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

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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Institutional racism is a colonial hangover

We will never be able to solve this problem unless we fully understand the historical contexts that shaped it. When they began, the police were created to protect white wealth.
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The Argument

The police in the United States of America must be reformed as the police are fundamentally and systematically racist. This stems from institutional racism as a colonial hangover, setting a historical precedent that carries through to this day. Therefore, the current policing structure is unsuccessful due to its racist characteristics and must be reformed. Historically, modern policing finds its roots in the slavery of the American south. [1] White “patrollers” would police slave communities in an effort to crush any perceived threat. This effort became institutionalized in Virginia and the Carolinas through connections with county courts, state militias, and general local government. These precedents trickle through to the modern day, imposing fear on Black slaves and today’s Black Americans. This trickle-down effect from colonial and enslaved America ensures the modern police cannot be free from its inheritance. Furthermore, the Jim Crow laws following the Civil War also ensured that the policing effort of the entire United States, but especially the South, were based on racial divisions.[2] Lynching, the unlawful murder of those perceived guilty of a crime, ran rampant through the South through the nineteenth and early twentieth century, often with the permission or support of police. The modern police force is built on the foundation of hundreds of years of racist legacy, connecting policing to victimizing Black individuals. There is no solution but to reform the police.

Counter arguments

The police do not need to be reformed, nor are they systematically racist. There is no colonial hangover on the police forces of today. Yes, racist mistakes were made in the past of the United States but drawing a straight line from point A to point B oversimplifies and undervalues modern data. The fact that black crime is so relevant points towards why the police are most often engaged with the black population. [3]

Premises

Rejecting the premises

Proponents


References

  1. https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674012349
  2. https://theconversation.com/the-racist-roots-of-american-policing-from-slave-patrols-to-traffic-stops-112816
  3. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf

This page was last edited on Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 15:45 UTC

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