Racism in America: History Repeats Itself
By Sophia Alexandrou
The United States has a long, agonizing history of anti-black violence and movements, beginning with the Transatlantic Slave Trade starting in the 15th century, in which 12.5 million Africans were kidnapped and brought to the Americas. For the next few centuries, these Africans and their descendants were enslaved by rich, white families, doing hard labor that white people were too lazy to do and too cheap to hire people to do. Slaves were property, not human beings.
This ended when the Union won the Civil War and the 13th Amendment was passed, outlawing slavery. Well, almost. A loophole made it illegal for people to be enslaved unless they were in prison. Because of this, cops started arresting African Americans for petty crimes like loitering. These are crimes that they would not even think about arresting white people for. This led to one of the first prison booms in the U.S. Due to the disproportionate amount of black people in jail, the media depicted black people as criminals and dangerous.
This continued on through the Jim Crow era and beyond. Nixon’s racially charged war on crime was later admitted by one of his former subordinates as a subversive way to incarcerate black people, disguised as a public safety initiative. This continued with Reagan’s official “War on Drugs,” which had the same motives. It imprisoned black people at a much higher rate for drug possession compared to white people and was promoted as safety measures. Add in a couple of bills regarding our criminal justice system proposed and enforced by the Clinton administration that directly attack communities of color, and the United States now holds 25% of the entire planet’s prisoners while only making up 5% of the world’s population. This legislation regarding mass incarceration has now achieved what the media did during the 19th and 20th centuries. It has made black people out to be nothing more than criminals. All of these initiatives have been the backbone to the extreme police brutality the black community faces today.
Following the death of George Floyd, rallies all around the world have gathered in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. While the general message these protesters are trying to communicate is that they want the police to stop killing innocent black people, there are many specific goals they want to accomplish. One is to enact eight use-of-force policies that were introduced by Campaign Zero. According to data from cities that have enacted a number of these policies, this could decrease police brutality by 72%. All eight can be found at 8cantwait.org. Another goal held by these protesters is that every police officer who has unnecessarily killed an innocent black person is held accountable and the heinous crimes they have committed are treated as such. In addition, cops who have a history of violence or microaggressions while on the job are to be fired before it is too late. The cop who killed George Floyd had six accounts of unnecessary violence while on the job. These are just a few of many reforms that people all over the world demand to be made.
There are many things that you can do to enact change. The easiest one would be to educate yourself and call out friends and family members when they make racist comments. In addition, there are numerous petitions on the internet that demand justice for victims of police brutality and for certain laws to be passed like the ones mentioned previously. If you have the means to, donating to bail out funds and to the families of police brutality victims is also extremely helpful. Going to rallies also helps amplify the voices of black people. If you are a white person at these rallies and there are hostile police there, use your privilege to protect the black people. You are less likely to be hurt by them. Call or email your representatives and demand that action be taken. Spread awareness on social media. There are so many things that can be done and there is no excuse anymore for staying silent.
We are living through uncertain times, but one thing has stayed constant: the people’s demand for their voices to be heard. Already, the United States has seen change. The officer who killed George Floyd was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in response to the uproar his death caused. In addition, Democrats have introduced legislation to combat the racial biases that exist in our criminal justice system. This includes the Justice in Policing Act which works to control the amount of excessive force from police officers. This battle may be long and difficult, but so was every other battle for justice this country has seen. In the end, we will come out stronger than we started.