Police Brutality and The Role of The Media


By: Tyissha Joseph-Dottin

I recently finished reading the outstanding and critically-acclaimed novel by Angie Stone, the Hate you give. The novel centers a young black girl named Starr who lives in a poor neighborhood while attends a predominantly white school where she tries not to be the stereotypical black girl. Her life is turned upside down when she witnessed a white police officer shot and killed her unarmed friend, Khalil. The author tackles current issues such as racism and police brutality and moments that are related to the current state of marginalized populations. It also sheds a light on the frustrations of the minorities when the authorities don't get the punishment they deserve for the murders of innocent people.

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Over several decades, we have seen how America has a long and continuous history of racial profiling and police brutality.

In 1999, Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, was killed by four officers who had mistaken for a rape suspect.The officers have fired a total of 41 shots after the victim reached for his wallet that had mistaken for a gun. Despite the fact he was unarmed and didn't hold any criminal records, the officers who murdered him were acquitted of all charges. 

In 2006, Sean Bell, an unarmed Black man, was murdered the day of his wedding after an undercover officers fired a total of 50 bullets after an altercation at a nightclub. He was due to marry his high school sweetheart with whom he has two children the day of the incident. Once again, these detectives in charge of his death were found not guilty on all charges.

In 2009, Oscar Grant was shot in the back as he lay down on the train platform by Johannes Mehserle, a BART police officer. Johannes Mehserle mistakenly used his service revolver when he wanted to use a Taser. Although he has been convicted involuntary manslaughter, he has spent only eleven months in jail, his sentencing wasn't severe enough. 

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In the book, the mainstream media portrayed Khalil as a gangbanger, thug, and a drug dealer, despite the fact that he didn't have a weapon nor any drugs, at the time he was killed. It is apparent that in our society the media will always find a way to defend the wrongdoings of the police officer. They spent more time discussing what the victim has done in the past or their criminal background or releasing all set of information to defame these Black men than focusing on how their lives ended abruptly in the hands of a police officer because of his poor judgment. Than focusing their attention on those who were responsible for his death, they centered their attention on the bad decisions they have made. For example, Michael Brown allegedly stole a box of cigars from a convenience store before officer Darren Wilson shot him in Ferguson. Ferguson Police Department has used you the surveillance video as a motive to attempt to destroy his character and demonized his name. The video was simply a distraction.

Furthermore, after the death of Tamir Rice, the 12 years old who was gunned down by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real firearm, there were multiple reports of the criminal history of his father and mother days later. His mother, Samaria Rice, was charged with aggravated robbery and assault a couple of years ago and his father had a history of violence against women. The mainstream media used his parents' criminal history to attempt to create a connection to why he was playing with a toy gun. 

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They are making it seem like if these innocent Black men were the blame for the own deaths. Trayvon shouldn't have worn a hoodie. Amadou Diallo shouldn't have reached for his wallet. Tamir Rice shouldn't have played with his toy gun. 

The deaths of Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Graham, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and more, are a reminder that the life of a Black man is expendable. There is no justice in America. With all these fatal murders, I strongly believe that it makes it difficult for Black men to trust the law enforcement because they will always be viewed as a threat because of the color of their skin.