree Murder and Manslaughter charges of Zimmerman set off a slew of peaceful protests and marches throughout the country. But then August 9th, 2014 happened, and 18 year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by St. Louis County police officer Darren Wilson after a heavily disputed scuffle between the two. Brown’s body lay in the street for four hours before being taken away by a coroner. There were burning buildings and looted storefronts this time. The already racially divided town of Ferguson, Missouri had come to it’s boiling point, and many predominantly black communities throughout the country began to follow suit. Light began to shine retroactively on lesser known incidents such as the one including 43 year-old Eric Garner, yet another unarmed black male who fell victim to lethal police tactics. Garner, an asthmatic father of six, was routinely stopped in Staten Island, New York for selling untaxed cigarettes. After resisting willful arrest from the 6 officers who interrogated him, Garner was put in a fatal chokehold, a tactic which had been banned by that police department since 1993. CPR was not performed by either officers or EMTs. And then there was John Crawford. A 22 year-old black male in Beavercreek, Ohio, who was shot to death after a 911 call was dispatched about a man waving a gun inside a Wal-Mart store. The gun turned out to be a BB gun, from the shelves of that Wal-Mart. And then there was Dante Parker, a resident of Victorville, California who happened to fit the description of a robbery suspect who fled on a bicycle. Parker was tased to death after resisting arrest according to witnesses. Parker was a postal courier for the Daily Press Newspaper. Or 25 year-old Los Angeles man Ezell Ford. Officers conducted an “investigative stop” on Ford. According to LAPD, Ford “basically tackled the lead officer”, according to witnesses, Ford was compliant with the stop. He was fatally shot in the back. Five black males killed by deadly police tactics in the past year. Zero police officers convicted of murder.
My primary question, however, does not pertain to the actual injustices surrounding these “justifiable homicides”. Instead I ask, what are the intentions of government agencies and news media alike? At a time where the country’s first black president is in office, where gay marriage is being legalized one state at a time, where minorities are slowly but surely creating demographic ambiguity, America seemed to be in a progressive era in terms of civil rights. I guess ‘seemed’ is the key word of that sentence though. At the moment, America ‘seems’ to be regressing about 50 years. According to public opinion polls following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, 54% of white Americans felt as if the jury had come to the right verdict. Only 7% of blacks felt this same way. In around the same time frame, another poll asked how much of a role should the government have in trying to improve the social and economic position of blacks and other minorities in this country. 54% of blacks thought the government should play a major role. 22% of whites thought the same. When asked if the American justice system is biased against blacks, the percentages are virtually inverted mirror images. 25% of whites felt that our justice system was biased versus 69% that did not believe so. 68% of blacks felt it was biased versus 26% who didn’t. This shows that not only is there a gap between views of blacks and whites in this country, but the views are on opposite ends of the racial spectrum. Three of the main influential factors of public opinion are media, socioeconomic status, and major events. Unemployment and job loss is disproportionately high in blacks and hispanics when compared to whites. Liberal and conservative news outlets alike are focusing solely on the racial aspects of stories such as the recent incident involving 20 year-old University of Virginia student Martese Johnson. Johnson was stopped on campus on the night of March 18 and accused of public intoxication. Shortly after his arrest, pictures of a bloody faced Johnson flooded social media sites, adding on to the outcry and protests of blacks in America.
These are not new themes, though. Blacks in this country have always had a higher poverty rate than whites. It is a recurring notion that blacks are more likely to be targeted by police than whites. According to statistics provided by the Bureau of Justice, 1 in 17 white men in America have a lifetime likelihood of imprisonment. For black men, this ratio is 1 in 3. Once again, however, my focus is not on injustice and inequities, at least not today. My focus is on why these incidents are deduced to racial ethics. Why couldn’t the influences behind these instances boil down to economic status, or poor police training and judgement? Why are the cases of police brutality against whites and other groups of minorities going ignored by media and politicians while the same instances against blacks are being propagandized? Why has race become the factorial scapegoat and when will there even be an attempt to make additional arguments? I was once told that wealthy people do not watch the news and political addresses to find out what’s going on in the world, they watch them to find what’s going on behind the world. To find what the media and politicians are alluding as well as eluding to, rather than what they are saying superficially. Is racial regression being not only manifested, but latently encouraged in our country? Or maybe there is something much bigger going on. Anyone familiar with the inner workings of mechanical hypnotism know that in order to induce an effective spell of hypnosis, a captivating instrument such as an article of jewelry is needed to command visual focus and cut off all other senses. Maybe racial tension is simply a sparkling gem twirling in the hands of those affluent in power and influence. The purpose of inducing this social hypnosis is still an enigma to me however. Maybe it is a head fake to keep minorities distracted while we are slowly escorted back into disenfranchisement. Maybe blacks were progressing as a culture at an intimidating rate. The first (half ) black president securing a two-term white house run is a pretty big inspiration. Maybe blacks needed their ego deflated. As harsh as those notions may be, we have to realize we are dealing with the government here. The same people set the policies that make double cheeseburgers a dollar and chicken salads $4.99. I don’t have answers to this looming conundrum, I have superficial facts and critical curiosities. But I’ll give our country the doubtful benefit, and hope I am completely wrong.
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