It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the injustices black people in America face. Black Americans feel that they are targets for aggression because of the way that they are perceived. The stigma surrounding black Americans is that they are violent and dangerous to be around.
This stereotype has been around for centuries, since black men and women were originally brought to this country for the sole purpose of serving its residence as slaves 300 years ago. The Emancipation Proclamation, which was supposed to end slavery, was put into effect 155 years ago. After the Emancipation Proclamation, southerners needed a new way to cripple black Americans. They did so with movies and other propaganda branding the black American as a savage criminal. That was 155 years ago, and we still cannot shake free of the shackles that they placed on us then.
The way in which they labeled us then has put black Americans at risk to be shot first and questioned later in critical situations. In the month of November alone, two innocent black Americans were shot and killed by police during situations of an active shooter when neither of them were the shooter and both were actually trying to help.
Jemel Roberson, a security guard working the night shift at a bar in Chicago, was shot and killed when police mistook him for the active shooter that they were responding to. Roberson had pinned the shooter to the ground and was holding him for the police when the police arrived to the scene and shot Roberson instead. It was reported that Roberson was working the shift to get extra money for his 9-month-old son’s first Christmas, but the police did not see him as someone who could have been a father, but as someone who was a suspect.
On Thanksgiving night, Emantic Bradford, a former Army recruit, was shot and killed after an altercation broke out in the mall and police were called. Bradford was reported to have been trying to help get bystanders safely out of the situation. The police did not see him as a former Army recruit or a son, but as a potential suspect. In both of these instances, it had been revealed that neither man was given a verbal warning to stop what they were doing before being shot. The police saw a black man in the situation and assumed they had their man. They did not think there could be a good black man with a gun. Both of these situations could have been resolved by taking both men in for questioning so they could set the record straight and be set free.
Although police brutality is part of the issue, it is not the only issue. We live in a country where there is a law in Florida known as the “stand your ground” law that openly allows one person to kill another if they “feared for their life” and can prove it. This law allowed George Zimmerman to take the life of a 17-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin simply because Zimmerman “feared for his life” against Martin. On Feb. 26th, 2012 Zimmerman thought Martin was committing a crime, so Zimmerman pursued Trayvon, despite being told not to by the police dispatch. Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon. Despite having no proof that Trayvon was committing a crime or carrying a weapon, Zimmerman was acquitted of the crime. In August, the law came back into the limelight when Markies McGlockton, a black resident of Florida, was shot and killed by Michael Drejka. Drejka approached McGlockton’s vehicle, with his wife and kids in the car, and argued with them about them parking in the wrong location. McGlockton shoved Drejka to the ground and began to back up afterwards, but Drejka still pulled out his firearm and shot and killed McGlockton.
These two instances brought up the discussion if this law is racially different. The statistics of the law show that when the crime is white-on-white, courts see it as justifiable 11 percent of the time and when the crime is black-on-black, the crime was seen as justifiable 8 percent of the time. When the crime was a white shooter and black victim, it was seen as justifiable 34 percent of the time, and when the shooter is black and the victim is white, it is seen as justifiable 3 percent of the time. What one could take from that is that the courts are saying is that it is more believable that a black person could be more threatening to a life than a white person. Former Florida governor candidate Andrew Gillum said in a tweet, “We all know that, based on the color of my skin, I present a certain threat. A certain level of threat that might cause someone to have the power to snuff out my life or my children’s life.” Gillum was trying to show how absurd it is that someone could think that they can judge if another person is a threat based on the pigment of their skin.
Black Americans are often seen as a threat or as criminals. What really happens, according to the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), is that black people are incarcerated five times more often than white people convicted of the same crime. And of those people incarcerated, they are sentenced to 20 percent more time in jail than white people who are incarcerated for the same crime. In fact, 47 percent of the people, who have been proven to be wrongly convicted of a crime are black.
A lot of people at fault for making these mistakes do not realize they are labeling or stereotyping others. From a young age, Americans see black Americans being criminalized. This creates a subconscious thought in people that makes them see black Americans in a certain way. It is a cycle that has been going on for years that we, as a nation, need to look at and do something about. We need to begin showing black Americans in a more positive light for all the good that they do. Black Americans are not criminals, despite how they are portrayed. They are well involved with their community, they are mothers and fathers, they are doctors, they are lawyers. They are much more than what they are shown as. We can make the next generation less bias.