MEMPHIS, TN. – It is well-known that police brutality and systemic racism continue to plague our nation, with black and other minority communities being among the most adversely affected. Yet, despite ongoing protests and demonstrations throughout the country, we have to see any meaningful change in holding those in power accountable for their actions.
This latest news out of Memphis, where five police officers have been fired for excessive use of force against a black man who later died three days after his arrest, serves as yet another damning indictment of the system that allows this kind of abuse to continue unchecked.
Not only does this incident highlight the deep-rooted racism embedded within our criminal justice system, but it also reflects how far we have yet to go before Black lives truly matter in America. In 2019 alone, around 1,000 people were killed by police officers across the US – with black people making up 24% of those fatalities despite being just 13% of the population.
This is shocking, considering that African Americans are roughly twice as likely as white people to be unarmed when law enforcement officers shoot them. Evidence points towards a profoundly entrenched problem within the police force.
Moreover, unarmed black men are three times more likely than unarmed white men to be killed by police officers. Studies have found that even when controlling for crime rate disparities between different racial groups, bias is still essential in how law enforcement officers interact with members of different races.
This suggests that racism may also affect how officers respond to certain situations. This systemic racism can manifest itself in various ways: from harsher sentences handed down against minorities in courtrooms to subtle biases influencing decisions on when and why an officer decides to stop someone on the street or initiate an investigation.
Too many innocent people – especially those belonging to marginalized communities – have lost their lives due to senseless acts of violence carried out by those sworn to protect them. Until sweeping changes are made at local and federal levels, ensuring transparency and accountability within law enforcement agencies across America, these injustices will continue unabated, costing countless more innocent lives.