Following from the excellent posts by Rae and Carla (I urge you to check them out), I wanted to add my own thoughts on the racial problems that continue to exist in the US, decades after the efforts of Dr Martin Luther King and so many other brave souls.
Sometimes the problem is subtle and insidious. It can found in the stereotyping of black people – the assumptions about their mannerisms, speech, style and behaviour. Sometimes it’s more overt – with the active denial of rights and displays of outright hatred. Regardless of how it happens, it’s wrong.
Nor is it a US problem, though the issue of how black people get treated in America has been making headline news once again, following yet another act of police recklessness. The death of Philando Castile follows from the shooting of Alton Sterling a couple of days ago, and both of these tragix events follow the same narrative – an overreaction from the police, using violence as a first resort and not pausing to consider any other option.
The police officer who shot Mr Castile appears to have done so because Mr Castile reached for his driving licence when the officer asked him to – so what prompted the officer to suddenly open fire? Mr Castile had informed the officer that he was licenced to carry a firearm and that he was doing so – so it’s not like the officer suddenly discovered a weapon. Try as I might, I can’t see any reason for the officer to shoot, unless he was making jittery assumptions about Mr Castile, based solely upon the fact he was black.
What’s worse, the officers involved in these incidents do not usually face charges, or if they do, they are treated as internal police matters, rather than matters of public law. Had the officer in fact been a regular guy who over-reacted and opened fire, they might face murder charges – yet the police are treated differently.
It’s hard for me to fully understand everything that’s going on here. I’m not black, I’m not a police officer and I’m not American. Britain is not without racial crime, but it seems to be of a different nature to what happens in the US (nevertheless, it needs opposing here as much as it does over there).
What needs to happen, first and foremost, is for police officers (and indeed, anyone in authority) who abuse their power to be held to account for it – properly, before their peers, rather than via the protection of other officers.