By Angel Gomez
You know cartoon characterization: usually it’s this fat dude with a blue uniform who is kind of incompetent, and the super hero of the series steps in and fixes everything before the policeman even manages to get his seatbelt on? It honestly feels like that cartoonish depiction of law enforcement in the United States has become increasingly accurate, except it turns out the policeman can also be the villain, and the entirety of Gotham city is on his side.
Or at least it seems that way to those who cannot trust the police to keep them safe, especially after recent events. This group of people includes black and brown people, especially in non-suburban and low income areas, homeless people, and those with disabilities - both physical and mental (especially people with autism-spectrum disorders, schizophrenic disorders, and those with psychosis). A lot of people fit in one or more of these categories, and they seem to be targeted by police systems and by society in general. This could be attributed to many, many institutions of discrimination that have been in place since society developed into a systematic subjugation of certain groups of people (Some examples include slavery, segregation of both black and Latino/brown people in the United States, internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII, anti-semitism in Europe. The list goes on and on.). These people have not only been systematically isolated and driven to the edges of society and into poverty, but they’re also -unsurprisingly- those who are most prosecuted and most often killed by policemen without provocation (see killedbypolice.net). Fourtythree percent of shootings occur after an incident of racial profiling, and according to a Malcolm X Grassroots Project report, 44% of such victims in 2012 had no weapon at the time they were killed by police officers. Another 27% were deaths where police claimed the suspect had a gun “but there was no attempt to prove this” (Alternet.org). And those are only the reported incidents.
Now, this could be a problem with the policemen themselves or with the inherently racist and discriminatory system in which they are taught. Recent events have shown (to this writer, at least) that its a combination of both.
For hundreds of years, black people have been seen as thieves, cheaters, and sexual predators, and have been depicted as such in countless cartoons, stories, movies, and minstrel shows (as recently as 2009, Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen performed in blackface). It comes as no surprise that in our modern society, black men are seen as much more of a threat than any other group of people (followed, perhaps, by Latino men). This manifests not only in popular media but also in our legal and “security” systems, and this is honestly terrifying.
Now, as a 5’1”, non-white light-skinned person living in a place such as La Cañada, I don’t really lose or gain anything from criticizing the police, but I feel like this is an issue that is being overlooked when talking about the recent events of police brutality. Yes, many of the people that the police go after do wrong, but we also have to see the system as it is, one made to protect the wealthier and paler, and why it’s been manipulated to work in such a way.
I’m not saying every criminal should go free, or that absolutely no police person can be trusted, but the truth is that law enforcement all over the world lately is very clearly easily bribed and manipulated in favour of the “majority” (in this case, middle-class, healthy, white people), and we have to question why that is happening.
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