After the unexpected and tragic death of Freddie Gray, in the custody of Baltimore police, the trust that Americans once felt for law enforcement is gone.
Most Americans are now hesitant to call the police when a problem occurs due to the possibility of the police killing them when they arrive. I feel that this mistrust is even more so within the Black and Latino communities where members of these groups are disproportionately locked up in the American justice system, a justice system that has become privatized and profits are made by share-holders when the prisons are full.
The same people who are investing in these prisons are also investing in companies that sale products such as soap and shampoo to these prisons.
Another alarming problem is that these same investors are now building new prisons in anticipation of incarcerating in the future children that are presently elementary school-aged. Obviously these private prisons cannot run without collaborating with state governments. This comes at a time where new universities are not being built and schools are shutting down.
As a result, police are being used as a tool to not only generate revenues in their respective locations, but as a tool to intimidate Americans, especially minorities. Ever since America’s formation, police have been used by the elite to keep the “others” in check.
The elites are able to spend the money to create new legislation targeted at the minority and the poor. These new laws are then used to arrest more minorities. This is not to say that whites are not targeted or arrested because the majority of the people in American prisons are white; but in terms of population, minorities are disproportionately incarcerated in American prisons.
This is an interesting statistic in light of the fact that in research studies performed by Sociologists, they have found that Whites have admitted to just as much criminal activity as Blacks percentage wise.
I remember reading a document in one of my Sociology classes from the Baltimore Police Department. This document said to target Blacks, Latino/Hispanics, Arabs, Asians, men or women in any combination. The document said to perform searches of a combination of these groups whenever possible.
Nobody can tell me that racial profiling does not exist when I have seen documents telling police to profile them.
We currently have a generation of Black American youth that have witnessed decades of laws targeted at them. These laws have been targeted specifically at Black Americans such as California’s infamous 3 Strikes Law. This law says that if a person has 2 strikes or felonies, that whenever they break a 3rd law, even for something insignificant as stealing food to feed their family, they are placed in prison for life.
Also many of these felonies are non-violent drug-offenses. Once this goes on their records, it makes it even more difficult to get a job. So then this creates a vicious cycle that has at the very least, the appearance of targeting Blacks and other minority groups.
This leads us to the current situation in Baltimore. The current protests turned riots are being led by a group of disenfranchised youth that want to see change. They have seen generations before them lost to the justice system which created a brutal cycle of injustice and lost opportunity.
No matter how much the people before them spoke about change, the change never came. There was the election of Barack Obama, but Blacks are still being targeted by police. Since 9/11, more Americans had been killed by police then have been killed by terrorist attacks.
In speaking about the riots in Baltimore, mainstream media is not pointing out the fact that Baltimore police violently arrested constitutionally protected peaceful protesters at a local high school, sparking the riots.
Time and time again, whenever groups assemble under the protection of the First Amendment, we see situations where police antagonize people and arrest people sparking further tensions. If you do not believe me, pay attention to the next situation similar to this one.
Thanks to these riots, civil icons such as two-time Super Bowl champion in former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis vehemently urged the protesters to get off the streets and work to rebuild what they destroyed.
Thanks to the destruction and unrest, the hometown Orioles became the first sports team in American sports history to play a home game with zero fans in attendance, as Orioles Park was closed off to the public, due to the unrest.
What exactly have these protests and riots achieved? What did they accomplish other than the destruct of local businesses and their own neighborhoods over a man, they most of them barely—or never even knew?
If this was due to the recent Ferguson riots in the aftermath of the slaying of Michael Brown, then I would suggest that a task force be assembled immediately to mediate and resolve the unrest and mutual distrust, bitterness and animosity that runs deep between the black community and law enforcement.
So how do we come together as a collective populace and put the pain in the past and move forward? This is a good question.
First the police must work towards regaining the trust of Americans. This can be done through outreach programs as well as by taking classes in the humanities. The famed and storied Japanese samurai would study and write haiku because they understood that an appreciation of the humanities would help them with the psychology of carrying a weapon every day.
Police in America do face problems on a daily basis. They are always put into dangerous situations and as a result it affects their psychology and everyone is viewed as a threat. Once they view them as a threat then they go into the defensive and lose their humanity.
This can be seen in the high amounts of spousal abuse by police officers. The high stress from their jobs can cause them to take it out on their spouses.
It is possible that stressors can cause PTSD. If this is the case then counseling should be given to police whenever needed. Police should try to work with community organizations in order to discuss community problems and programs and see what is being done to improve their communities.
Most importantly police should respect the Constitution and not violate the rights of Americans just because they view them as the other.
We as citizens should be respectful when approached or stopped by the police. However we should never give up our rights. We should ask if “we are being detained, and if not then are we free to go?”.
It is better not to raise our voices and escalate tensions.
We should make slow movements and inform the officer of what we are doing. If pulled over we should keep our hands on the steering wheel.
It might seem that we are passed the point of no return in terms of American citizens’ distrust of police, but if both sides could try to understand the other then perhaps we can improve things.
Americans have always overcome adversity and been willing to make the change to improve our society, why should this be any different?