By Olivia Pan
In the wake of recent police shootings of black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina, protests calling for change and action have erupted yet again.
As we all observe the current state of American race relations and police-civilian relations at times becoming more volatile, I have been asking myself one question: “Are all of the recent police shootings of black individuals rooted in profiling and/or racism?” Or are some of these events a matter of excessive force coupled with poor police training? Also, do many of the policemen involved in these shootings of unarmed civilians possess underlying anger issues that simply rear their ugly heads during the performance of their duties?
It seems that we are forming knee-jerk reactions rather than asking the right questions. Many individuals, both black and white, are quick to draw the same conclusion: if a black man is shot by a cop, it must be due to racism. They do not bother themselves with researching the surrounding facts of the case and do not stop to ask other questions. This snap judgment does not preclude racism and profiling as culprits. It simply means that we no longer feel the need tp gather supporting facts and data to make our conclusions.
Racism within a police force—and society as a whole—has led some people to see black men as criminals and suspects first and civilians second. If we deny that this mentality exists, then we cannot resolve the issue of excessive force used on unarmed black men in this country. There are many lists and fact sheets about black men and crime in this country that are manipulated to support this mentality. Isn’t that the same as saying all white people are racist due to slavery? Isn’t that a weak argument to make?
Let me say this: I hold in high regard the policemen and policewomen who go out on our streets every day to serve and protect us all. With that being said, outrage at the blatant shooting of an unarmed person does not lessen that respect for those cops who do their jobs and conduct themselves professionally.
The truth is that we live in a world where we are bombarded with news, sound bites, tweets, and internet sensationalism every time one of these incidents occurs. This can act as a fuel to the fire of untruth and misinformation. We see a headline on Facebook that reads “Black Man Shot to Death by Police Officer” and we think to ourselves, “another incident of police brutality,” without even bothering to read the details of the case. For example, many people may not realize that the recent shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in North Carolina was carried out by a black officer. Black officers are not immune to participating in racial profiling. In this case, we still do not have all of the facts and it is gravely important that we find and act according to them, whichever way they read. It is also gravely important that we support our police and rid any department of officers who are unfit to be on the job. At the end of the day, so far removed from the situation in Charlotte, trying to sift through the menagerie of sound bites, emotions, and media blasts makes an informed opinion even more difficult to navigate.