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How do we think about institutional racism in the American police force? Show more Show less
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On June 8 2020, Minneapolis City Council announced it would be dismantling its police force. In its place, they pledged to introduce a new model for public safety, free from the institutional racism that had plagued its police. The decision was unprecedented, and yet, it has been followed by similar moves across the US, for police budget cuts and investigations into how they are run. At the heart of this debate is the question of institutional racism: where it comes from, how it manifests, and how it can be overcome. Following George Floyd's murder, pressure has grown for perceived systemic oppression to be addressed. Others argue that this is a myth, and that police are being victimised for the ills of society. The way that people are mobilising around this question reveals the fundamental ideas that drive their perspectives. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?

'The police must be reformed!': The police are systemically racist Show more Show less

This position believes that the coercive power of the the police has grown too far. The role of the police is to protect individual freedom, but police today now threaten this, more than they uphold it. The force has co-opted longstanding racial tensions in America to expand its own power. It is essentially corrupt and powers must be curbed.
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American police victimise black people

Numerous studies prove that police are far more likely to take action against black people. In 2018, a study by the Washington Post found that 23% of US citizens killed by police that year had been African American. Yet, this group constitutes just 12% of the country's population. A further study by Stanford tracked the 100 million police traffic stops between 2011 and 2017. Their findings were yet more revelatory, finding that black drivers were more likely to be pulled over. At night this was not the case, as drivers' ethnicity tends to be obscured by darkness. These are just two studies within a giant cannon that prove the police unfairly target nonwhites. This is true even when the race of police officers is controlled for. It is therefore a function of the job and the institution, above all.

The Argument

American police have a history of racist beliefs that are still prevalent in today’s police culture.[1]An example of this is that Black men have a 2.5 times higher risk of being killed in their life than white men.[2] A large part of the arrests of African Americans come from nonviolent drug crimes. Even though drug use and sales are quite similar across all ethnic lines in the United States, Black and Hispanic people are much more likely to be arrested and convicted of drug crimes than white people. While these groups are minorities in American society, 57 percent of those in state prisons for drug offenses are Hispanic or African American.[3] This discrimination may also be partly caused by the white culture in America. As white citizens are far more likely to call 911 and receive police service, while Black and Hispanic citizens are more likely to be the targets of the police.[4] Even with these statistics, national data from 2015 shows that about 50% of white Americans believe discrimination is just as bad against them as it is against people of color.[5] These beliefs even appear to be “taught” at a very young age, because studies have shown that American children at the age of 5 express the same range of empathy for all ethnicities when shown pictures of both Black and white people being pricked by a pin, but by age 7 they begin to think that the white person feels more pain from the prick.[6] While it is not entirely clear if American police victimize black people implicitly or explicitly, these results show they still do it regardless of intention.

Counter arguments

Police do not victimize Black people, because it is an educated decision on their part to stop and arrest more Black people, as they commit more crime. Black people have a higher percentage rate of committing homicide and other violent crimes, as reported by The Red Elephants.[7]

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/hard-truths-law-enforcement-and-race
  2. https://oversight.house.gov/news/press-releases/committee-examines-effects-of-systemic-racism-in-policing-practices
  3. https://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/c.php?g=592919&p=4172706
  4. https://mccourt.georgetown.edu/news/racial-inequities-and-police-reform/
  5. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/06/facing-the-denial-of-american-racism/
  6. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/06/facing-the-denial-of-american-racism/
  7. https://theredelephants.com/black-crime-is-the-biggest-problem-america-faces-not-racism/

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 10 Sep 2020 at 07:09 UTC

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