During a time of civil unrest and demonstrations against police brutality, America appears divided. With the constant bombardment of political tension, acts of terrorism, to the recent tragedy of shots fired on both sides of the line, we continue to face the reality of fear and racism in America. Many have taken to social media, demonstrations, and other forms of expression to share their side of the story, but as each one fervently fights for their own perspective, America continues to reel under the shock of these attacks.
Racism is not a new topic in America and one might argue that the USA was built upon the blood, sweat, and deaths of indigenous peoples, Native Americans, the exploitation of the African slaves, and the labor camps of the Chinese to build the extensive railroad system. History has proven that racism runs quite deep in America.
But today is quite different than “Old America”, and it may be this potential change that has caused a new tension among the melting pot of people that call the United States home. With what many considered a major step towards progression when the first African American was sworn into office as the President of the United States, others immediately withdrew in fear of losing their own privileges and power. As the country continues to struggle with civil unrest, what are some projects and common ground goals that could bring trust and healing to our divided country? What changes are needed in the justice system to ensure equal “justice” to all, and how do we eliminate “profiling”?
It may be difficult for marginalized communities to set aside their fear, anger, and distrust in order to open themselves up to healing. But if the country is to repair the already fragile relationship between the black community and law enforcement, then action must be taken.
The Human Factor – One thing that brings people together is building a personal relationship. We are much more willing to fight for those we love, know, and understand, than the stranger across the street, and both sides need passionate advocates fighting for each other. Offering an “open house”, could prove to bring people together. Giving them time to share among families, life stories, and build friendships that transcend the color of one’s skin or image of a badge. The Huffington Post post reported that a precinct in Columbia Heights was doing just that, offering a “Coffee with a Cop” sit down for residents to openly share their concerns and get to know the very officers protecting them.
Another factor that impacts the current level of distrust between the black community and law enforcement is the unjust ratio of convictions given to African Americans and Latinos. American Progress outlined the disparity between color and conviction revealing a startling truth, “While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.”
In addition to the ongoing changes being implemented, “racial profiling” continues to be another topic of discussion. It was reported in a study done by the University of Arizona that quantitative evidence proved that state highway patrols were more inclined to pull over an African Americans. Over the years, not much seems to have changed. When it comes to racial profiling, if you are an African American, Latin American, or Middle Eastern, the probability of being pulled over for the color of your skin is greatly increased in comparison to the average White American.
As the country continues to struggle with race and law enforcement, we can only hope that those truly invested in bringing about change can work together to show that we can in fact live in a country that offers inclusion, safety, and justice equal to all. This road is not without curves, and will not be something we can resolve in a matter of days, but through perseverance, commitment, and acceptance, the United States of America can truly be “United”.