Police brutality and violence directed against African Americans is a common problem in the United States. African American males have suffered police brutality and violence for a long time. The society has also witnessed cases where individuals attack and kill or wound officers as a way of responding to the brutality. A number of organizations have come up to help in assessing and preventing police brutality. They work to promote advocacy programs that would ensure that society is fair when handling various social issues. This paper seeks to assess the problem of police brutality and determine how it can be addressed.
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Police brutality directed against African American men has become a major cause of concern in the United States. Incidences where police officers kill unnamed African Americans without provocation are common. In other cases, they are brutally assaulted during arrests without any proper justification. Such cases have been witnessed on highways, at homes, or in various other cases within the country. Many African American men have been killed on mere suspicion of having committed a crime or for minor offenses such as over speeding. The brutality has created serious mistrust between the police and African Americans irrespective of gender or age. Any engagement between the police and the Africa American is viewed as a matter of life or death in this country (Frank, 2012). Such levels of suspicion and mistrust are dangerous for the police and members of the public. For the officers to discharge their duties fairly, effectively, and without fear or favor, the brutality must come to an end. In this paper, the focus will be to assess and come up with ways of preventing disproportionate cases of police brutality towards African American males.
Presentation of the Problem in the Community
American society has witnessed terrible cases of social segregation in the world’s modern history. When the United States gained independence in 1776, all the residents of the country were promised fair and equal treatment. It was expected that everyone would be treated equally, especially when the leaders championed the abolition of the slave trade. However, the more things changed, the more they remained the same in terms of liberating the African Americans (Embrick, 2015). Years passed and African American people were still considered second class citizens of this country, unable to attend certain schools or hospitals because of their skin color. According to King (2011), the current bad blood between African American males and the police can be traced back to the American civil rights movements of the late 1950s and early 1960s. During this time, African Americans started championing their rights in society through rallies. Some of the rallies were very violent and the police had to engage in the protestors almost on a daily basis. Some of the movement leaders such as Prophet Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X championed armed violent protests in the country. Many people, including police officers would die in such protests. Since then, Signil (2016) says that the bad blood between police officers and African American males has not gone away.
According to Moore (2010), American society has made significant steps towards embracing its diversity. African Americans can now attend any school in the country, live in any part of the country, or go to any hospital as long as they have the capacity to pay for such services. The inclusivity has been witnessed at work, in religious centers, and in the political arena. The country for the first time had an African American president who served two full terms in office from 2009 to 2017. Despite these impressive changes, police brutality towards African American males is still a problem in the country. During the reign of President Barrack Obama, who is also an African American male, many cases of police brutality directed against African Americans were reported. The police seem to be quick in using their weapons when handling these people, a fact that has raised an uproar in society. Stevenson (2014) blames this on the police culture that was developed during the 1960s where these people are viewed as unpredictable and dangerous. This culture makes these officers react violently at the slightest provocation because of the fear that they may be attacked.
Cooper (2015) says that social media has helped in demonstrating police brutality towards African Americans in this country. Incidences, where police officers are shooting an unarmed traffic offender without any provocation, have been captured by individuals on camera and shared widely on social media. One of the most disheartening cases was where an African American male, whose hands were on the steering wheel where the police could see, was shot dead in front of his wife and young daughter (Weatherspoon, 2014). The horror and pain in the eyes of the mother and daughter were so saddening that the society started demanding answers. Soon after, another young African American man was also killed. When the police department failed to provide answers to the public, a veteran African American male decided to take action into his own hands. Armed with very powerful assault rifles, he attacked unsuspecting police officers in Dallas, Texas. The Dallas police shooting was one of the worst attacks on police in the modern history of the country. Five officers died and nine others were wounded. The incident confirms the claim by Embrick (2015) that the police brutality by the police towards African American male-only breeds hate and desire to violently retaliate.
