One black man is shot by a police or security officer every 28 hours in America on average. Too often these men are young and unarmed and had only committed the crime of being “uppity” or something as minor as jaywalking. Black men are shot by authorities when in the same circumstances white guys aren’t.
Cynthia Lee of George Washington University Law School suggests:
“Borrowing from Charles Lawrence’s theory of unconscious racism, I suggest that racial stereotypes operate at a subconscious level to influence the police officer’s decision to use deadly force. The police officer may not consciously decide to use deadly force because of the suspect’s race, but the suspect’s race nonetheless influences the officer. Racial stereotypes thus may alter the officer’s perception of danger, threat, and resistance to authority. A simple question, Officer, why am I being stopped? may be perceived as behavior challenging the officer’s authority when asked by someone who is Black. Police officers may also see danger more readily when dealing with a person of color. Just as racial and ethnic stereotypes influence private citizens’ decisions to use force in self-defense, such stereotypes can also influence police officers’ decisions to use force.”
In short, the odds are good that the police are not consciously targeting young black men; it’s that they have been told by media messaging all their lives that black men are “dangerous”.
This representation of black men as “thugs” continues even after an unarmed teen has been shot. There is currently trending a hashtag on twitter #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. What picture would the media use to represent you? The one where you were goofing off with friends and look like a “thug”, or your graduation picture? Guess which one the media tends to use?
Here are some examples of the same person to explain how context makes the narrative radically different:
Recently an unarmed black teenager was gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. His body was left uncovered, in the street, in view of his parents and grandmother for four hours. Here are two of the pictures that the media could chose from to represent the young man, Michael Brown, who was getting ready to start college in just a few days:
Guess which one national media went with?
Meanwhile, protesters for Michael Brown have been called an “angry mob” and protests were labeled “riots”. When some people used the protests to loot stores, police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowd of protesters who were not looting. Newspapers reported the protesters where shouting “Kill the Police” when they were actually shouting “No Justice, No Peace”.
Here are some lesser seen photos of the “riots”:
In the modern world the media shapes the cultural narrative. If we ever want to see a cessation of the tragic slaughter of unarmed black men by security officers then we need to stop having black men and black people displayed as “scary”. Cops are human, and prey to human frailties like fear. Until the culture shows them that fear is not the necessary axiomatic response to black men, they will overreact violently when in confrontation with black men.