Systemic Racism and Police Brutality

Hello Readers,

While I recognize that this is not a topic that I usually write about, I wanted to take the time to share a list of resources that I have found helpful over the past few days. It is important to take this time to self reflect and educate yourself, and I hope that this post can serve as a starting point if you are feeling overwhelmed or uncertain. I will never fully understand the experience of being Black in America, but having these uncomfortable conversations and taking time to reflect are the first steps towards becoming an ally.

Key Points

  • Overview of protests and the prevalence of injustice within our criminal justice system.
  • Comparing media portrayal of white protesters vs black protesters.
  • Call to action on educating yourself and others.
  • List of resources available (Will be updating daily for any new information).

The Prevalence of Injustice

Very few officers are held accountable for incidents of excessive force and brutality. I believe that the arrests of the four officers involved in George Floyd’s death will serve as a catalyst for change and set a standard for accountability. It is important to recognize that this is not an independent incident, but to reflect on the systemic racism that has come to define the criminal justice system in America.

When we call for justice for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, we are also calling for the justice of every Black individual who has been subjected to the racial bias the system has been built upon. 

The passive actions of the three bystander cops during Floyd’s murder are unexcusable. We cannot stand behind the idea of “good cops” and “bad cops” when we continuously see fellow officers and departments turning a blind eye to situations like these.

Protesting and Media Portrayal

In a YouTube video titled “White Riots v. Black Protests”, the creators, Brave New Films, highlighted the differences between the media’s portrayal of white protests vs black protests. The media continuously demonizes Black protests by characterizing protesters as “wild animals”, “thugs”, and “criminals”. Yet when covering white protests, the media uses terms that justifies the actions of protesters despite the negative portrayal of the same actions during Black protests. 

Despite the video being published five years ago, it is relevant to today’s media portrayal of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Let us examine the cases between Covid protesters and Black Lives Matter protesters. Armed Covid protesters stormed into Michigan’s capitol demanding an end to the coronavirus lockdown. Law enforcement that were present for this assembly were not suited in riot gear and tear gassing protesters. The media presented them as angry citizens and justifying the anger of many Americans. Politicians chimed in and congratulated the protesters for their demonstration.

Similarly, Black Lives Matter protesters assembled peacefully and many were unarmed. Yet, even though they assembled peacefully, incidents of law enforcement provoking the crowd to encourage violence occurred. Notably after curfew, law enforcement would begin to deploy tear gas to disperse peaceful demonstrators. Politicians and the media continued to demonize Black protesters that are peacefully protesting and portray them as rowdy and thugs.

Police retaliation to both circumstances are clearly different. During black protests, police are deployed with riot gear, rubber bullets, and tear gas. The media also proclaims that the police are doing nothing, which simply is not the case. Meanwhile, during white riots, police are not deployed with the same type of equipment and they actually are doing nothing.

Source: Twitter

The media plays an important role in shaping a political narrative that fails to accurately portray current events. By showing the after effects of police instigation, news outlets are able to portray the current protest as violent and destructive. 

Media is an important part of our society, but when you see people like yourself viewed as villains on a daily basis, it becomes apparent that the systems in place are against you and people like you. This is where I believe the media has failed our minority communities, by prioritizing eye-catching news and shaping a political narrative out of the lives of Black people, they are dividing Americans on a daily basis for an increase in views.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Now, I would like to reaffirm that I am not advocating for looting or rioting. However, if you are outraged by the destruction of property, you must be even more enraged by police brutality. Redirect your anger towards the systemic flaws and blame the criminal justice system for failing to deliver on the promise of equal justice.

If there truly was nothing wrong with our system, there would be no rioting, looting, and protesting. Instead, that is simply not the case, the media is consistently portraying grim details of black people being murdered by police officers, yet how often do you see a white person being killed by an officer on the news? 

Source: Federal Bureau of Prisons

One should note that our Black community represents 12.7% of the total population. Yet, they represent 38% of the prison population. Unsurprisingly, these statistics correlate with the likelihood of being killed by police officers. According to Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, black men face a one in 1,000 risk of being killed during an encounter with police, significantly higher than that of a white man.

It is important to reiterate that the violence that occurs during these protests are often due to policemen provoking protesters and inciting acts of violence. What sense does it make to have riot gear against unarmed people and not the same type of equipment against armed protesters?

Continue Educating Yourself and Others

Key Acronym (Keep Educating Yourself) wood letters on wood texture

Do not feel discouraged

There seems to be a misconception that people who are not Black, or have not faced systemic racism, cannot be helpful or engage in the conversation during these times. Instead, I urge you to take action by sharing resources to help these organizations and activists with their missions. Even though you might not be able to protest on the streets, you can offer resources to people who might not know they exist.

Taking the time to self reflect and learn more is vital for ensuring that these protests are not forgotten and that their messages actually lead to social change. It is never too late to engage in the conversation and become an active ally. 

