Black Lives Matter and Fight Against Police Brutality
We have always been told to be thankful for the police and that they are here to protect us from the bad guys and keep us safe within our country, city, community, and neighbourhood. The police are our friends and we should be able to trust them with our lives when we are in danger and expect them to help us when we need it most. Unfortunately, the police also kill and they don’t always kill only the bad guys, they kill the innocent. They kill based on race, culture, assumptions, and stereotypes and they also get away with it, because they are cops. Police brutality has always been prevalent and dirty cops have always been in the system but the common victim in these police killings are unarmed black men and women who never get the justice they deserve.
One of the core values that the Toronto Police service and hopefully all other police services stand by is doing the right thing. They pledge to “act professionally, with integrity and without prejudice, even in the most challenging circumstances, when no one is watching and on or off duty” (Toronto Police Service, 2019). Police brutality can be defined as, “a civil rights violation that occurs when a police officer acts with excessive force by using an amount of force with regards to a civilian that is more than necessary. Excessive force by a law enforcement officer is a violation of a person’s rights” (cite). In this research paper, I will explore why police brutality is increasing and targeted towards the black community and how it is a systemic problem as well as why Black Lives Matter movement is powerful and necessary in society and that it should not be overshadowed or silenced.
Over the past ten years or so we’ve seen an increase in the reports of police killings and police brutality towards unarmed black men and women. Many of these instances have been young black men and women, some as young as 12 years old. Even though there’s been a rise of these police killings being reported this does not mean it’s only becoming an issue now, this has been an ongoing issue for many, many years but with the increased technology use and phone recordings it is increasingly making its way into our social media and everyday lives. “According to the F.B. I’s homicide report, 31.8% of people shot by police were African American, a proportion more than two and a half times the 13.2% of African Americans in the general population” (Miles, 2016).
When looking at the case of Eric Garner, a middle-aged man from New York who died when four police officers piled on top of him and held him in a chokehold we see the excessive and unnecessary force and violence used by cops when dealing with black unarmed men. They claimed that Garner was selling cigarettes illegally, he was not. As the four officers piled on top of Garner he shouted out several times, “I can’t breathe” which became a headline and a slogan used for many of these police killings. In this case, “a New York grand jury formed mostly by White people acquitted the officers in the homicide despite the cellphone video which displayed the whole event” (Diversi, 2016). This case among many others displayed not only the racism that we see within the police force, but the racism that the media and society portray as well. “On Fox News Channel, the loudest voice of justification for police brutality against Black people, has been the number one network in daytime viewership and profit in the United States for years” (Diversi, 2016). If we continue to allow racism and police brutality to occur, it will only encourage the public and media outlets with racist and prejudice beliefs that what they think is correct and that it is okay for them to think the way that they do.
When looking at this as a systemic issue, Diversi (2016) discusses how this issue is not a personal issue but that it is public issue. Diversi (2016) states that, “the problem with the latest cases of police brutality is not the bad apple in the police force, but the continuation of an ideology of domination that teaches each new generation to fear, demonize, and subjugate Black people.” Because of these imposed racialized beliefs and practices, it is instilling fear and animosity in the targeted communities causing them to lose trust in the system and in those who are supposed to protect them.
In times of struggle and adversity, coming together as a group can be powerful and Clayton (2018) discusses how Black Lives Matter is being seen as the new civil rights movement and how both movements are opposed to racism and systemic oppression. Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become a “wide spread social movement in response to the numerous killings of unarmed African Americans. It has been criticized by some as too confrontational and divisive” (Clayton, 2018). This movement is very important as it gives a voice to those who feel less empowered and it is being used as a powerful voice to speak out against the injustices that are being imposed upon the black community. Clayton (2018) states, “As a grassroots organization, BLM has grown from a social media hashtag to a network that now encompasses over 30 chapters in the United States and other countries.” While some people in society may not agree with BLM or be intimidated by it, they really need to understand the true meaning of the movement and understand why it needs to be prevalent. Unfortunately, for some they may never understand BLM due to prejudice and general ignorance in today’s society because they are in a position of privilege and simply do not care or that they do believe that “all lives matter”, which in turn takes away from the original cause.
As a CYC, there are so many things that can be done to support racialized and targeted communities. By ensuring that the children and youth we work with are aware of their own personal rights can be a big step for helping them to defend themselves and to be educated on something they may not have previously known. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, “every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place or origin, colour, ethnic orientation, etc.” (CITE). If a child and/or youth is aware that they deserve to be treated equally to everyone else in society, then they will be able to identify when something is not right and if they are being discriminated against. We must also support them through advocacy and standing up for what is right in our own personal lives and while helping them, we must practice what we preach and lead our jobs without any prejudice beliefs. We can participate in social justice movements and help the children and youth to protest, campaign and fight for what is right in times of adversity.
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