The Cycle of Violence Against Black Men

In light (dark?) of all the protests against police brutality, especially against Black bodies, I would like to examine the state of civil disobedience in the United States.

As I learned in my political science 101 class, and according to Martin Luther King, Jr., civil disobedience is when you protest and disobey unjust laws, yet accept the monopoly of punishment under the state and accept the consequences of your actions, such as by being arrested (1963). He cites in his text that his thinking was very much based on St. Augustine’s belief that “an unjust law is no law at all.” In both the Ferguson and now newly arising Eric Garner protests, some people are protesting peacefully with sit-ins, while others have looted and many have been hurt by said protests. While some are obeying laws entirely and are not taking part in civil disobedience, others have expressly committed illegal acts and willingly accepted the consequences in order to make a political statement.

Students at Central Michigan University peacefully protest the Ferguson acquittal on November 25, 2014.

This political statement is that “Black Lives Matter,” a new motto/hashtag representing a movement which began after Trayvon Martin’s murder to emphasize that Black bodies are disproportionately targeted, violated, and killed by the police force and are thus undervalued by American society. Many argue that racism is alive and well in the United States, and thus the Rule of Law is not applied fairly and equally to all. In my political science class, we defined the Rule of Law as one in which “the use of coercive force is predictable, non-arbitrary, transparent, and consistent with publicly available laws and other rules, and the use of force is subject to review and open to appeals.” Many argue that due to racial profiling and stereotypes held about Black people (i.e. that they are more violent than White people), they are more likely to be killed or sent to jail. Thus, prejudice and discrimination evidently obfuscate the state’s and individuals’ ability to apply the Rule of Law justly.

This is an example of someone using the trending hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. This is a form of peaceful protest via social media.
This is an example of someone using the trending hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. This is a form of peaceful protest via social media.

Now the question is, what are the next steps America should take to become anti-racist and allow for “freedom and justice for all?” I believe that because Black Americans are constantly painted as violent criminals and are thus arrested, a cycle takes place in which their arrest leads to the perpetuation of these stereotypes. So, how do we eradicate stereotypes?

Honestly, this is a complex question that cannot be resolved in this blog post. I would be interested to hear what people have to say in the comments. But there are other issues that can be tackled which may help. One of my best friends comes from a family of cops, and her mom told her that often in training, cops are told that when their gun is drawn, they must shoot to kill.

…I’m sorry, WHAT? WHY? Evidently, police training can be improved. Maybe if we (White cops) stop killing Black men, they can have a voice and finally give their side of the story in trial, possibly avoiding the incessant acquittals of White cops. By killing Black men, the cops go to trial and the Black man who was murdered is silenced in our legal system. This is problematic and creates an inevitably biased “justice” system.

Maybe by eradicating this “shoot to kill” policy, Black men in the United States can at least have a chance at life. Maybe the cycle of violence and prejudice will come to an end, and Black men will not be unnecessarily choked to death. Maybe everyone will finally realize that #BlackLivesMatter.

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3 thoughts on “The Cycle of Violence Against Black Men

  1. I don’t know if you do this intentionally, but you emphasize the fact that white cops should “stop killing black men.” Isn’t the situation more about the (possible) criminal rather than the color of the officer? What if any of these cases( Martin, Ferguson ect.) would have seen a black officer against a black criminal? Would the justice system still be unfair if the cop had taken the same actions under the same circumstances? I agree with you about peaceful protesting, however. Interesting post!

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    1. I emphasize that very purposefully. There are a disproportionate number of Black men who are killed compared to White men who commit the same crimes (by White cops). I don’t know many statistics about Black cops. But I know that studies have been done where they have found that both people of color AND White people discriminate against people of color (especially Black people and very often Latin@s). Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if Black cops were also more likely to be more violent against Black men as well. The point is, though, that when a White cop kills a Black man, it’s more symbolic and upholds White supremacy. There are different power structures at play. A large reason why White people discriminate against Black people is because of a “fear” of them. I would think Black men are a little less likely to “fear” other Black men. Thus, while they may internalize racism and hold prejudices against other Black men as well, I don’t think Black cops do this on the same scale that White cops do. I really don’t have a source to link you to, but I hope this helps.

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    2. Actually, Julia, upon reflection, it absolutely matters that the cop was White for another reason. What is significant about the cases I mention in this blog is that the cops were all acquitted of their charges. If the cops were Black, I guarantee you they would have been sent to jail, charged, or at the minimum, fired from their jobs. This has been seen historically in numbers of cases. Also, what is absolutely ridiculous, is that in the Eric Garner case (a non-violent, innocent, Black man who was choked to death in July – watch the video), the cop who choked him got acquitted, but the guy who filmed, a man of color, got sent to jail. I was very ambivalent about putting cop training as a solution because I recognize that it doesn’t solve the issue of prejudice. I was aware that this does not change the jury’s prejudice in trials nor cops’ prejudice when racial profiling. But solutions to eradicating prejudice is a subject that requires more attention than just a blog entry. The point is that these men I mentioned in the blog, and countless other Black men, do not experience a modicum of justice, not even posthumously.

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