POLICE BRUTALITY AND THE ISSUES THAT FOLLOW

Asha Bell, first year writing UNC Asheville student

Introduction

Earlier this year, I took a trip to the Peace Gardens and experienced something wonderful. What I saw was one of the most amazing and overwhelming sights. This garden is full of art made from trash that used to litter Burton street. The garden is full of beautiful paintings, intricate sculptures, and memorials. The one thing that really caught my eyes were the chairs with the faces of African Americans killed by police officers. Tamir Rice. Philando Castile. Innocent black lives taken by the hands of a “scared” police officer. The piece is titles “The Last Supper”. This really stood out to me because police brutality is everywhere, including Asheville. It’s something that African Americans fear daily. But its more than that. Its more than the senseless murders caused by officers who are scared of individuals who have more melanin, it’s what comes after too. Families, especially children, are left to mourn the outcomes of the family members lost due to police brutality. Aside from police brutality, other topics that will be up for discussion are the outrageous crime ate differences between white and black people. 


Johnnie Rush

In Asheville, there was a huge controversy over the event that took place on August 25th, 2017. A black man by the name of Johnnie Rush was coming home from a very tiring day at work when he was stopped by two cops. The cops told him that would either have to arrest him or give him a ticket for jaywalking. The confrontation ends with Mr. Rush bloody, beaten, and begging for oxygen (Meagan Flynn, 2018). Crimes like this happen everywhere. Fortunate enough for Rush, he survived his confrontation with cruel law enforcers. According to the Vox website, out of 13% of Americans being African American, 39% of African Americans are killed annually while not attacking (German Lopez, 2018). The growing number of African Americans that are murdered in cold blood is increasingly growing by the years (German Lopez, 2018). Rush ended up getting a settlement from the city of Asheville for over $600,000. 


Black Lives Matter

An interesting aspect of the sculpture at the Peace Gardens was how it was set up. The pictures of the victims were placed in chairs. When I saw this I instantly thought that the chairs are America. This is America putting black people down once again even after death. And then to have people sit on them later forgetting what they stood for. The deaths of these people and many more have been fueling the organization of Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter is an organization where people, people of color, get together to defend the lives of black people. This organization is not against other race groups, but it stands for the wanting equality for black people all over America including Asheville, NC. Not only does the police kill our people but they intervein when it comes to pro black affiliation groups. In 2016, local police officers invaded the personal technology of President of the Black Lives Matter, Delores Venable (Joel Burgess, 2018). Burgess’s article from Asheville Citizen Times says that the police did not use surveillance but instead used intelligence gathering. This later went under investigation and it finally came to the surface that this was surveillance and a huge invasion of privacy. Former Police Chief of Asheville, Tammy Hooper was in charge of the whole operation saying that “she wanted to make change” (Joel Burgess, 2018) With this quote in mind, there is a new question in our midst. Why can’t black people/black organizations work in peace? Are white police officers so afraid of change for black people that they always have to stay one step ahead? 


Social Media

A major part of the Black Lives Matter movement is social media. A recent study called the Pew study says that 69% of American’s think that social media is a great way of spreading attention to political topics (Caroline Simon, 2018). This has proven to be the case with the Black Lives Matter movement. In the past five years the Black Lives Matter Movement has expanded rapidly due to the use of the Black Lives Matter Hashtag over 30 million time. The average daily use of the hashtag is about 17,000 times a day. With this type of representation for the organization, Black Lives Matter has educated many on black issues and gained supporters from not just Asheville but, all over the world (Caroline Simon, 2018). Along with the Black Lives Matter hashtag, there have been #JohnnieRush, #SandraBland, #PhilandoCastile, etc. Along with hashtags, videos are also streamed on social media. Videos of police brutality not only show us what officers will do to a black person, but they also bring us closer to getting justice for our entire community. Unfortunately, it takes pain to get some resolve.  With this simple yet powerful act, we can help bring equal treatment to black people all over the world. 


Cops

One of the biggest problems with police brutality are the cops. There are countless examples of when officers take advantage of their authority. Many officers end up killing random black people and don’t get any penalty (German Lopez, 2018). Josh Correll, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, conducted an experiment where officers had to play a video game that simulated their daily life on the job. Almost every officer was quick to shoot the black individuals first. “It’s possible for skewed results in the field due to racial bias” (Josh Correll, 2018). There have been plenty of cases when an officer will kill an African American in cold blood and worse comes to worse, they end up with paid leave. As for the case of Philando Castile, the officer who shot him was found not guilty of the Castile’s death (Madison Park, 2018). There have been very few officers that have served time for their heinous crimes. For example, the cops that beat Rush badly before arresting him went on paid leave. “Often times when officers have to go to trial for any form of police brutality, they write their own court form or get there superior to do it for them. 


