argument top image

How do we think about institutional racism in the American police force? Show more Show less
Back to question

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 are not the issue!': The police should not be blamed for the problems of a racialized society Show more Show less

This position believes that the police are the standard bearers of law and order. Limited government is fundamental to protect individual liberty. Strong police are required to protect limited government. Whether institutional racism is real, or a myth, focusing on the role of the police is both misleading and counterproductive.
< (2 of 3) Next position >

American political institutions are responsible for police racism

The actions of the police are shaped by politicians and lawmakers. For decades, they have been directed to deliberately undermine black communities. Proponents point to Nixon's War on Drugs, which was later confirmed to have been a policy crafted to victimise blacks. This tradition has sustained throughout successive governments. As New York Times opinion writer Jamelle Bouie states, "Trump explicitly rejects the legitimacy of nonwhites as political actors, having launched his political career on the need for more and greater racial control of Muslims and Hispanic immigrants". The issue is not the police - it is with the racism embedded within our political institutions. And those who lead them. That is where we should be focusing our attention. Proponents include USA Today reporter Wenei Philimon.

The Argument

The role of police officers is to enforce laws; they are not responsible for making them, nor are they responsible for carrying out judgment or sentencing in crimes. Some of the strongest policies that have targeted racial groups, like Jim Crow laws and the War on Drugs, were created and passed by elected politicians. These laws allowed for marijuana possession to be classified as a felony, and black communities have been affected more than white communities, despite nearly equal rates of marijuana usage.[1] The American political trope of being “tough on crime” has been used as a guise to pass ever-stricter laws that target black and minority communities in order to allegedly protect Americans from “chaos” and criminality.[2] American political parties have continued to create policies and laws that would undermine minority communities. The police force agrees to uphold the law, and the lack of political leadership to smooth over racial tensions is not only leaving police in the line of fire unnecessarily but also preventing them from doing their jobs.[3]

Counter arguments

Police officers are individuals with free will, and there have been many documented incidents of excessive force utilized by police that far exceeded the necessary action required for an arrest. Stop-and-frisk laws implemented in NYC showed that while the law was supposed to apply to all, over 80% of those stopped were African American or Latino; stops that were carried out at the discretion of the police.[4] The US was built on racist policies and laws which frame the interpretation of the law and how it is enforced by police.[5]There is ample evidence to show police acting outside of what is considered necessary for the enforcement of established laws and benefitting from policies that refuse to prosecute them for law violations.[6]

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/how-we-rise/2020/06/23/marijuanas-racist-history-shows-the-need-for-comprehensive-drug-reform/
  2. https://www.politicalresearch.org/2004/12/01/crime-and-political-ideology
  3. https://www.foxnews.com/media/nypd-union-attack-cops-riots-police-not-allowed-do-jobs
  4. https://www.msnbc.com/the-cycle/stop-and-frisk-racist-and-ineffective
  5. https://www.impactfund.org/social-justice-blog/structural-racism
  6. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/police-officers-convicted-fatal-shootings-are-exception-not-rule-n982741

Vote

Not sure yet? Read more ↑

Discuss

This page was last edited on Sunday, 6 Sep 2020 at 01:01 UTC

Explore related arguments