According to Signil (2016), police brutality towards African American males is affecting the overall performance of the police in the country. The officers rely on intelligence from the public to fight crime and lawlessness. African Americans form a significant part of the country’s population. The suspicion between them and police officers means that they cannot help the officers with information that can make them deliver on their mandate. In some extreme cases, the African Americans would attack the police officers either to retaliate murder of their colleagues by the officers or to defend themselves. It means that the brutality, instead of being a tool that makes the work of the officers easy and safe, only complicates it and makes it very dangerous. They not only have to worry about criminals and terrorists who may harm innocent members of the public but also the African American males who view them as a threat to their life at the slightest provocation (Mac, 2016). Fighting this vice will liberate the police system. It will empower the officers and enable them to have the support of the public when executing their mandate.
Annotated Directory of Community Organizations
The American society is aware of the dangers posed by police brutality towards African American males and a number of organizations have come up to help solve this problem. There is a general understanding that the brutality is caused by the mistrust between the police and the African Americans based on the country’s history. This mistrust is affecting the ability of the police officers to execute their duties effectively. That is why a number of organizations have come up to help address this issue. The problem is not just with the police officers but the entire society. American society needs to change the way the issue of race and religion is viewed. Generalization and stereotyping is partly the reason why this problem is still common. Specific organizations have come up with varying mandates to help fight police brutality towards African American males. In this section, the researcher will look at American organizations that have come up to help in addressing this issue.
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Table 1: Annotated directory of community organizations
|Organization||Services and Activities|
|Dream Defenders |
Contact person: Edward Whitfield (Co-Managing Director)
Address: 8325 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33138
Email: [email protected]
|Dream Defenders is an advocacy organization that offers preventive measures and interventions from police brutality against African Americans. The following are the specific activities of the organization as defined in their website: |
|ABFE (A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities) |
Contact person: Gary Cunningham (Board Chair)
Address: New York 10001333 Seventh Avenue, 14th Floor
Email: [email protected]
|ABFE is an organization that was founded with the primary aim of protecting the rights and freedom of African Americans across the country. The following are the primary activities and services conducted by this firm. |
|The Gathering for Justice |
Contact person: Carmen Perez (Executive Director)
Email: [email protected]
|The Gathering for Justice is a not for profit organization that was founded to help fight mass incarceration in the country. The following are some of the services that it offers to the Americans. |
Contact person: N/A
Email: [email protected]
|The organization was founded to help hold officers to account, especially when they use unnecessary force to arrest people or manage mass actions. The following are the activities it engages in. |
|Abolitionist Law Centre |
Contact person: N/A
Email: [email protected]
|This is a law firm that has a special interest in issues that affect the general public. It offers the following services. |
|Workers Centre for Racial Justice |
Phone: 312-361-1161 ext 201
Email: [email protected]
|The organization brings together American workers in different fields to join hands in the fight against racial injustice. The following are its primary functions. |
|US Human Rights Network |
Email: [email protected]
|The non-profit organization is critical in fighting for the rights of American residents. The following are its primary functions. |
|RTTC (Right to the City) |
Contact person: Dawn Phillips (Executive Director)
Address: 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
|This is a national alliance that brings together different organizations sharing the same idea of protecting the minorities in the country. |
|CUAPB (Community United Against Police Brutality) |
Hotline: 612-874-STOP (612-874-7867)
|The Minneapolis-based organization focuses primarily on fighting police brutality in the country. Its functions include the following. |
|Miami Community on State Violence |
8330 Biscayne Boulevard
Email: [email protected]
|The Miami-based organization was established to help fight police misconduct in society. Its serves to: |
Detailed Description of Individuals Selected
The section above has identified different organizations that are working to fight police brutality towards African American males. These institutions seek to involve American society in programs that promote early intervention and prevention of unfair police practices when handling African Americans. In this section, the researcher will focus on the analysis of three leaders of different organizations discussed above. The analysis will help shed more light on how these leaders have been working with other stakeholders within the community to ensure that the visions of their organizations are achieved.
