The blatant murder of young Black men in public spaces by police officers, has prompted ongoing discussions about police brutality and the use of excessive force in Black and minority communities. These conversations, however, are not always met with open minds. Some people– especially White people– make every attempt to diminish, derail, or completely avoid the issue at hand, to justify their inaction and avoid this harsh reality. These attempts can stall conversations if they are not promptly defeated and discarded.
With that in mind, here are a few of the typical, most infuriating responses to discussions surrounding police brutality and some arguments to help anyone get the conversation back on track.
1. “If the police told me to do something, I’d just do it– that’s why I’d still be alive.” Whether or not you did what police officers told you to do or not, if you are White, you more than likely do not have to fear for your life when interacting with the police. For example, Sarah Culhane hit three people with her BMW, then kicked police officers but was apprehended and taken to prison alive. T.J. Lane a young White boy (who recently escaped from prison but was apprehended today) who opened fire in his high school’s cafeteria, killing three students was taken into custody alive.
A death sentence is issued faster by the police for being Black while standing in a Wal-Mart store on the phone, with a toy gun in hand or for “selling loose cigarettes”, than for being White while murdering or injuring other citizens.
2. “Let the police do their job.” The job of the police is to serve and protect the people of the public– which includes Black people and minorities. Most assuredly, we can all agree that the job of the police is not to murder or execute “suspects”. Eric Garner, John Crawford and Michael Brown’s deaths were all ruled homicides. Google’s definition of the word homicide “the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another; murder.”
3. “[Insert bad cop’s name here] is innocent until proven guilty.” As are young Black and minority men and women. We have a legal system to punish people for the crimes they commit. Police are supposed to escort both compliant and non-compliant suspects into that system. Not murder them before they get there.
4. “These men were murdered because they are thugs.” Black and minority men are murdered partially because of the widespread belief that all Black men are “thugs” (as demonstrated by this very argument) persists as an unverifiable fact in the minds of Americans. Such claims are repeated viciously by the mainstream media and cemented through constant negative imagery associated with the Black population. This creates a perpetual state of fear and angst between White people and the Black community, that inevitably leads to situations where an individual will react irrationally– and say, shoot and kill someone after they have already surrendered.
5. “Not all police are bad.” It can also be argued that not all White people supported slavery or Jim Crow– many didn’t. Yet a system that discriminated against, subjugated, brutalized and terrorized Black people existed that had to be fought against. Standing against police brutality does not equate standing up to a few “bad cops”, it means fighting to eradicate an ongoing system of oppression, discrimination that corrupts the entire judicial system– even the “good cops”.
6. “It is not only White cops who do this, all cops do it too!” Which precisely underscores the power of the system of racism at the core of the institution. Black and minority people have long been forced to participate in practices that degrade their community out of fear and because of limitations imposed by those with more power that restricted speaking out or against unfairness.
7. “If you don’t like the police, don’t call them when you need help.” In many Black and minority communities, call for help from the police are often left unanswered. Black/minority communities are both underserved and over-policed, reinforcing the notion that the judicial system is more interested in criminalizing people of color than helping them. To provide a service to a community, one must consider the needs and wants of the individuals within it and be willing to offer help and support when needed. Raiding homes, implementing discriminatory practices such as stop-and-frisk, and murdering innocent citizens while not responding to calls of distress is doing precisely the opposite.