Another young person of color was just killed by a police officer. The list of people of color, black people especially, who have been killed by police officers is far too long. Antwon was seventeen years old and began running away after being stopped by the police. Instead of engaging, by either chasing the suspect or using a taser, the police officer went directly to lethal force and shot his firearm and killed Antwon. Oftentimes when these shootings happen, the police get less than a slap on the wrist, and African Americans are still labeled as criminals.
African Americans are dehumanized and deemed as threats for simply existing. We are belittled by society. One of the reasons I don’t read Instagram posts anymore is because people are cruel and hurtful. In a post celebrating black graduates one person commented, “those monkeys don’t deserve it they should be in jail.” My heart aches and my stomach turns whenever I read hateful, racist, and undeserved comments. While this is conscious hate, many people also hold unconscious stereotypes that manifest themselves in a myriad of ways. There has been a recent string of African Americans who have the police called on them for mundane, everyday things. From a Yale student napping in a common space, to having cookouts in a park, to waiting for a friend in Starbucks. For merely existing, people see us as threats.
“For merely existing, people see us as threats.”
I come from a family that is pretty identifiably melanated. For many of them, there is no questioning that they are black. And that means that they are targets of day-to-day racism. My cousin has been tased by police during a traffic stop and my acceptance to an Ivy league as brought people to inquire if I was only accepted to meet the school’s racial quotas. Racial profiling and stereotyping is real, and it is harmful to black communities being able thrive and live safely.
Inaccurate interpretations of African Americans as dangerous and less deserving are supported by the media that people consume everyday, which increases unconscious and conscious bias. The news reports black crime more than it reports white crime. A study found that in New York City, African Americans commit about 50 percent of crimes but are shown in the news 75 percent of the time as criminals. In addition, on television, black people are more likely to be depicted as poor and on welfare than white families. Black families represent 59 percent of poor people in the media, but make up 27 percent of Americans in poverty. White families make up 17 percent of the poor depicted in the news, but represent 66 percent of poor people in America. This inaccurate representation encourages implicit bias and leads to more harmful stereotyping.
The way stories are worded can also play a huge impact on perspectives. I remember reading articles during Hurricane Katrina about adults getting food to provide for themselves in high flood waters. One of the articles I ran across exhibited another example of the criminalization of black people. In chest deep water, white people with food were ‘finding’, while black people were ‘looting’ food. These contrasting descriptions are an example of the negative connotations associated with black people even when we’re just trying to survive.
“In chest deep water, white people with food were ‘finding’, while black people were ‘looting’ food.”
Not only do we need to call for media to more accurately represent crimes and to have fair explanations, we need to check ourselves and those around us. Continue to speak about how we feel and how we are affected. When it comes to blatant racist and harmful acts we need to call people out and make sure they are held accountable with punishments for their actions. Even with video evidence of unjust killings, police have come out with their jobs and lines unscathed and that is unacceptable. Check people on their biases and check yourself on biases that you may have. Unraveling racism has no single solution and it’s definitely not going to happen overnight, but every conscious step that you take can affect change that will help us create a more fair society.