Edward Whitfield: Dream Defenders
Edward Whitefield is an African American scholar and human rights activist who has actively engaged in championing for the rights of the minority in the country. He attended Cornell University where he developed an interest in politics and issues relating to the rights of African Americans and other minority groups. He joined campus politics and was elected the leader of Black students’ organization at the institution (Williams, 2015). As a student, he worked closely with other human rights groups to speak out against social injustices that the American systems forced the minority to go through. At that early age of his advocacy, he spoke strongly and consistently against police brutality against African Americans. As a young student in high school, he witnessed how police responded to African Americans in the mass actions during the civil rights movements. He was inspired to talk against the unfairness of the systems and structures in the society that favored the Whites at the expense of the Blacks and other minority groups.
After graduating from Cornell University, he joined Malcolm X Liberation University as one of its lecturers. However, the institution was closed down after three years because of funding problems. It was viewed as an institution that would promote extremism in American society. He left the institution and became a community organizer, promoting awareness on issues such as human rights of Americans irrespective of age, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other demographical factors. In the 1990s and 2000s, he started programs that would economically empower African Americans in North Carolina. Southern Grassroots Economies Project and Southern Respiration Loan Fund are some of the institutions he helped in creating to empower young African American entrepreneurs who could not easily get loans from formal financial institutions. He is a board member of many advocacy groups in North Carolina and plays a big role in the fight against police brutality and violence towards African American males. He is one of the board members of Dream Defenders and is keen on working with all the relevant stakeholders in creating a society where people are judged, not by their skin color or religion, but by their character.
Carmen Perez: The Gathering for Justice
Carmen Perez is an American human rights activist who is renowned for her commitment to helping the youth to define a better future away from crime and other illegal activities. According to her own accounts, she was emotionally traumatized by the sudden death of her elder sister who at the time was 19 years. She was 17 years at that time. She decided to commit her entire life helping youths lead a better life in a highly diversified and discriminative American society. As soon as she joined UC Santa Cruz University, she started actively participating in community programs on leadership and youth empowerment. Although she did not take a keen interest in campus politics, she worked with the elected leaders to help promote equality in the campus and the immediate community. Carmen took a keen interest in championing the rights of all minority groups irrespective of their skin color. She engaged different governmental and non-governmental institutions to help students who were addicted to drugs. In 2001, Carmen graduated from the university with a degree in Psychology. She decided to dedicate her time to helping the youth.
The academic background of Carmen made it easy for her to work with the youth who had difficulty with the law. She founded Reforming Education, Advocating for Leadership (REAL), which was meant to empower the youth. She worked closely with high schools and colleges to help empower youth and promote accountability and a sense of responsibility in their actions. She specifically worked to discourage the use of drugs and alcohol among college and high school students. She also campaigned against involvement in violence and gang activities. It is important to note that her early works were not focused on criticizing the police or American system but on promoting accountability, respect, commitment towards personal growth and development, and a sense of responsibility among the youth. She wanted them to have a different approach to viewing life. Her advocacy works attracted the justice department and she was soon requested to work in the juvenile justice system. She worked with incarcerated youths and helped them redefine their future instead of conforming to the prison system. In 2005, she and Harry Belafonte founded The Gathering for Justice. This institution focused on championing the rights of minorities, especially African Americans. One of its main mandates at the time of its foundation was to intervene and prevent police brutality directed towards African Americans. She became the national organizer for this organization in 2008. Her commitment and hard work saw her promoted to the position of Executive Director of the organization in 2010, a position she still holds today.
Dawn Phillips: Right to the City
Down Phillips is currently the executive director at Rights to the City Alliance, a position he assumed in January 2016 (Taylor, 2016). He started developing an interest in community development at a very tender age. He noted that he was always concerned with the fact that American social, economic, and justice environments were more favorable to a section of the society than others. He took a special interest in helping the immigrants in the Bay Area. He was concerned that these immigrants had no access to basic needs such as proper housing and access to quality medical conditions. He is the founder Causa Justa: Just Cause (CJJC), an organization that focused on helping the disadvantaged groups in Oakland. His multi-ethnic organization emphasized on the need to engage common members of the society in policy formulation. He always insisted that it is only fair to take the interest of everyone into account when developing policies that would affect them. He has always insisted that immigrants should be fairly treated in American society because they play a significant role in its socio-economic and political development. He also believes in working with other organizations sharing the same interests in order to promote an American society that is free from discrimination and bias. He has authored a number of articles focusing on social justice and empowering the American minority populations.
