By Kenneth Spears
The subject of police brutality has been such a highly contentious topic in American culture for the better part of two years. There seems to be no clear path towards a resolution, only more and more heartbreak and despair, as the number of unarmed black men killed at the hands of police officers continues to soar.
For a long time this was viewed as a one-off issue that only happened in 1991 to Rodney King, not as some sort of systematic issue corrupting America. Yet, as time progressed, the dark acts became more and more prevalent, thus leading us into a new modern era civil rights movement, duly termed #BlackLivesMatter.
Moreover, as the #BlackLivesMatter movement grow exponentially, gaining backing from prominent businesses, professional sports stars and other individuals, what has been perceived as the inverse, #AllLivesMatter has grown as well. The #AllLivesMatter movement has been viewed as a way to suppress the progress of the modern civil rights discussion. Yet, any sensible human being can recognize that all lives matter. That is not a debated subject. However, it seems that recent conjecture has stipulated that for all lives to matter, it can't be said that black lives matter.
However, history has proven that all lives have never mattered. The Three-Fifths Compromise, one of the innate principles our nation was built on, which allowed the Constitution to pass in the southern states, clearly shows all lives have never mattered. Additionally, when Andrew Jackson forcefully removed Native Americans from their homes during the Trail of Tears, all lives didn't matter. Moreover, during World War II when FDR signed Executive Order 9066 forcing Americans of Japanese descent into concentration camps all lives didn't matter. It seems that saying #AllLivesMatter is simply a farce, broad conjecture, to hide approval of the status quo, which is approval of the systematic racism that plagues African-Americans and other groups of color.
Yet, what many fail to realize and/or recognize is that there is an implied "also" or "too," not "more" is at the end of the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” It is clearly evident by the disproportionate number of African-Americans who are jailed, given longer sentences than their white counterparts and/or killed at the hands of law enforcement officials that black lives matter less in the eyes of the criminal justice system.
It can be argued that the killing of unarmed black men severely violates these individuals’ constitutional rights and restricts their civil liberties under Section 1983. These men are not afforded the trial that their white counterparts in similar or worse situations receive. This is an egregious violation of due process rights granted under the Constitution. Furthermore, the excessive nature of these murders is subjecting these men to a punishment–the death penalty–that does not fit the alleged crime. A look at the corresponding statute in the relevant penal code will surely find that majority of these men were subjected to a punishment that far exceeds the statutory requirement. These African-Americans are subjected to cruel and unusual punishments, which we as Americans are guaranteed to be protected against.
Much has been said about this topic previously, but there are very few attempts to propose any sort of solution to these problems. Mainly because these law enforcement officials are granted a qualified immunity while in the course and scope of their enforcement duties. One of our presidential candidates has suggested that one way to handle this issue is through the unconstitutional method of stop-and-frisk. Clearly this is not the answer, as that would only serve to increase the divide between African-Americans citizens and law enforcement even further. It is proven that this method of policing is discriminatory.
One thing that I feel should be done in advance of any sort of statutory reform is to upgrade hiring process and increase the quality of training police officers receive. It is absurd to think in some states barbers, cosmetologists, or even manicurist receive significantly more training than police officers. How is it that it takes less training to hold someone's life in your hands than it does to hold their hair, their face, or their hands and feet? I don't want to live in place where my hair is in better hands than my life.
These are two things that we can do that may hopefully shift the tides of our nation. If we enhance the qualifications ad increase the training of law enforcement officials, hopefully the number of the senseless murders would decrease. This however is not a new concept. These recommendations were previously recommended in the 1960’s in the Kerner Report after riots swept across America.
If individuals are better prepared to interact with people of different nationalities, cultures, backgrounds; then some of the fear that police officers have of black men should theoretically dissipate. That is, unless there is a deeper rooted issue that even enhanced training and better hiring practices can’t fix.
Winner of the SWBLSA Advocacy Blog Submission
Class of 2018
Barbara C. Jordan Chapter
Thurgood Marshall School of Law