Sharing mental health resources and hotlines

If you are aware of a service that is available in your local area, such as mental health lines recommend sharing that with your social media.

The mixture of a pandemic and civil unrest is certainly stressful and I think by sharing resources that you are aware of,you can potentially help someone in need.

Research about your local area

In an environment that is demanding change, I believe doing your part of researching about police brutality in your area is equally important. Your ability to press for change in your area is just as important as protests in Minnesota, Washington, California, and many other states.

Read ACLU’s community action manual

If you are unsure as to how to combat police brutality, I urge you to read through ACLU’s action manual. The manual covers step by step information on how to hold your local police force accountable.

Main points within the manual:

  • Some operating assumptions.
  • Getting started – Identify the problem.
  • Gather the facts.
  • Controlling the police – Community goals.
  • Organizing strategies.
  • A final word.

Again, I encourage you to go through the manual, especially sections Gather the facts through Organizing strategies. These sections offer successful tactics that have been implemented by other communities.

Organizations and Funds to Donate Towards

Amidst the chaos, unifying behind a cause is more important than ever. Through the help of many individuals I have allocated a list of reputable organizations, funds, resources, and petitions.

Organizations

  • Black Lives Matter | An international human rights movement, originating in the African-American community, that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people.
  • Reclaim the Block | An organization that organizes Minneapolis community and city council members to move money from the police department into other areas of the city’s budget that truly promote community health and safety
  • Black Visions Collective | A Black, Trans & Queer-led organization that commits to dismantling systems of oppression.
  • Reclaim the Block | Coalition that advocates for & invests in community safety initiatives in Minneapolis Neighborhoods.
  • Unicorn Riot | Non-profit dedicated to exposing root causes of dynamic social & environmental issues.
  • Restoring Justice | A non-profit organization offering loving and holistic criminal defense legal services for the oppressed, the forgotten, and the poor.
  • The Bail Project | National Revolving Bail Fund is a critical tool to prevent incarceration and combat racial and economic disparities in the bail system.
  • The Minnesota Healing Justice Network | An organization dedicated for wellness and healing justice practitioners. Focuses on reducing racial health disparities and encouraging community care and collectivist cultural practices.
  • NAACP LDF (Legal Defense Fund) | An organization dedicated in fighting for racial justice.

Racial Justice Donation Funds

Mental Health Resources

Podcasts, Articles, and Additional Resources

(content warning: a few of the resources below may bring up additional trauma for some; please take care when reading)

Numbers to call if arrested during protest

  • 310-313-3700 – LA
  • 210-227-1515 – SATX
  • 783-346-6322 – NY
  • 612-444-2654 – Minneapolis
  • 404-689-1519 – ATL
  • 484-758-0388 – Philadelphia
  • 804-291-8520 – Richmond VA
  • 502-705-0081 – Louisville

Petitions Available

  • Justice for Breonna Taylor | A petition in bringing justice to Breonna Taylor. One of the demands is to fire and revoke the pensions of the officers that murdered Breonna. Arrest, charge, and convict them for this crime.
  • Justice for Tony McDade | A petition to raise awareness of the murder of Tony McDade. Tony was a transgender black man who was killed by police in Tallahassee.
  • Justice for Belly Mujinga | This petition exists to help find and prosecute the individual who assaulted Belly Mujinga at London Victoria whilst knowingly being infected with COVID-19.
  • National Action Against Police Brutality | A petition to help prosecute police who murder unarmed individuals.

For More Information

The resources above are just a few of many available and I would like to add that you should research your local area for funds, petitions, and organizations that you would want to contribute to as well.

If you are a student at a college, I recommend reaching out to their advisory board on mental health programs and educational advisors, for personal recommendations on how to cope with the situation.

Also, there is an enormous google doc that contains up to date funds, organizations, and petitions available. Consider reaching out to her via twitter @callal_lyly or me so I can also edit the information above.

Conclusion

In these difficult times whether you are a person of color or not, it is not difficult to sympathize and understand the reasons for civil unrest. Instead of placing your judgement on the protesters and deeming them as villains, reflect on your own privileges and experiences. It might be difficult and uncomfortable, but for change to occur we must admit there are faults within ourselves and society.

As a Vietnamese-American, I have not experienced the hardships that African-American communities face. Rather, I have privileges that allow me to speak up for others when their voice is unheard. I am asking my peers and everyone that can understand this to do the same.

As always, I hope you found my article informative and helpful. Please do your part by continuing to share information to friends, family members, and social media.

Published by Steven Mai

Hello! My name is Steven Mai and I am currently enrolled at University of Washington. My interests are business, investments, financing, and personal development. I hope through this journey I will be able to enhance my skills as a writer and share my ideas on a public platform and gain the necessary skills in life through interactions with the community.

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