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 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.
(1 of 3) Next position >

Policing is a tool for state-sanctioned violence

Policing is weaponised by the state to reproduce systemic exploitation. The fundamental issue with the US police, is that its sole purpose is to prop up the oppressive ideas the American state is built on. The police are being used to manage the issues that have grown out of an unequal society. Rather than solving those problems, we continue to expand the police to contain them in the name of 'public order'. They are therefore a key element to the form of austerity politics that characterises the modern state. Without them, the state would have to confront its manifold socioeconomic problems and the inequalities they depend on. Proponents of this group include author and commentator Alex S. Vidal.

The Argument

The systemic racism in the United states of America has allowed the police to become the executors of state-sanctioned violence against African American members of the population. A study from the University of Chicago found that “ too much deadly discretion is given to police officers in the US” as they looked intently at the “ lethal use-of-force policies of police in the 20 largest US cities” and found that “not a single police department was operating under guidelines that are compliant with the minimum standards laid out under international human rights laws” [1]. For years the police have been given too much freedom to conduct themselves and therefore violent behavior has been allowed to thrive and stay hidden under the guise of law enforcement. By not taking action to see that police are to be carrying out justice and not racially motivated violence, the government is complicit in sanctioning this brutality. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Tayler are all examples of victims of state-sanctioned violence. As the systemic inequalities in the government grow more clear, it becomes more apparent that police reform is the only solution to end this reign of discriminatory violence in policing [2].

Counter arguments

Some believe that systematic racism is not an inherent part of the United State's governmental structure and that the police are not a tool for state-sanctioned violence. In fact, the Statista Research Department just posted a graph that depicted police killings by race and it displayed that white people were more than twice as likely to be shot to death by police than an African American is. [3]



Rejecting the premises




Not sure yet? Read more ↑


This page was last edited on Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 04:59 UTC

Explore related arguments