Skin Color Is NOT "Reasonable Suspicion"

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Skin Color Is NOT "Reasonable Suspicion"

Racism has turned the world upside down. For years African Americans have been targets of violence and oppression simply because of the color of their skin. The world has seemingly turned a blind eye to it, as racism is still a broad subject matter today. Despite the various “attempts” to make Blacks equal to Whites, the fight for equality still stands strong today. In this article, we will cover the topics of Racial Profiling, Police Brutality, and explore the activist group “Black Lives Matter.” This article will connect all three topics to show the injustice in this country towards African Americans. It will also emphasize that under no circumstance is skin color ever reasoning to suspect someone of criminal activity.

Racial profiling is the discriminatory practice by law enforcement of using race and ethnicity to suspect someone of criminal activity. Blacks have been targeted for unjust treatment since slavery; and that has resulted in the world viewing blacks as less than equal. They were treated as if they were nothing, bottom of the bottom, scum. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 abolished slavery. However, blacks were still less than free. They faced an insurmountable level of maltreatment and it didn’t stop there. Following slavery came segregation in which Blacks were killed, lynched, beaten, and harassed because of their skin color. Jim Crow Laws were passed to ensure the oppression of African Americans. These laws were set to intentionally assure blacks would not be able to succeed or ever become equal to a white person.

Today, the fight is still very much alive for equality amongst the two races. Slavery and segregation birthed racial profiling. In the last few years, it is clear how the justice system sees African Americans. They have conveyed the message that it is okay to suspect someone of a crime based on their skin. Unfortunately because of this, a new problem has arisen. The killings of African Americans who didn’t pose a threat, and the issue that police have received little to no punishments for it. This matter has caused even more separation and turmoil amongst the black and white race.

New York City is a perfect example of how our justice system has yet to change its ways from segregation. The government would rather protect its officers, before its citizens. NYC initiated a stop-and-frisk program whereas officers can stop, search, or question any person that looks suspicious based on their race. This program of course was abused by police officers and caused fear and anger amongst the black community. Fortunately, the stop-and-frisk program was ruled out to be unconstitutional and slowly, the stop-and-frisk program came to a close—though it is still highly used in America. According to The New York Times, in 2011 police had performed stop-and-frisk 685,000 times. In the 2008 case Floyd vs NYC , statistics proved that over 4.5million stops by police had taken place. 88% of those people had proven to have done nothing wrong. Racism, stereotypes, and societal views have made blacks more susceptible to facing unlawful searches and harassment based off of their skin.

Though segregation and slavery is “over,” race is still a huge issue. Six years ago, on February 26, 2012 a young African American teenager was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer by the name of George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin was walking to his relatives home that night. Because they lived in a gated community, to George Zimmerman, Trayvon was a criminal who was about to burglarize a home. He called the police, and they instructed Zimmerman to not pursue Martin. However, he did not listen and pursued him. After they fought, Zimmerman shot Martin and claimed self defense in court even though Martin was found with a pack of Skittles and an Arizona drink. At the trial, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges on self-defense grounds.

It is situations like this that causes chaos and division among races. Non-police and police can harm or kill a black person and most times they walk. Sadly enough, if the situation was reversed and a Black person did harm to or killed a White person, most likely they will get the maximum punishment there is. It is upsetting to say, but that is the reality of this country. Whites are made to be superior to Blacks and no matter how wrong they are towards African-Americans, it will never change. Unfairness towards African Americans will always take place as long as Whites have their certain privileges. This includes not receiving full punishments for anything they do towards Blacks.

In another case, a teenager by the name of Trayon Christian was racially profiled after buying a Ferragamo belt for $349. He purchased his belt from a store named Barney’s in New York, in which they called the police on him because they said his debit card was fake. While the police were searching him, they asked him questions such as “How could you afford this belt?” and “Where did you get this money from?” Here we can see how they only asked him these types of questions because he was a young black male buying an expensive belt. It is apparent that if a black person has nice things, it is hard to believe they can afford it or the police would think the item(s) is stolen. In reality, Trayon Christian was an engineering student, holding a work-study job at the New York City College of Technology.

Racial profiling happens to Blacks of any age and professions. It is not all the time young African Americans teenagers are profiled, it is also adults. In this case, a professional baseball retiree, Doug Glanville, was racially profiled for shoveling snow in his own driveway by the police. He was suspected of illegally soliciting work as an itinerant laborer. Before I continue, I would like to point out how a police officer will try to find any tiny reason to mess with or lock up a Black person. Whether legal or not, why should it be a problem if he was shoveling snow for someone and received a couple of dollars from it? Why is that reasoning to arrest someone for doing a good deed and receiving little money for it? Continuing on, the officer approached him and said “So, you’re trying to make a few extra bucks shoveling people’s snow around here?” After Glanville informed him the house was in fact his, the officer left without even giving an apology for offending him with his comment.

