On Tuesday night Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On Wednesday Philando Castile was killed by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Both of these men were innocent and both of these men were black. These are just two of over two thousand people killed by police since Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
Statistics have shown that black people are far more likely to be killed by police than whites. According to Vox, 31% of police killing victims in 2012 were black, even though they made up just 13% of the US population. The statistics are even worse when it comes to unarmed victims. According to the Washington Post, black men accounted for 40% of unarmed men shot by police in 2015, despite the fact that they only make up 6% of the population of the U.S.
As Roxanne Gay stated in her moving NYT response to the shooting, seeing tragedy after tragedy of police brutality against black people can lead to feelings of resignation or apathy.
"I don’t know where we go from here because those of us who recognize the injustice are not the problem. Law enforcement, militarized and indifferent to black lives, is the problem. Law enforcement that sees black people as criminals rather than human beings with full and deserving lives is the problem. A justice system that rarely prosecutes or convicts police officers who kill innocent people in the line of duty is the problem. That this happens so often that resignation or apathy are reasonable responses is the problem."
We may feel hopeless yet we must fight to end racist policing. These tragedies will only continue unless we as a society can come to recognize that black lives matter.
Here are a few ways that individuals can take action end police brutality in the U.S.
1. Educate yourself – The Campaign Zero website has plenty of comprehensive research proposals for ending police violence, from topics such as the use of bodycams to community oversight. Staying informed about the issue of police violence will allow you to make better decisions in local elections and community efforts.
2. Film police encounters – These days people tend to carry cellphone cameras in their pockets, making it easy to film interactions with the police. Most recent cases in which officers are charged with a crime for killing a civilian have relied on video evidence. If you decide to film a police officer, make sure you know you know how to do so legally.
3. Attend Protests – Raise your voice in opposition to police brutality by attending a protest. Visit fergusonresponse.tumblr.com to find a protest near you.
4. Vote in your local elections – Many people only vote in general elections. However, local politics has the greatest effect on local policing. Find out which politicians are interested in implementing reform strategies into their police departments, and vote out any politician that is determined to maintain the status quo.
5. Support local and national organizations – there are tons of organizations around the country working to end police brutality. Check out this list of organizations and donate your time or money to helping the cause.
Photo credit: Flickr
More from BUST