By Sammy Smith
Recently, I had a discussion about race with a former schoolmate of mine. She’s white, and she had a list of arguments that downplay the existence of racism in this country today.
Black people should stop pulling the race card
Black people are not unfairly targeted by police
Institutionalized racism does not exist.
Black people have no reason to fear the police.
This is my response to her:
First and foremost, we are not “pulling the race card.” I completely understand that other people cannot experience the discrimination that I, as a black man, face on a daily basis. However, I cannot respect a person that downplays the struggles we are faced with from birth.
The fact is that there is more pressure for black people to stop talking about race than there is for us to work to eliminate racism. A problem cannot be fixed if not addressed, and as long as it continues to be ignored, racism will only get worse.
A CDC report is a source frequently cited by those who refuse to believe in unfair police violence towards African Americans. According to the CDC, over a 13-year period (1999-2011), 2,151 white people were killed by police and 1,130 blacks were killed by police. This report, now proven to be faulty, actually disproves their argument. In relation to the population demographics of the US, this makes a black man three times more likely to be killed by the police in that 13-year period.
“Well black people make up 40% of the US prison population. Most of them are in there for drugs.”
Well, why is that? Quite frankly, we’re stopped more because of an institutionalized mindset that black people are criminals, and this is backed by fact. A study done by Release shows that white people are twice as likely to use drugs, but black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched for them.
New York City is America’s most populous city. In New York City’s population is 45% White, 28% Hispanic, and 25% Black. The city’s stop-and-frisk data indicates that in 2013, approximately 686,000 people were stopped and frisked. Of those people, 88% were completely innocent.
However, the data also shows that 53% of the people stopped were black, 34% were Hispanic, and 9% were white. This is a trend that is followed throughout the United States. So why are we imprisoned more? Because we’re stopped more.
It doesn’t surprise me anymore if a policemen guns down a black man and claims that he felt threatened. Honestly, even though he may have been unprovoked, he probably did. This institutionalized racism is a mentality that has been seared into American mind for generations via tradition, advertisement, media, and television.
It’s a mindset that makes people believe that we are dangerous. Don’t believe me? Just go to Google Images and search “thug” or “gangsta” or “drug dealer” and see how many pictures of black people come up.
“I also believe that people who don’t experience what I experience are not allowed to tell me how to feel.”
So when someone says, “Black people have no reason to feel uncomfortable around policemen,” it infuriates me. They weren’t the ones called “nigger” by a policemen on two different occasions for walking down the street.
They don’t have to experience being constantly pulled over and searched because “you look suspicious.” They don’t have to have to put noses on the hood of a police car just because they feel like messing with you.
So don’t tell me not to be afraid when my life is threatened every time I encounter a police officer. Don’t tell me not to be afraid when I live in a country where Jon Crawford III can be gunned down in the middle of Wal-Mart. Don’t tell me not to be afraid when I can be choked to death in the street like Eric Garner.
Don’t tell me not to be afraid when Tamir Rice, a 12-year old kid, can be shot and killed by an officer without warning. Don’t tell me not to be afraid when my rights and the justice of my people are denied on a daily basis. I think my fear is warranted.
Trust me when I say this. I’m not using racism as a crutch or an excuse because I intend to thrive INSPITE of the circumstances that I have been dealt.
If that means, that I have to work ten times harder than the next person then so be it. I’m simply explaining that we, as Black Americans, face a road that is largely untraveled by others. I’m trying to eradicate the denial of racism in this country, so that we can face this problem. I’m simply trying to explain the plight of a Black American.