Crime Outcome

The crime system is rigged as is. Marijuana for example. White people and black people consume around the same amount of weed. But black people catch the short end of the stick because they are more likely to get arrested and charged. Some get sentences that are just too lengthy (German Lopez, 2018). There are also instances, also in the drug-crime area, that have a huge impact on the black community versus the white community. Cocaine and crack are essentially the same drug. The only difference is that crack has cheaper and more dangerous components. Crack is more prevalent in low income communities which have more minorities in them. Cocaine is more common in white communities. The amount of jail time for cocaine is significantly lower than jail time for crack. The average sentencing amount for a cocaine charge is 115 months while a crack-cocaine charge is 80 months (Boswell, 2018). Crime penalties are set up like this to get more black people, especially black men, in the prison system. This shows that if police officers aren’t brutally injuring or killing black people, then they end up in prison for a very long time (Caroline Flynn, 2018). 


Family Aftermath

Police brutality has an effect on many things but, it takes the biggest tole on young black kids. In the case of Philando Castile, he was shot multiple times for reaching for wallet and it being mistaken for a gun. His girlfriend and baby’s mother and 4-year-old daughter were both in the car when the shooting took place. While it was traumatic for both the mother and child, it was very traumatizing to the child. In other police clips it can be seen that the mother is handcuffed and put into the back of a cop car with her daughter. The mother is experiencing the effects of the emotional toll and her daughter is there comforting here in hopes to make her mother feel better (YouTube: CBS Evening News, 2017). Black kids all over America are now having to face the possibility of never being able to see their parent(s) again. “As a mother I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father.” (Erin Brodwin, 2016) This quote is from Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Alton Sterling’s son. Sterling was killed by police officers when they assumed he was reaching for a gun. “The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis…” (Erin Brodwin, 2016). 


While kids can hurt about losing a parent(s), parents can also grieve and mourn about losing a child. Tamir Rice was a twelve-year-old boy who had a “very bright and promising future.” He can be seen on surveillance playing with a toy gun and walking around what seems to be a park. There was a 911 call saying that a juvenile was a gun the might be a toy. He was shot and killed by the police within seconds of the police arriving. “This is the last memory I have of my son.” (YouTube, 2018). The police department said that they told the Rice to put his hands up three times. But, looking at the video, it’s debatable whether or not the officers even said anything to him. They shot him so fast, I strongly believe that they didn’t have the chance to tell him to put his hands up three times before shooting at him. 


With one of the parents falling victim to police brutality, it makes it harder for the family caring for the children. Often times with police brutality, the family are usually low middle class or below the poverty line. A study done in 2010 found that black woman in Asheville have an average salary of $14,800. This is also with 61% of these women being single mothers (State of Black Asheville, 2010). This can make things very difficult in the household. It can bring extra stress and anger into a perfectly healthy home. It can also have a huge toll on education for the kids because they are always worried about where their next meal is going to come from. Often time, if the kids grow up in an environment like this, when they grow up, they will live the exact same way not knowing any way out of poverty. This is a positive feedback loop for black socioeconomic status. 


Conclusion

The Last Supper (Peace Gardens, 2018). A very inspirational piece that I found at The Peace Gardens which inspired me to find ways to reduce and if possible, to get rid of police brutality. Police brutality a huge matter and we aren’t taking it seriously enough. Black lives shouldn’t be something that can just be thrown away. Black people shouldn’t have to go through the pain and suffering of what they encounter with police officers. There needs to be more initiative for better police training because the path we are headed on is just going to create a vicious cycle. Children see that their parents are being murdered of put in jail/prison for crimes that don’t deserve this type of punishment. This has a big chance of leading them straight to jail/prison too. Cops need diversity and sensitivity training, so the unnecessary murders can be put to a haul. For the sensitivity training, it needs to be made clear that just because someone isn’t white doesn’t mean that they deserve worst treatment or more jail time. There needs to be sentencing equality because it completely unfair for one group of people to be sentenced more for the same crime versus another group. The well-known organization, Black Lives Matter, has been very influential as far as bringing attention to police brutality and inequality in America. I feel that if we all want to help make a difference, we should join Black Lives Matter. We can all make a difference on whatever platform we have. If we all joined forces and become part of the Black Lives Matter movement, we don’t have to add any more innocent faces to the chairs in “The Last Supper”.  


Burgess, Joel. “Asheville Black Lives Matter Leader: Police Monitored My Phone; Used Electronic Devices.” Citizen Times, The Citizen-Times, 25 July 2018, www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2018/07/24/asheville-black-lives-matter-president-police-monitored-my-phone/830329002/.


“Criminal Justice | State of Black Asheville.” The State of Black Asheville, www.stateofblackasheville.org/criminal-justice/.

Simon, C. (2018, July 15). How social media has shaped Black Lives Matter, five years later. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/07/12/black-lives-matter-movement-and-social-media-after-five-years/778779002/

Flynn, M. (2018, April 03). 'I can't breathe': Asheville police video shows white officer beating, choking black jaywalking suspect. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/04/03/i-cant-breathe-asheville-police-video-shows-white-officer-beating-choking-black-jaywalking-suspect/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9afe533c9954 

Lopez. “There Are Huge Racial Disparities in How US Police Use Force.” Vox.com, Vox Media, 17 Dec. 2015, www.vox.com/cards/police-brutality-shootings-us/us-police-racism

News, C. E. (2017, June 21). Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYZ2S_TsBu0 

“When Children Are Exposed To Police Violence.” NPR, NPR, 25 June 2017, www.npr.org/2017/06/25/534332881/when-children-are-exposed-to-police-violence