The recent non-indictments of police officers accused of using excessive force leading to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and the case of Eric Garner in New York City, have caused a national outcry with thousands taking to the streets demanding justice. Indeed, I too marched with the masses in solidarity upon hearing the news that policeman who killed Michael Brown would not be indicted.
|Hands Up Don't Shoot! New York City, November 25 2014|
If the Michael Brown case was not enough, then we quickly were dealt the Eric Garner case, which confirmed many of our suspicions that had the two victims been white, they most likely they would have been alive today. Adding salt to the wounds, we learned also that a 12-year old African-American, Tamir Rice, was shot by a policeman in Cleveland. He was playing with a toy gun.
As a professor teaching in a public institution in New York City, I have come across students who know very well that they were targeted by the NYPD's "Stop and Frisk" policy simply due to their skin color. I too have witnessed innocent black people harassed (and humiliated) on the subways late at night, when the NYPD started randomly questioning black people for their IDs, leaving the white people free to move on.
While we should not ignore the injustices done by the nation's police departments, we also need to place the recent events into the greater context of overall racism in the United States. From slavery to the Jim Crow laws, the history of racism against the African-American population runs deep and did not end with civil rights movement or the election of President Obama.
In other words, the discussion should not be simply about police violence disproportionately affecting people of color (with the understanding that police violence on its own deserves a discussion), rather about how the United States can move forward doing away with its institutionalized racism in its prison system, and closing the huge gaps in equity between America's white population and persons of color.
Here are just a few statistics to show the rampant injustice and why police violence is only one small part of a much greater problem:
|The High Incarceration rate is even more shocking when we learn that the|
African-American population makes up is only about 13%.
|For more statistics see following link|