Social Change: Police Brutality and The Efforts of the Black Lives Matter Movement CRM 328Spring 2018 Rodney Morvan IntroductionAmerica is known as the land of opportunity and freedom , where it is said to have equality all across the country and a justice system that protects each and every one of us equally and fairly. However, in 2012 a neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman was on patrol and shot and killed 17 year old African-American Trayvon Martin that night. Zimmerman was taken to trial and was surprisingly acquitted claiming the kill was out of self defense.
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The outcome of the trial caused a public outrage within the African American community, not just locally but nationally. Since that time the Black Lives Matter Movement was created by the 3 co-founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors, and they have been fighting towards new efforts in the African American community in the U.S. to eliminate the violent racism that detoritates America’s society today.
I have chosen this topic because as a young black male in society I have seen the types of risk front hand on how it feels to be stereotyped or perceived as threat just -+because my skin color, and also know the fear of being in the presence of law enforcement officers even though you know you are not carrying anything harmful or illegal on you but can still be shot for no reason. This topic’s importance has been fluctuating through society and if it is not acted on like a priority the way the African American community will view American society and law enforcement will grow more and more negative and it will cause a bigger war on race which will cause a significant setback in American Society. Trayvon Martin’s tragic death is not the first discriminated murder and it hasn’t been the last, as citizens in America we should come together as a nation and realize we killing our own kind, because this nation is not just made of one color it is made up of us all and his death should bring about social change.
Police BrutalityPolice Brutality is defined as the excessive use of deadly or physical force made by an officer of the law. This brutal behavior from Police officers against the African American community has raised an national uproar of protest against discrimination and hate crimes, but what has really caused the most crazed reactions of the public is most of the perpetrators of those specific crimes have only been either put on paid leave or just fired instead of being convicted of their crime and punished to the full extent of the law. This opened up the issue of white law enforcement officers having white privilege and being above the law because they could potentially get away with apparent hate crimes. For example shooting a young black male and claiming he appeared to look like a threat for whatever reason or excuse they would provide. However, if the situation was opposite and it was a black law enforcement officer with a white victim the public would push for the death penalty and the criminal justice system would most likely sentence the African American officer to the most crucial punishment, which is the death penalty.
Nearly 80% of homicide criminals whether they are white or black are sentenced to the death penalty when the victim was white, this statistics backs up the devaluation of non whites and how white privileges are very relevant today. The conflict of police officers acting in illegal acts has contributed to the amount of power and authority they are given in society, furthermore this is why not everyone should be accepted into law enforcement because not everyone can handle having power or authority over others in a healthy manner. Literature Review I can’t breathe. Hands up. Black lives matter, are all statements where the African American community have came up with to show the rest of society that they are speaking out about being discriminated against and being victims of police brutality out of what seems like hate, color blindness, or racial profiling. The Black Lives Matter Movement has developed and risen protest because the violent actions of officers have resulted in murder victims of young African Americans and with no consequence to the officers after they’ve been sent to trial.
In contrast others are put in the effort to claim all lives matter but in reality those same people who aren’t seeing the obvious hate crimes these officers acted in are usually white people who have what we call white privileges. White privileges is like an invisible, weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks(Peggy Mcintosh, 1988). The movement push towards social change for the black community is to show everyone in society is not above the law and even officers can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This relates to how the Post Civil rights movement of racism has an effect in today’s criminal justice system. Furthermore, the idea of racism back then compared to now has affected why might a certain race might appear to look more of a threat then a different race or why they assume the worst about the particular race. White Privilege Throughout American Society advantages towards success or opportunities for success has favored those of white people compared to non whites. White privileges has given white people this certain unearned edge to potentially beat out other races either job opportunities, positive racial recognition, or the feeling of comfort around that race.
They are seen as the norm in society, the basis of what a regular person is supposed to do each day. Peggy Mcintosh makes a list associating how white privileges eliminate the problems that mostly African americans go through with law enforcement.Some examples she states are as a white person I can turn on the television or open the front page of a newspaper and see people of my race widely and positively represented(Peggy Mcintosh, 1988,p. 53-54) and also criminality is not imputed to me as a genetic component of my racial character; I am not assumed to belong to a group of people predisposed to crime.(Mcintosh, 1988, p. 54) These conditions of white privileges goes with the fact that they are not seen as a threat or assumed to be acting in deviant behavior because of their skin color however for black people it is the complete opposite. A black person when portrayed on the television or in the newspaper is most likely shown as a dangerous perpetrator or criminal that you should be on the lookout for. These assumptions made by society of how all black people are predisposed to crime because it is biologically embedded in them is what puts in the mind of other citizens in society that normal activity at night. For example just walking home at night can look suspicious if you are not the right color skin or pulling out a cell phone can be seen as a weapon and what the reaction of law enforcement decided to pull out a taser or gun depends on the assumed suspects skin color.
