Do Minorities Pay the Price of Peace?

Lauren Doran and Lucia Garay

On September 6, off-duty Dallas Police Officer Amber R. Guyger shot and killed Botham Shem Jean in his own apartment using her service weapon. On July 26, Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke shot Daniel Hambrick several times in the back. On  September 7, two Wisconsin police officers detained teenager Akil Carter after he was seen driving with his grandmother and her friend. On August 6, off-duty Cincinnati Police Officer Kevin Brown tased 11-year-old Donesha Gowdy after she was accused of shoplifting. All of the above cases of police brutality involved African Americans.

While it is true that Caucasians also experience police brutality, the Guardian reports that Native Americans, African Americans, and other people of color are at least twice as likely to be killed by police officers while they are unarmed. In addition, 69% of the victims of police brutality in the United States who are African-American/Black were suspected of a non-violent crime and were unarmed according to Mapping Police Brutality. Some activists say that police brutality against minorities is on the rise, while other people argue that there is no reason to believe that there is any particular pattern of brutality against minorities.

“I don’t think it’s increasing. I think it’s always been very high,” said Sophomore Taty Morrow. “I honestly think it’s never been at a low rate. I just think through history, it may have decreased socially, but it’s still there, no matter what.”

Morrow referenced the cases of police brutality committed against civil rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1960’s as an example of this country’s long history with police bias against racial minorities, particularly African Americans. Morrow also argues that evidence showing unarmed black men are shot with multiple rounds more often than unarmed white men are shows clear bias in police officers and a tendency towards extreme force against racial minorities.

While Morrow feels that there is never any excuse for a police officer to kill an unarmed civilian, others feel differently about the particular circumstances that may occur during some of these cases.

“I really think that, overall, it’s not that they want to hurt anybody. It’s their job. It’s not the best things but sometimes it is needed in the situation depending on what it is,” said Freshman Gianna Percy. “I’m not saying that other people’s opinions are wrong but I feel like it’s kind of hard to judge something like that when you’re not in the situation itself. Of course, you don’t want to hurt anyone, it’s not the most ideal situation.”

Morrow agrees that most cases are circumstantial, but she feels that steps can be taken to prevent more deaths.

“I think I would need to be in the cop’s perspective of how they see things to fully understand why it happens because when you get in a problem you are the only one that can see how you can change it,” said Morrow. She continues by discussing different actions that could be taken. “Maybe different technology like don’t shoot them, taze them.”

Percy argues that civilians don’t have to worry about the police unless they have committed a crime.

“You shouldn’t have to be scared unless you give them a reason- if you do something wrong. It’s not like they walk in somewhere and they go and shoot someone, that’s not what happens. They’re doing something wrong that could affect the people around them and that could potentially be dangerous to other people,” said Percy.

Morrow speaks from family experience to argue that racial bias is still very prevalent in our society.

“My grandma’s white and my grandpa’s black, so they were a biracial couple [with ]two white children and one black child. She was in the car with my dad, who is black, and he had a bunch of black friends who are big and buff in the back of the car. She got pulled over and asked if she was okay. And she was asking, ‘Why are you asking?’ They said, ‘You have a bunch of black people [in your car]. Are you being held hostage? Do you need help? Send me some kind of signal.’ She was astonished, and she just walked away, because she felt so disgusted,” said Morrow. “My dad has been stopped in stores, [as] if he’s doing something wrong. My aunt has never been stopped, my uncle has never been stopped. And they were right next to each other. And they wanted to make sure my aunt and uncle were okay but never my dad.”

“The news publicizes or overreacts about just that, but there are also African American cops who have shot white people but people don’t show that because it’s not the same situation,” said Percy. “The media takes things out of context and tends to take the side of the suspect. People take the side of the suspect because it is more interesting- because [the media] over dramatized it.”

As the debate continues across the country, something both students can agree on is the need for body cams and other forms of collecting concrete evidence.