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The Foul Cry of Racism

By Shawn Nelsen


            What is a cop supposed to do when confronted with a life and death split second decision?  Is he supposed to calmly and logically think about the situation and make an educated and well informed decision about what he should do?  Well honestly it sound nice, but unfortunately cops are human, not emotionless logic machines.  If a cop tells a man to put his hands up and the man reaches for his pocket, well as unfortunate as it is, it is understandable if the cop takes action that he thinks are in defense of his own life.  Actions like mistakenly shooting a man are sad, but not necessarily the fault of racism even though the finger is often pointed there.  Unfortunately not all police actions can be cleared of the menacing influence of racism though.  Racial profiling, for example, is one of those police action in which the foul call of racism is right on the mark.  In other words, although not every cry of racism directed at cops truly deserves the label of racism, cops do commit some racist acts that need to be taken care of.

            All too often Police officers are accused of racism when what they are doing is not necessarily racist.  It seems as though anytime a white police officer does something bad to a minority civilian the officer is labeled as racist.  This being the case though, many times it is disregarded weather or not the minority’s actions warranted what ever it was that the police officer had done.  One good example of this was the Rodney King beating in the early 1990s.  All of the cops that were involved in the beating were labeled as racists and brought to trial for their actions.  The media had no hesitation in pointing out how hard the cops were hitting Mr. King or how many cops there were that were doing the beating.  Furthermore one must admit that the beating did look rather gruesome.  There were, though, many important facts that seemed to have been left out of the public spotlight.  One such fact is that Rodney king was on drugs.  Furthermore, the kind of drugs that he was on give people uncanny strength and endurance to the degree that it would take several people to hold just one of the drug users down and to subdue him.  On top of all this Rodney King had already been convicted several times for various other crimes.  In this light it almost appears that the beating that Mr. King got was just about owed to him and weather or not the officers that were involved were racist does not seem to make a difference.  A white convicted criminal on those kinds of drugs would probably have been beat the same way that Rodney king was. 

            In another case brought up by the article Race, Crime and Justice (p.158) by the Christian Century seems to fit right in the middle between what is racist and what is not.  According to the article a man named Diallo was shot and killed by for white police officers who were later tried for, but acquitted of murder.  The article says that the officers shot Diallo after he reached into his pocket to get what the officers thought was a gun.  Upon the death of Diallo, though, it was found that he was only reaching into his pocket to get his wallet.  What the article does not say, though, is why the officers felt that they were in such danger that they needed to fire a combined forty one shots at and into Diallo.  Just thinking about it, it would seem likely that there is more to the story.  One can only imagine that if four police officers had their guns drawn on a man that there must have been something that had taken place before the guns were drawn to warrant such action.  Furthermore, one should imagine in this situation that the police would have told Diallo to put his hands up.  So, when Diallo reached into his pocket to pull out his wallet, the cops might have thought that they had a very good reason to be scared enough to fire at Diallo.  Still though, no man deserves to be shot forty one times for pulling out his wallet and the cops did do something very wrong and most definitely racist, although as sad as the murder was, it was not the actual killing of Diallo, it was stopping him in the first place.  The article states that the reason that the cops stopped Diallo was that he was a black man and he looked cautiously both ways out of his front door before stepping out into the street.  Apparently this is what the cops thought was enough to warrant them stopping Diallo.  This was racial profiling, it was wrong, racist, and it was what resulted in the death of an innocent black man.

            There just seems to be no good excuse for racial profiling.  One can understand if a police officer makes a bad split second decision in a potentially life threatening situation, but if there is nothing life threatening and the decision is not split second then there is no reason for police officers to have a pattern of bad choices.  The fact that Diallo was black, for example, no matter what any one else say, was no reason for the four police officers to have stopped him.  Racial profiling is just down right wrong.  White people commit crimes just like black people, but still black people are stopped and question much more than whites are.  In one survey in which speeders were categorized by race it was found that around 74.7% of the speeders were white as where only about 17.5 % were minorities.  In contrast it was found that 79.2% of the traffic citations were given to minorities.  This is obviously not justice, this is just racism.  Why should black people be punished almost three times as much as white people for the same crimes?  The obvious answer is that they should not. Minorities need to be treated by police officers with the same dignity and respect as are white people.  Anything less is a blatantly obvious sign of racism.

            Although not every wrong act committed buy a white cop against a minority is because of racism, some of them certainly are.  America needs to stop trying to point their finger at the wrong situation.  Police officers, for the most part, do not kill or beat people because they are black, but all too often people are stopped because they are black.  It only takes one wrong split second decision to leave an innocent suspect dead so cops need to make the right decision when they have the benefit of time to make it.  Cops need to make the right choice before they stop someone because of their race.