Lee: Still a crime to be black

BY ASHLEY LEE | AUGUST 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Michael Brown. What do these names have in common?

Young, black, male, unarmed, and recently dead at the hands of police brutality. Still, there are so many more names that have not received national attention. The systemic dehumanization of black and brown bodies by the police is both a historic and present-day societal ill. It requires each and every one of us to reflect and think about what we can do within our power to correct this. Some of us are members of social groups with historical dominance and sustained privileged, others are not. It is important we use those identities for the greater good and speak alongside voices that are often muted.

Members of the Iowa City community have decided to take matters into their hands by organizing peaceful rallies and donating supplies to residents of Ferguson. There have been national moments of silence (#NMOS14) in major cities and social media campaigns such as #IfTheyGunnedMeDown which picture would they use? drawing attention to the media’s double-standard of representation with black and white homicide victims. Howard University students and Harvard Law students posed for “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pictures to help bring awareness to the reality of police brutality and living in brown skin.

The events in Ferguson, Missouri, this month — the execution of Michael Brown by an officer who has yet to be arrested, the unethical and unlawful decision by police to leave his body in the street for hours, SWAT teams, tear gas in residential areas, military gear, equipment, K9 dogs, and weapons used against peaceful protestors, families, bystanders, and looters of businesses — are negative outcomes of a long and unstable relationship between white police forces and black and brown citizens.

We are once again reminded that it is a crime to be black. No matter the degrees, certificates, articles of clothing, hair style, socioeconomic background, our violence or nonviolence, anti-black bias runs deep in our society. I along with thousands of other black men and women are still viewed as threats. No amount of education and proximity to whiteness will save us.

Nevertheless, there may be an inclination to refer to the troubling rates of murder and violence within the black community, otherwise known as “black on black crime.”

In 2011, the FBI published an expanded homicide data table providing both the race of the victim and offender. The majority of white murder victims were killed by white offenders and the majority of black murder victims were killed by black offenders. “Black on black crime” is a serious issue in the sense that it would be nice to have no more crime or murders. At the same time, it must be understood that intra-racial crime, even in the white community, is a national problem regardless.

What makes the Michael Brown tragedy (along with others just like it) so different from “black on black crime” is that the perpetrator is a law official who repeatedly used excessive force to hurt and kill an unarmed person with his hands up.

Remember that the situation in Ferguson is a matter of police violence. It is all of our responsibility to not only hold our police force accountable, but to also hold ourselves accountable when it comes to relying on biased reporting and data that suggest black people somehow deserve the brutality they receive.

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