What is police brutality? The National Institute of Justice defines police brutality, “as the use of any force exceeding that reasonably necessary to accomplish a lawful police purpose” (NIJ, 2016). Although no reliable measure of its incidence exists, it has a long history even if not recorded. Police Brutality has become a major issue throughout the United States for many years, but due to the recent availability of media, more people are becoming aware of it.
The news and other media outlets highlight the racial profiling in police brutality. Author Sirry Alang states, “Present-day policing echoes the role of patrollers who were paid to monitor and often harm Black people during the era of enslavement” (Alang 2018, Page 1127). Within the last two to three years, more than five cases of police brutality have sparked outrage in the citizens of the United States. This, in my opinion, is a pressing topic because too many innocent individuals have been killed and are being killed by police officers. On top of that, many the individuals have been black. This is another reason why I think it is important to address this topic because it affects the day to day lives of certain individuals in our society.
We see videos of police brutality all over social media, with social media outlets hashtagging Black Lives Matter (BLM), which is associated with new civil rights movements. After reviewing the history of police brutality, how officer’s actions are justified when it comes to minorities, and the media’s biased opinions on the minority communities. In modern day society, the political pendulum that swings both left and right has altered the way in which people universally view the natural and traditional trends in systems of government and how they are conducted. Both liberals and conservatives, or systematically, the epitome of right-wing versus left-wing politics and their ideologies have drastically influenced individuals differently throughout a multitude of generations. By doing so, this physically shapes the matrix of political agendas, altering the state of opinions and ideas.
As the arguments and placement of societal standards shift based on separate principles and ethics, the gray area in between moderation, and middle ground views become less gray and create static, as beliefs become unlike one another. Nevertheless, the foundation of democracy is based upon creating hostility and dissent to debate and fix said dissenting opinions. The term democracy is strictly defined as: “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections,” (Merriam Webster). In its core, democracy is a system which is always making changes based on the people.
One can see this idea of democracy in the establishment of The Constitution and its Bill of Rights. These documents per se were created based on establishing the protection of natural rights and checking the government’s power. The Bill of Rights which illuminates the natural rights of individuals is being challenged today by the people who pose the question: Does the bill of rights establish equality for some and not all? Though typically a left-leaning question, in its essence it still creates the hostility needed to strengthen the core of democracy. Advancements towards setting equality for all and not some leads to a magnitude of viewpoints that challenge many societal efforts, changes, and continuations that are being made today. Inequality plays an important part of a broken justice system.
The unequal treatment of minorities shows us that we need reform. The treatment of nonwhite minorities sets up the stage for police brutality because the police enforce those laws that are keeping the nonwhite minorities down. What’s happening in the United States today is that stereotypes are influencing the way people view each other. Author L. Song Richardson describes two types of implicit racial biases among police officers, the first being implicit association and the second as implicit dehumanization (Richardson, 2015, Page 2963). Implicit association refers to the misidentifying of blacks with more stereotypically black features, engaging in unconscious racial profiling, and shooting more stereotypical-looking black suspects more quickly than others in computer simulations (Richardson, 2015, Page 2963).
Implicit dehumanization refers to removing the human out of a human being. It refers to “the tendency of individuals to unconsciously associate blacks with apes” (Richardson, 2015, Page 2963). What implicit dehumanization does is predict how police violence is used against black juveniles. A few examples of how nonwhite minorities are being treated here in the United States include the American justice system, the Fair Housing Act, and the new Jim Crow laws. In Author Cheryl Harris’s article, “Whiteness as Property” examines how whiteness is based upon racial subordination, which allows for exploitation of those who are not white. Harris states, “The origins of property rights in the United States are rooted in racial domination” (Harris, 1993, page 1716). This leads to the social, economic, and political supremacy of whiteness. The justice system in early American history constructed itself around whiteness.
What Harris’s article revealed was that laws that recognized this distinction for the sake of political and economic interest perpetuated the degradation of blacks and whiteness is “the privileged and protected”. African Americans have been subjected to many forms of racism, these build up tensions in society causing daily issues for U.S. citizens. If the justice system was built around whiteness this causes the problem. It makes non-white citizens feel like the system is always working against them and that they will never have a fair chance in life. When people feel oppressed constantly, some resort to violence or peaceful protests to get answers. One incident is the death of Freddie Gray, who was in police custody when he died from the result of negligent officers. This is an example of police brutality if the suspect is in custody, how did he end up dying from the arrest, who is at fault? These are the questions that needed to be answered.
Harris states, “The construction of white identity and the ideology of racial hierarchy also were intimately tied to the evolution and expansion of the system of chattel slavery” (Harris, 1993, page 1717). It’s important to note Harris’s emphasis on how people believe we still live in a post-racial colorblind society, but we face the same, or even worse, circumstances of whiteness because people are oblivious to the fact that we are not past this part of our history. Harris’s article concludes her argument by saying blacks are still at a disadvantage and are still the underprivileged ones. They are economical, politically, socially disadvantaged because of American history painting them as inferior. I agree with Harris; minorities are subjected to many unethical forms of discrimination daily, whether it is in the workplace or in housing