Police Brutality in Today’s Society: The 2nd Amendment

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Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Alton Sterling: all victims of a corrupt justice system. Racial discrimination, often defined as treating someone adversely because of their race, nationality, hair texture, etc., has the potential to tarnish lives across the nation. The mentality that racism is dead is fallacious, and racism is a wide concept that has been a recurring mindset throughout centuries. In this essay, I will be examining the effects racism has on the lives of its victims and how it cripples our society as a whole. In addition, I will be evaluating the evolution of racism throughout history. The topic of police brutality against black males is relevant in today’s society because racism is something that people of color and different ethnicities must face on a regular basis. Many times, these occurrences are pushed under the rug as if they are not a significant factor in the way our society flows. However, we must recognize that killing innocent people based off the color of their skin is inhumane.

During America’s period of slavery, African Americans were viewed as submissive, uneducated, and not to be seen as people. These stereotypes were portrayed through popular literature, media, and the use of Blackface. White actors would portray black men by painting their face black and acted barbarous to mirror the stereotypes given to them. Dance moves, language, and facial features were exaggerated to the fullest, and was the epitome of racism and ignorance during this period (“Blackface”). These depictions made it easy for people to agree that slavery is where Black people belong. However, following the American Civil War, these stereotypes began to break. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments gave African Americans some leverage when it came to social, economic, and political rights (Smile, Fakunle, 2017). The construction of black communities, HBCUs, and the election of Black officials in office became known as “Black Wall Street” (Pickens, 2013). This growth of social status battled the ideas of white supremacy which had been the social norm for hundreds of years. Whites became fearful of the voting powers which African Americans gained and felt that they were competition in the workforce (Smile, Fakunle, 2017). However, this growth quickly came to a halt after the Supreme Court ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson which stated, “separate but equal is constitutional.” African Americans became angry, and their subordinate stereotypes turned into monstrous ones. The ideas of these vicious brutes caused a backlash from White Americans at the time. Lynching, or the severe punishment and killing against Black individuals, was used to put fear into African Americans in an attempt to reverse the growth that they had made (Callahan, 1997). The image of Black men that has been established due to the cruel circumstances from our past brings us to today’s issue of police brutality against Black people in the US. Understanding the history behind the stereotypes of “brutes” and “thugs” helps today’s society gain insight into the role that race plays in the judicial system today.

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On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile, a teacher at J. J. Hill Montessori Magnet School and an active member in the community, was purposelessly shot and killed after being pulled over for a traffic violation. Following the officer’s sentencing, the video of this incident circulated and was made clear that this shooting was unnecessary and done out of impulse (Nelson, 2018). Immediately after this tragedy, 37- year old father of five Alton Sterling was shot and killed outside of a convenience store in Louisiana (Donnella, 2016). Justine Diamond, Gilbert Salas, and Thurman Blevins became victims of police brutality shortly thereafter. The combination of these tragedies so closely adjoined created an outroar of protests and enraged citizens. Kara Brown, a writer at Jezebel, expressed her frustration for these recurring tragedies. ‘In the time it took me to write about one fatal police shooting, another one occurred,’ Brown wrote (Donnella, 2018). Actor and board member of the Equal Justice Society, Kelly McCreary, tweeted, “It’s like waking up in a horror film. Stop killing us.” This desperate cry for help went viral on Twitter and sparked conversations between hundreds of thousands of people. A group of artists came together to create a mural on the side of a building to grieve the deaths of these individuals. The mural read: What do we tell our children when education didn’t matter? When compliance, age, or evidence didn’t matter? When guilt or innocence didn’t matter? When our outrage didn’t matter? (Nelson, 2018) The people of Minnesota began to feel that fighting for justice was a hopeless battle. Though racial profiling is illegal, recent US Supreme Court decisions Kisela v. Hughes and County of Los Angeles v. Mendez make it extremely easy for officers to use excessive force with little to no repercussions (Nelson, 2018). Existing laws protect officers in cases such as these, and their reexamination is long overdue.

Further looking into the cases of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, a similarity between the two tragedies shocks America- they were both carrying at the time of the crime, and the officers shot out of fear for their own lives. This revelation sparked debates. Would Sterling and Castile still be alive today if they were legally armed white men? According to Lavish Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend who was in the car with him at the time of the shooting, Castile disclosed to the officer that he was carrying a gun and a permit, and that he was only reaching for his license and registration. After the officer asked that he not move, he put his hands up in fear of his life. Unfortunately, this did not stop the officer from ending Castile’s life. Following the Sterling case, it was reported that the gun was discovered to be illegal after Sterling was already killed. Witnesses claim that Sterling was not reaching for his gun at the time of the encounter, and video footage supported this claim (Graham, 2016). Though he had been carrying without a permit, skeptics question how the officer would have known that. In both cases, the Second Amendment should have protected the lives of these individuals, at least until further questioning. Many believe that had the perpetrator been a white male, both situations would have ended differently. Police have been known to disarm white men without killing them, but this never seems to be the case for armed black men. In 2014, Derrick Daniel Thomas burglarized a stranger’s home, shot at the construction workers who were present, and fled. When he and the police were at a standoff, the police ordered him to put down his gun. Instead of complying, he aimed the gun at the officers and shouted, “No, you drop your (expletive) gun!” Thomas went into custody without a bullet in his body (Freund, 2014). Another instance of a “white privilege pass” involves 67- year old Cliven Bundy who spent eight days at a standoff with the government over “unpaid grazing fees,” and even pointed his gun at the officers. The Federal Bureau of Land Management eventually gave up and Bundy was free to go. Again, Bundy didn’t spend a minute in jail (Siegler, Dwyer, 2018). The double standard between armed white men and armed black men leads people to believe that racial profiling played a major role in the Castile and Sterling cases.

The fight for equality between whites and African Americans has been fought for far too long. Though racism may not be as prominent as it was in the past, it’s clear that our nation’s stereotypes of black males still lives on today, and has the power to not only destroy lives but passively segregates our society. Recent incidents such as these are a cause for question: Does the Second Amendment really apply to black individuals? Examining police brutality against legally armed black men is no longer just about justice, but about the safety of our nation as a whole.

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Police Brutality in Today’s Society: The 2nd Amendment. (2022, Jul 11). Retrieved from


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