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Why They’re Killing Us: The Reality Behind Police Brutality
This problem is deep. It’s deeper than officer selection, it’s deeper than training, and it’s way deeper than holding an inquiry with the best of intentions.
Because it’s about instinct, which is about indoctrination. It’s about the training that each and every one of us goes through every day when we’re told, implicitly or explicitly, that black children are unruly. That black women are aggressive and welfare queens. That black men are dangerous and criminal.
That we are a threat.
Ever since the simmering danger of slave uprisings, black people in America have been viewed as a threat waiting to strike and kill. Jim Crow was designed to protect the white population and to keep us from becoming too powerful. The solution to Freedom Riders was to beat them like dogs; and Black Panthers were viewed as the obvious militant response of an aggressive, animalistic people. Daring to demand equal opportunity and affirmative action was tantamount to reverse racism, as taking opportunities away from worthy whites, opportunities to be defended against uppity, overly aggressive black people.
This is not just history. It wasn’t that long ago that images of black people in media expanded beyond the pliant entertainer at best, the pimp and the ho at worst. Fed with a diet of those stereotypes, how can we hope for those who do not know us to see us as human? We are danger personified, a walking menace to be contained or eliminated according to perceived level of threat. And the perception of threat from black skin is primed by a history of fear.
And when an officer has a split second to make a life or death decision, how can we imagine that a few weeks of training in de-escalation techniques have any chance of breaking through decades of social indoctrination. Even those who try, who intellectually reject racism, cannot fully escape the damage of toxic racial imagery they’ve been fed by society at large. And when they have no time to think, instinct is what drives split-second decisions—instinct shaped by a lifetime of suspicion and fear.
This is way deeper than selection and training and prosecution. This is about the need to completely dismantle and rebuild the way we think about race in America.
#Real #FlashNonfiction #Essay #BlackLivesMatter #PoliceBrutality #Racism
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