Allegations of police racial profiling, discrimination, and excessive force against 18-year-old Michael Brown have led to national unrest. Few definitive answers have been provided in the shooting death of Brown by officer Darren Wilson, but what is clear is that the police in African-American communities need to gain a better understanding of their purpose: to protect and serve, not treat the citizens of their jurisdiction as criminals.
Riots following Brown’s shooting have revealed a serious lack of respect between the police of Ferguson and the black community they serve. The angry protestors are a snapshot of a larger issue across the country in black communities.
In a predominantly African-American community, white officers dominate the police force. With the disproportionate representation of the black community in Ferguson, it was only a matter of time before an incident like Brown’s death occurred.
The police’s depiction of Brown as a criminal, rather than a victim of excessive force, has led to dangerous resistance among the community and furthered the dissent between citizens and law enforcement agencies. African Americans carry a historical resentment towards law enforcement, and Brown’s alleged actions preceding his death are merely a side effect of this distrust.
The riots and peaceful protests that have ensued since Brown’s death is evidence of disconnect between the citizens and the people responsible for protecting them. The fear and lawlessness of the last few weeks will only increase within the African-American community if justice is not served in the case of Brown.
Ferguson provides an opportunity to reform a broken law enforcement system that has led to routine discrimination against black men. Legislation to curtail the perpetual mistreatment of the African-American community (especially men) is essential to guarantee them their right of due process. Reacting out of fear, rather than proper training, has put Ferguson’s police into this conundrum and rather than admit fault, they continue to relieve themselves of any responsibility.
Consciously selecting a diverse police force is indispensable in an African-American community and could have prevented the unfortunate events that transpired in Ferguson.
Police actively connecting and communicating with citizens will build a fundamental trust system that could prevent agitation in the community. Furthermore, denouncing racial profiling and condemning programs like New York’s “Stop-and-Frisk” is key to forging a relationship between police and the black community.
Until the use of excessive force is diminished, the black community will continue to resist the pleas of law enforcement. If a mutual respect exists between these two groups, incidents like Brown’s death would become nearly obsolete.
The events in Ferguson have showed us many things; police brutality, militaristic practices of suburban police, and African-Americans’ extreme distrust of those who strive to protect them.
However, this recent violence reaffirms that with the routine practice of racial profiling in law enforcement, it remains difficult to be a black man in America.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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