Minority Communities and our Relationship with the Law
In the wake of the tragic death of Kimani Gray and the federal court hearing of New York City’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ policy there has been an uproaring amongst Black and Latino city residents that call foul against New York City’s finest. Racial tensions as well as profilings have always laid the groundwork for the tumultuous relationship between police forces of this nation and the minority communities they’re sworn to protect and serve.
Being a Brooklyn resident, the Kimani Gray story is all I hear about while watching local news. For those of you who don’t know, Gray was a 16-year old boy shot and killed by NYPD in E. Flatbush, supposedly for drawing a loaded weapon and aiming it at officers. (Link to the full story posted below.) To make the matter even more prominent, the class action lawsuit of Floyd v. City of New York, the case in which several individuals who were illegally stopped under Stop and Frisk challenge the constitutionality of the policy and fight for changes that would make it less prejudice and discriminatory, is headlining local news as well. These coupled with the hot topic of gun violence and reform have all created an atmosphere that is heavy with the feeling that if something is not done to rectify the situation soon, there will be major unrest.
Now, what brought me to write today is the fact that racial profiling and discrimination have been about since our ancestors first stepped foot on this continent. This is something that is, for whatever reason, extremely difficult for us as a nation to snap out of. Seeing that this is the case, how do we change the powers that be and keep our families and loved ones safe and avoid ourselves from becoming victims of prejudice and profiling?
Many will jump to say that there needs to be justice and reform throughout the police force and although this is true, I was taught a long time ago that one can only be held responsible for one’s own actions. Opposed to rushing to point the finger, major introspection must first be done to see what we can do to alleviate the pressure of these circumstances. Although, as mentioned earlier, the discrimination minorities face dates back generations, there is also a lot that we have done, as a people to perpetuate these stereotypes and prove their statistics true. Gang violence, drugs, and social influences (which I’ll get into in depth at a later date) have bred mindsets and behaviors in the Black and Hispanic communities that have allowed us to be targeted as criminal nuisances; nuisances that need to be dealt with in order to provide overall safety for the city that these officers are paid and sworn to protect.
Now, I’m not saying that this makes prejudice or discrimination excusable but what I am saying is that when senseless violence and loss of life occur at the hand of the police, when we march to protest their actions, we should be marching just as hard to protest the actions of the incendiaries within our own communities that have made us all look bad. Stereotypes don’t simply manifest themselves. They come from observation of actual events and past experiences.
It is our job to shatter these stereotypes and change the face of these negative statistics. If you think about it, ‘Stop and Frisk’ is effective because when they stop “the right” individuals they find what it is they’re looking for, therefore validating and strengthening the case that the policy is good policing and is getting dangerous individuals off the street. Those amongst our people who are actually out and committing the crimes ‘Stop and Frisk’ are claiming to prevent are simply fueling and giving life to a policy that is menacing our people and causing further racial divisions and tumultuous relationships between us and the police. The police force has the argument that the majority of the people who commit certain crimes are Black and Latino and therefore have a solid case upholding their actions. We need to make it so when one of our people are racially profiled, when they go to court the police force cannot say “well, according to the statistics…” and therefore not have a leg to stand on, leading to justice for someone who was wrongfully targeted.
Politicians who march and protest and music artists who proudly proclaim “f*ck the police” need to show the same fervor towards our own people, menacing our cities, that we do towards the police force who, at the end of the day, are simply doing a job despite whatever their racial views are. It is time that we finally start to do better. We are only as strong as our weakest link and we need do what is necessary to strengthen those of us who are unintentionally destroying us. We must make it so they have no reason, whatsoever, to single us out. We must no longer be the statistic.
As always, we’d love to hear all of your thoughts! Feel free to comment and share!