Many Americans believe that “the land of the free” truly does offer everyone equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Many of these same individuals also preach that “All Lives Matter”, yet will turn the other cheek when an innocent American of color is shot, live on camera, with their hands up. They will also disregard hard evidence of the victims innocence, often times turning to misleading statistics ultimately in an attempt to justify their harsh sentencing or fatality. As seen in the “War on Drugs”, the term that was coined and pressured throughout the presidencies of Nixon and Reagan, African Americans were arrested in mass, serving sentences anywhere from 10-15 years to life. It is not that case that White American’s had not been prone to illicit drug use like African Americans, but the rates of incarceration by race was the key element used in criminalizing blacks as a whole which lead to extreme stereotyping. In 2013, a top NYPD cop from the Bronx was caught on tape telling Officer Pedro Serrano, an NYPD whistleblower, to target African Americans and Hispanics between the ages of 14 and 21 for stop-and-frisk because they’re the ones who commit crimes. Serrano failed to comply with the order given as he responded “I target everybody regardless of race”, and that whoever was committing the crimes, he would stop. These incidents occur in many other departments and are not only a violation of human rights and discrimination, but a gateway into higher rates of incarceration for minorities. If cops are being ordered to target minorities, statistics and data automatically become skewed and unreliable. In other words, if whites are committing more crimes than blacks, but are not being policed nearly as heavily, statistics will still show blacks committing more crimes. Another factor contributing to the negative stigma connecting black men to higher crime rates are black minors being charged as adults. According to Philip Goff, a social psychology professor at UCLA, black boys are 18 times more likely to be tried as an adult than whites for the same exact offenses. Young black boys with misdemeanors such as vandalism would be charged as adults while prosecutors contemplate just how much time they should serve. These same boys are suspected of greater felonies such as car theft and robbery, and therefore are treated as such by law enforcement.
In a New York Times article posted in 2014, by Charles Blow quotes, “Many media outlets reinforce the public’s racial misconceptions about crime by presenting African-Americans and Latinos differently than whites — both quantitatively and qualitatively. Television news programs and newspapers over represent racial minorities as crime suspects and whites as crime victims.” These statements hold much significance, as it shows that history truly does repeat itself. Just like the War on Drugs, Donald Trumps campaign fed off of the energy of scared Americans who felt they were in need of greater security. Trump even went on to call himself the “Law and Order” candidate, and made various statements and claims towards crime in the inner cities. He has made references towards Chicago, saying that black communities are living in hell and that if things don’t turn around he will “send in the feds”. This tactic does nothing for struggling communities and will only provide more cops to police more minorities which will only fuel tension between inner city neighborhoods and police departments. Crime rates are almost always in correlation with a cities economy meaning that the more jobs available for people to work, the less crime in the area. If Trump or any American for that matter, truly cares about inner city struggles, there should be a strong incentive to invest in those communities with better schooling and job opportunities.
If we are to make any advances in this country, in terms of bettering relations between law enforcement and minorities, then we as a nation must stop pretending that racial disparities in policing do not exist. The same Americans who are so tired of hearing African Americans speak out and protest against these issues must be willing to step out of their comfort zone and step into the shoes of those who so badly want to be heard. They have to ask themselves, would they accept the decision of a prosecution or the confrontation that ended in fatality if it were them or their loved ones? The ignoring of a group of people asking for change can no longer continue if we are to sustain a long term relationship of unity as a country.
For further reading: http://www.npr.org/2014/03/19/291405871/consequences-when-african-american-boys-are-seen-as-older