2014 in Review: Republicans, Riots and Racism

2014

A couple of days ago, this picture was what greeted me on Facebook. Because of the outrage and rioting that followed the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, you may not be aware of the identities of the other three boys, all of which were shot by police.

John Crawford III was shot and killed by police in the Dayton, Ohio Walmart in August. He had picked up an air rifle (that can shoot BBs or fire pellets) and was carrying it as he walked through the store, talking on his cell phone. The police claimed they shot Crawford because he failed to drop the gun when they ordered him to, though if you watch the surveillance videos, that can be hard to fathom. The police don’t seem to stop to reason with Crawford; in fact they never stop moving toward their target. The grand jury decided not to indict the officers responsible.

Eric Gardner died in July. While he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes in New York City, an officer placed him in a fatal chokehold, a move that is banned by the NYPD. The grand jury decided not to indict the officer.

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in late November in Cleveland. Some of you may have seen it on the news while you were home for Thanksgiving break, like I did. Like Crawford, he was carrying an airsoft gun. There hasn’t been a conviction at this time.

In a short article by Charles Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, he discusses a personal experience where a white man with an airsoft gun on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus was subdued without a single shot fired. Is the police violence a race issue, he asks? Or does the media make it out to be a race issue?

Johnson brings up the fact that everyone, including the police, are fearful because of past shooting massacres like what happened at Virginia Tech. However, the Virginia Tech shooter was Chinese; the Columbine shooters were white. If we are basing our fear off of the past, race shouldn’t be an issue. Whites, Asians, Hispanics and Blacks alike have proven themselves equally capable of committing violent crimes.

Regardless of whether the race of the victims is over-exaggerated, some sort of reform is obviously necessary. Personally, I have a hard time understanding how so many people can be so upset about these killings and yet none of the officers responsible have been indicted – though there is still a possibility in the Rice case. The officer who killed Gardner used a chokehold which is banned by the NYPD. How can he – or the numerous other officers who have used this move – go without punishment? If there is no punishment, police officers will continue to act as if they are above the law.

Police aren’t supposed to be the bad guys. We – no matter what race – should be able to see a police officer and feel protected, not fearful. Training of police officers needs to place more emphasis on protecting without harming and on finding alternatives to shooting fatally. Perhaps we should require that all airsoft guns be painted bright orange so the police and witnesses can tell them apart from real guns. Perhaps our scientists should spend time researching and developing tranquilizer darts, size they are currently not fast acting and require different doses depending on the size of the person. To say that guns were the necessary weapon to “solve” all of these situations is just absurd. But, we can consider “what if’s” all day and they won’t change the past; now we need to focus on preventing such uncalled for shootings in 2015 and the years to come.

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2 Responses to 2014 in Review: Republicans, Riots and Racism

  1. bbowker2014 says:

    A huge aspect of the Ferguson decision that’s stood out to me throughout is the viewpoint of Michael Brown’s family. Quoting Michael Brown’s mother, she says, “We need to work together to fix the system that’s allowed this to happen. Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera”. In class, we weighed out the realistic benefits in requiring police officers to wear these camera. We discussed how sometimes cameras can still alter reality, and that’s why it may not necessarily work. But I still believe this tactic would do more good than harm. At the very least it would hold police officers accountable for their actions and I think the campaign has a future in our country.

  2. nhullus says:

    “We – no matter what race – should be able to see a police officer and feel protected, not fearful.”

    This quote stuck out to me, because it doesn’t matter the percentage of “good cops” to “bad cops” in our current society, because whatever it is, is unbalanced. The biggest issue in all of these cases, outside of the loss of lives that could have been avoided, is the fact that our country’s primary defense is being presented with an asterisk next to its name.

    We are able to understand that these circumstances are the result of racial prejudices, either conscious or unconscious. However, the media struggles to provide the accurate context for these circumstances. In Ferguson, it is arguable and likely even the case that the officer was responding according to protocol. I am not as familiar with the other three cases, all of which seem more obviously inept, but the issue I have had with the representation of these circumstances has been the backlash against the law system for operating the way it was designed to.

    We live in an “innocent until proven guilty” society, and Officer Wilson was not indicted in Ferguson because the evidence reasonably supported his claims. This does not mean that Officer Wilson would have killed Michael Brown if he had been white, he very well could not have, for this is still an issue of race. All forms of media have to address the context of these situations, understanding that the race issue is not always as clear as it once was, many people who are racist are not open or aware to the fact that they are. We need to educate people with ideals instead of quips. Yes, “racism isn’t over,” and “black lives matter,” but these protests are often assemblages of persons with good intentions, and a lack of complete awareness. Telling people that they need to change doesn’t change them; telling them how the world should invariably work, and explaining how they’re a factor in it not operating that way, might.

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