While the world is being distracted by entertainment, social media, work, families and day to day endeavours, there’s a silent war waging against people of colour in the United States.
It is no longer only Black men that are being murdered by the police but women and children of same race now share in these nefarious menace. Getting killed by the police is the leading cause of death of young Black men in America.
Voices of protesters and activists die down, and it seems that no one is listening. A bill signed into law this week in California strengthens the standard by which police officers can use deadly force.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the new law, introduced in response to the spate of police killings of unarmed people, “stretches the boundaries of possibility and sends a message to people all across the country that they can do more” to prevent police shootings.
The legislation – AB 392, or The California Act to Save Lives came as a result of months of negotiation between law enforcements, lobbying groups and civil rights organizations, and some advocates of police reform, viewing the new law as a watered-down effort.
The Black Lives Matter Global Network, for example, pulled its support of the legislation saying, “AB 392 does not provide the kind of substantive change that we imagined when the process began.”
It is also rare that officers are convicted for fatal shootings or excessive force. Each year in the United States, somewhere between 900 and 1000 people are shot and killed by police, said Philip Stinson, an associate professor at Bowling Green State University’s criminal justice program.
Stinson leads the university’s Police Integrity Research Group in gathering data and looking for patterns in police shootings, police arrests and how juries, prosecutors and judges respond.
The police officer told the judge he feared for his life, or he thought the victim had a weapon. The excuses, as told to the judges, are repetitive and redundant, and usually the outcome is that the officer gets cleared of any wrongdoing. It’s very difficult to convict officers in police shootings.
This month, Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed in her own home by Officer Aaron Dean. Officer Dean was responding to a call about a welfare check. He was arrested and charged for murder, but had since been released on bond while awaiting trial. Even the chief of police Ed Kraus said at a news conference, “I certainly have not been able to make sense of why she had to lose her life”. It would be of no surprise if Officer Aaron Dean was acquitted of all charges.
Stories like this are becoming more and more frequent. Instead of relying on the police to serve and protect us, African Americans fear them and have no confidence in the justice system.
No crime has to be committed to render being shot or brutalized by the police. No matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel, we should frame police brutality against people of colour as a structural racism and white supremacy problem.
It is not simply the fault of individual ill-intentioned, racist, power-hungry, authority-abusing officers. It goes much larger and deeper than that. Police brutality is one of several ways in which systems and institutions oppress some groups and afford opportunities to others simply based on race.
It is complicated at best, but something must be done to put an end to the senseless murdering and brutalizing of the black race.