All these apparent privileges still aren’t known to white people most if not all are unaware of these unearned advantages and seem to think we all have equality, there are some few who even think racism is over. In present day society because no one, or almost no one, wishes to see themselves as racist (Memmi, 2000, p. 3) white people feel insulted when the feel like they are subjected to it according to Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin (2007) they backstage it. The ones that are the most defensive about this are the ones who are unaware of the type of racism they commit at most times. They have the belief that black people have an equal opportunity to succeed but they choose not to because blacks choose to live in bad neighborhoods, they choose to neglect their health and nutrition, they’re not interested in hard work or education, and have higher rates of arrest, incarceration, and execution because they commit more serious crimes more often than whites (Bonilla-Silva, 2003; Brown et al., 2003; Reitman, 2006). This comes to the conclusion that white people are racially biased and how they will never see racism how black people see it today. There needs to be a way how white people can learn to pay better attention and understand other races on what they say and why there are protest and movements such as The Black Lives Matter Movement. Post Civil Rights Movement Racism in Criminal Justice System In present day society racism is still a problem today despite the strong efforts of the Civil rights movement s which significantly improved society for the better. However we are in the era of colorblind racism which has been implemented into the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is placed to protect normal law abiding citizens from criminals and apprehend, prosecute and punish them.
Nevertheless, people of color(nonwhites) mostly African Americans have been subject to unequal protections of laws excessive surveillance,extreme segregation, and neo slave labor via incarceration all to try to control crime. When regarding the prison incarceration statistics it is undoubtedly the poor or black people are overrepresented in every part of the criminal justice system. Research indicates that the explosion in incarceration is negatively correlated with Black male employment rates (Travis, 2002) The high rate of rejection for jobs or careers for black males has given some no choice but to result in deviant acts because they are unable to support themselves or their family financially so they result into anything the can to gain financial support. According to notes in Dr. Espoito’s Race, class, and crime class 2.2 million African Americans and 13% of of black men are disenfranchised which is seven times the national average. So they are losing many rights that can potentially help the move up from the current state so again they result to what they are used to which is crime. The efforts for the fairness in the criminal justice system has been in attempt since the 1980’s when the Black Panther Party introduced the 10 point program which stated We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.
We wantfreedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails. Wewant all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peergroup or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of theUnited States. (Foner, 1970, pp. 3-5) This obviously was not passed or even thought about, the constitution itself seemed to be colorblind which supported racial inequality. So throughout the criminal justice system when either a black or white homicide perpetrator was convicted nearly 80% of them were sentenced to the death penalty when the victim was white , but when it was a black victim the chances of that were much lower; this again show the enqualness of the criminal justice system. The Black Lives Movement stands for equality for the African American community in all aspects of society. Racism: Past and Present Racism has so-called adapted over the years from before the Civil rights movement to now instead of it being eliminated. In present society When Whites do acknowledge racism, they tend to define it as isolated incidents, rather than long-standing, systemic problems with policies, laws, and institutions. (Sommers & Norton, 2006) They are unaware of this because they have not experienced the history being the victim, and unless they are put in the history of a black person’s history they will never understand fully what disadvantages African Americans have even today.
It has become less apparent in most cases because it has been viewed as negative in society especially when done individually, however in society today racism has been classified in 3 levels: institutional racism, personally mediated and internalized racism. Jones states Institutionalized racism encompasses unequal and restricted access to goods and services (e.g., health care facilities,under resourced schools) and opportunities (e.g., confinement into impoverished communities, low-wage labor), all of which can diminish the life chances and health of people of color. Personally mediated racism, one of the most commonly studied forms of racism among psychologists, can be characterized as intentional or unintentional discriminatory acts against people of color through negative interpersonal interactions and prejudice, including being followed around in stores, thought of as less smart than others, called names or insulted, and given poorer services. Internalized racism can be defined as the acceptance of negative attitudes, beliefs, ideologies, and stereotypes perpetuated by the White dominant society as being true about one’s racial group. All three forms of racism can impact the health of people of color, but can also have implications for diminished population-level health. (C. P. Jones, 2000) The immense discrimination has made some African Americans feel devalued and underappreciated which can result in negative emotions such as hate.
For example past racism had a big contribution to creating the mass murderer Mark Essex who had a hatred for white police officers, his reaction isn’t an excuse but shows how horribly a person can take being discriminated against or having people of their race discriminated against. The Black Lives Movement shows how’s their been a development in being able to handle racism and discrimination even when it was first created after a horrific tragedy that left a unarmed black teenager dead. The protest helped lead this movement instead of reacting in violence just like some white people or the criminal justice system expected them to react.ConclusionThe Black Lives Movement has been starting to change how others see black people in society. This movement has brought together the African American community after years of being discriminated the national killing of young black people, the future of the generation has moved them to take serious action and make it nationally known.
Black Lives Matter is demanding for society to respect them as human beings with equality of human rights set by the United Nations that the past generations of African Americans did not have. Many people have made the case that All lives matter even though that is true not all lives are being treated this way or have been treated this way throughout history to present day society . So Black Lives Matter is not a statement that is not trying to say black lives are more important than any other race it is the idea that continued harsh interactions, assumptions, unfairness is subjected to mostly the black community and it has been like that since the days of slavery. The Black Lives Matter Movement has set a goal and a challenge for society and that is for everyone not just black lives to be treated fairly in society. Will the people of society rise up and take on the challenge and conquer it and finally come completely together?
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