The recent death of Sandra Bland is one of many examples of excessive police brutality used on African-Americans. A simple traffic stop has somehow led to the death of someone who was killed far before her time.
Although racism exists as a prevalent concern for our society, many Americans feel uncomfortable addressing the issues. According to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, African-Americans are more likely to be targeted by a police officer on the street to be questioned. Our incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color, as one in every 15 African-American men and one in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to one in every 106 white men.
According to a recent study released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 3 black men can expect to go to prison in his lifetime. And black teenagers are much more likely to be killed by police officers than any other race.
When the rights of one ethnicity are trampled upon, it endangers the rights of all Americans. Police brutality is a collective issue because we’ve chosen to remain silent.
Tamir Rice, Cameron Tillman, Jeffery Holdan, and Laquan McDonald are just a few names of the many black teenagers who were victims of police hostility. Yet, when activists chant “Black lives matter,” they are often shut down by counter protesters who refute, “You’re being selfish, all lives matter!”
I’ve heard too many times people defend the officers who have killed African Americans. Some of the responses are, “He’s had a long criminal record,” “There was marijuana in his system” or, “You wouldn’t poke a bear, so you shouldn’t poke an officer.” Denying racism is a form of racism and if Americans won’t acknowledge that, then we are enabling the problem that exists in our society.
On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in which he stated, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” This speech was given decades ago but Dr. King’s demands still resonate with all of us who are frustrated by excessive police force. Police officers are public servants assigned to serve and protect all citizens. Yet, there has been several occasions where black citizens are treated differently and faced with more hostility than others.
For instance, in Ohio, a former University of Cincinnati officer shot and killed an unarmed black man after pulling him over for a missing license plate.
If radical extremists were killing this many citizens per year, America would spend trillions of dollars, fly unmanned death machines and torture people to keep us safe. Yet a police officer can shoot an unarmed black teenager in Cincinnati and it will get passed off as a “terrible tragedy.” It is long past due that we have a national conversation on racial inequality and police brutality in America.
Rezwan Haq is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.