Racial Profiling has caused an unfortunate chain of events for Blacks. If racial profiling wasn’t enough, more recently officers are starting to kill Blacks that they think are “suspicious.” According to NewsWeek, 964 killings had taken place by police officers in 2016. These killings were mostly composed of African Americans who were unarmed—innocent people. Police officers are killing unarmed blacks and are getting a slap on the wrist for it. This has caused an outcry for justice in the African American community and also sparked rage. Way too often a Black person is dying at the hands of a police officer who has a sorry excuse as to why they killed them. Getting off is easy for them because they are White police officers, and since many people think of Blacks as these criminal, lowlife kinds of people, the police get off.

In an article in The Atlantic, they touch on an incident that occurred in 2009 with a man named Oscar Grant who was shot in his back while being handcuffed on the ground. It was said that, “There was no reason to use fatal force on Grant, who was being physically restrained at the time.” The accused officer claimed he thought he pulled out his taser instead of his firearm. He then was sentenced to only 2 years in prison, but only served 11 months. This is a perfect example of how police often times are given a slap on the wrist for there fatal crimes. He murdered an already handcuffed man, who posed no threat to him, and he only went to prison for 11 months. In these cases, no matter how much the evidence could prove a killing was unlawful, the jury will still not convict or they can not come to a decision, enabling a mistrial.

An additional police brutality case occurred in 2011 when an officer shot Anthony Lamar Smith five times at point blank range. Through audio evidence, it is heard that the officer promised to kill Anthony. Despite this, he was found not guilty of first degree murder. Instead, the government paid a settlement of $900,000 to Smith’s one-year-old daughter. This case shows how the government will try to pay you off in order to protect its officers. There should be no reason why instead of convicting him, they gave Smith’s child a money settlement. They’re basically saying “I know you lost someone, but our officer is more important so here’s some money to help you get by.” It’s completely absurd and extremely wrong. No matter the benefit the money has to Smith’s family, where’s the justice? How can they really move on knowing the person who took their loved one away is walking free, and why? Because he is a White police officer.

Not only do these kinds of situations happen in everyday life, but they are also depicted in movies/ TV shows. The injustice that blacks face, the refusal of Whites to put their hatred aside, and the government’s lack of support to African Americans. In a Netflix original movie called Seven Seconds, it is about a 15-year-old African American teenager who was run over by a white policeman while on his way home one morning. The officer called his other police friends and they informed the officer to drive away—they’ll “take care of it.” Despite the officer’s guilt and conscience to turn himself in, he continued on with his life. Everyone thought of the boy as a gang banger, because the bike he was riding belonged to the gang Five Kings. Because of this, and lack of evidence pointing to the killing officer, the boy’s case was left unsolved for some time and defense attorneys claimed he was “just another gang banger.” However, it was proven he was on his way home from his boyfriend’s house, and the bike was his boyfriend's. Finally, evidence pointed to the killing officer and he was found guilty, but can you imagine what happened next? If you guessed that he only received a light sentence, you are 100% correct. He was only sentenced to 364 days, and the officers that covered up the murder were released.

It is heartbreaking to know the country only favors specific races, and other races are prone to discrimination and abuse by everyone else. African Americans are sick of being treated less than equal than everyone else, and mostly not receiving the justice their families deserve in times where the justice system has failed them. Fed up with all of the injustice they face, the Black Lives Matter Movement was created by four women in 2012 who had lost their sons to police brutality. This movement went viral and people from all over have participated in this movement in the fight for equality and justice for the community. This is why the BLMM was created. To speak out against injustice, achieve equality, and reach peace. However, that has become extremely hard when a society looks at you as criminals and police kill you because of your skin color and make you out to be the “big bad wolf.” Once police and society view blacks as equal to their race, and racism ends, the world can be a better place in which all races—especially black and white—can come together and have peace.

Our justice system needs to change so that no one that is guilty of a crime walks. Police need to take responsibility for their actions and realize the pain they’ve caused to countless families, and more importantly, that they are not above the law. Police officers are supposed to protect and serve, instead they take the lives of innocent people and it is perceived as okay because those are the lives of African Americans. Once police take responsibility and get correct punishments, a lot of problems can be resolved. Furthermore, if police were to stop killing blacks for unnecessary reasons, this problem would not be here in the first place. Slavery is over, segregation is over, but because racism is still alive, there will always be problems amongst our communities. The people are tired and they want answers. Hasn’t the fight for equality and peace gone on long enough? When will the government and society view Blacks as just as equal to Whites, and treat Blacks with the same respect, and equality as Whites?

It is time to stop the brutality. It has been going on for far too long and the consequences are a broken, unequal country. African Americans have always gotten the short end of the stick, but it is time that all of this is put to an end because it has caused enough disturbance and damage. Unfortunately, this matter will likely still continue and Blacks may never see the day where we are all considered equal. Still, once people understand that we are all human, and just because we have different skin colors it doesn’t make any one any less of a person, we can hopefully find ourselves in a time where we can put our trust into our justice system and police forces, and everyone, from every skin color can come together on one accord.

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