Police racism rages

You walk down the street, your whole life ahead of you, until a police car comes up behind you. Some will claim that you continued walking, others that you attempted to draw a gun. Either way, your life ends when that officer shoots you to death.

For those of you who don’t know, Mike Brown, an African-American teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, died at the hands of a local police officer on Aug. 9. Unfortunately, racially charged incidents like this can and do happen even in Greensboro.

“A Vietnamese woman (was) shot here,” said Director of the Bonner Center for Community Service James Shields. “A lot of people think this is something new, but if you think about the … communities of color, it’s always been that way,”

According to the Center of American Progress, even though people of color represent 30 percent of Americans they make up 60 percent of our prisons.

“What do the jails in Greensboro consist of?” asked sophomore and Greensboro resident Taylor Brown. “African-Americans and other (minorities). Even on the news, you never see white men being arrested.”

Even as a teenager, Brown experienced racism through the police.

“I’ve had one interaction with the police,” said Taylor Brown. “(They) decided to profile me (because) I’m an African-American person … I was only seventeen.”

Among young adults, problems prevail.

“One girl was accused of attacking the police when they really attacked her,” said Community and Justice Studies major and junior Leah Meservey.

Instead of holding our officers accountable, we give them more guns.

“People (get) upset about the fact that the police are using military hardware,” said Chair and Visiting Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Jeremy Rinker.

Even within the police department, racism rages, according to Tara McKey, former Greensboro police officer.

“I couldn’t wear headphones at my desk, but all the white employees (could),” said McKey. “(My colleagues’) treatment was different than mine. I got remedial work (while they) got to go on a conference.”

One only needs to look at Greensboro’s history to understand why this happens here.

“Slavery was adopted … here,” said Meservey. “Seeing the background of white and black people (makes sense).”

Not surprisingly, most of these incidents occur in lower-class neighborhoods.

“The majority of the policing happens in poorer neighborhoods,” said Shields. “I doubt very seriously if a kid in an affluent neighborhood were walking in the streets that he would be arrested.”

Among Greensboro’s homeless population, many are considered criminals just for being on the streets. “It’s a problem when people see others as a nuisance just for existing,” said senior and project coordinator for Church Under the Bridge Noelle Lane.

“When you pay more taxes, you get better treatment,” said Lane.

Increasing police accountability could lead to a solution.

“My father was a cop for 30 years,” said Shields. “One of the things that he pioneered was a police-community relations office … to have a place where you could talk to someone you could trust.”

Types of training also need to be addressed.

“Anti-racism training (would get) people to understand their privilege,” said Rinker. “That kind of training would be the first step.”

Next, we need to worry about our own capacity for caring. Just like in the Mike Brown case, middle-aged Hispanic neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot and killed another African-American teenager named Trayvon Martin in 2012. As outraged as the public was, that passion for justice died out all too soon.

“What I’m afraid of is, just like Trayvon Martin, at some point, the sexiness of the whole story will go away and we’ll go back to things like the ice (bucket) challenge or whatever,” said Shields. “We’ll forget about it until the next guy is shot.”

Anti-racism training and holding police accountable could put an end to race brutality by police. Police officers are human, too. They aren’t monsters, as some think, but they also aren’t invincible.

Regardless, we need to put an end to the racist stereotype plaguing the ones meant to help us.

“Currently police are seen as untouchable,” said Rinker. “That’s not structural. It’s cultural.”