Police brutality that targets African Americans is not a new phenomenon in the United States. According to the findings of this study, the mistreatment of African American people traces its roots to slavery and the slave trade that was practiced in this continent before independence. When the country gained its independence the founders of this nation promised that all residents of this country at a time when it gained its independence would be granted full citizenship and would enjoy equal rights. Indeed they succeeded in abolishing slavery and the slave trade. However, African Americans and people of color were considered second class citizens. There were schools for the Whites and for the colored, hospitals for the Whites and the colored, and so many other social amenities. The African Americans, although they were no longer slaves, were introduced to a new world where they could not access so many things in the society primarily because of their skin color. They still had to rely on the Whites, working as casual laborers due to limited education, in order to earn their living. In the 1950s and 1960s, American society entered a period of the civil rights movement. The African American came out strongly to oppose the social system that denied them what constitution stated they could have as full citizens of this country. They came out to demand what they believe was their right. The ruling class deployed the police in the streets to control the protestors, most of whom were African American males. It was during this period that the mistrust and a sense of hatred developed between African American males and the police.
American society is changing and society has come to embrace diversity. The country has had its first African American president who served for two complete terms and many believe that the dark past will soon be behind the American people. However, police brutality and violence directed towards African American males are still common. Social media has helped demonstrate this brutality. It is inhuman for an unarmed man to be cruelly murdered before his wife and young child by police for a minor traffic offense. It reminds the society of the dark past when the lives of African Americans and other minorities did not matter. It creates tension and sometimes even an armed attack on law enforcers as was witnessed in the Dallas gun attack. Indeed everyone comes out a loser as the process of law enforcement becomes impaired. The mistrust between the police and a section of the American society makes the process of intelligence gathering less effective. The officers are also not safe when discharging their official duties because of the desire by the oppressed to retaliate on the brutalities and violence mated against them or their loved ones. A number of organizations have come up to help stop police brutality and violence. These organizations are working closely with all the relevant stakeholders to ensure that American police officers remain accountable and responsible when they are discharging their duties.
Cooper, H.L. (2015). War on drugs policing and police brutality. Substance Use & Misuse 50(8), 1188-1188.
Embrick, D. G. (2015). Two nations, revisited: The lynching of black and brown bodies, police brutality, and racial control in Post-racial amerikka. Critical Sociology, 41(6), 835-843. Web.
Frank, J. (2012). Hopeless: Barack Obama and the politics of illusion. Oakland, CA: AK Press.
King, S. (2011). Ready to shoot and do shoot: Black working-class self-defense and community politics in Harlem, New York, during the 1920s. Journal of Urban History, 37(5), 757-774. Web.
Mac, D. H. (2016). The war on cops: How the new attack on law and order makes everyone less safe. New York, NY: Encounter Books.
Moore, L. (2010). Black rage in New Orleans: Police brutality and African American activism from World War II to hurricane Katrina. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisana State University Press.
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Signil, C. (2016). Taking matters into our own hands: How to stop un-justifiable homicide. Hoboken, NJ: Persuasive Publishing.
Stevenson, B. (2014). Just mercy: A story of justice and redemption. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.
Taylor, Y. (2016). From #BlackLivesMatter to Black liberation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Publishers.
Weatherspoon, F. D. (2014). African-American males and the US justice system of marginalization: A national tragedy. New York, NY: Palgrave Pivot.
Williams, K. (2015). Our enemies in blue: Police and power in America. Oakland, CA: AK Press.