Uprisings, Protests and the Reasoning Behind Them
By now, I am sure you are well aware of the uprising occurring in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is the direct response to the latest police shooting involving an African-American named Keith Lamont Scott. At the time of the publishing of this article, the official police account states he was given multiple warnings to drop his weapon but did not, resulting in him getting killed. There are conflicting reports as to whether or not Mr. Scott was actually armed. Also, it has recently been learned that Mr. Scott suffered from a traumatic brain injury. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department recently released the footage of the incident but it does not verify the account in the police report and the tape appears to be heavily edited. This lack of transparency contributes to the frustration felt by members of the community and African-American people as a whole. In turn, this frustrations leads to protests and uprisings.
WHY ARE PEOPLE ANGRY?
Unless you have lived under a rock these last few years, you should be well aware of the epidemic of police killing unarmed (often African-American) citizens. After these shootings, this is usually what happens:
- There is a large public outcry.
- Officers goes on administrative leave
- Media demonizes the victim by scrutinizing every discretion in their past.
- There is a long investigation.
- Cop gets acquitted or there are no charges filed.
Another reason for this public anger is the total lack of transparency by these police departments. Very rarely are the videos released to the public in a timely manner. In fact, North Carolina recently passed House Bill 972 which determines audio and video recorded by the police are not public record. This restricts the access the general public has to these recordings. Incredibly, the Republican governor of North Carolina, Pat McCory, stated, “the law will promote uniformity, clarity and transparency.” This really means if the video shows police in a positive light then they will release it, but if it does not then it will get buried. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the case of Laquan McDonald.
Laquan McDonald was a 17 year old ward of the state with learning disabilities and was diagnosed with complex mental health issues. He was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke while holding a knife and walking away from police officers. McDonald was approximately 10 feet away from Officer Van Dyke and posed no immediate threat to his safety. It took 15 months for the video to be released and that only happened after freelance journalist Brandon Smith made numerous requests to the city of Chicago to release the video under the Freedom of Information Act. Coincidentally, the officer involved was charged with murder after the footage was made public. These repeated attempts to cover-up the officer’s wrongdoing s part of the reason why there is so much tension. A badge should not grant you extra rights. Unfortunately, the truth is, when you are an employee of the state, such as a police officer or a judge, you are often afforded extra rights that regular people like you or me simply do not have.
There is a growing trend in the criticism of social activism and protesting. This trend is mentioning Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and using him as an example of what non-violent protesting is supposed to look like. However, these detractors always seem to forget one of his most poignant quotes which states, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Dr. King understood the danger of oppressing people and their voices. If people are frustrated and they do not see any steps taken to rectify their issues, it gives them no choice but to rebel.
Let me be perfectly clear: I am not condoning violence against people or destruction of property as a reaction to social injustice. It was Mohandas Gandhi who said, “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” There is definitely truth to that assessment. However, there is only so far you can push an entire segment of your population. There have been non-violent protests for decades and yet these injustices are still occurring. The messages being portrayed is simple: it does not matter what you do; we will continue to kill your brothers and sisters with impunity. It is incomprehensible to me how some members of society simply cannot or will not understand the anger and frustrations of these protestors. This is the result of countless years of economic oppression, overt racism, Jim Crow laws, segregation, police brutality, real estate discrimination and overall sense of being treated as insignificant. That is why people are rising up and although it may not be the right course of action…I get it.
© 2016 David Ramos