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.
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.
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.