Afro-Americans in theUSAhave always experienced hostile and scornful attitude, which was especially visible during the Movement of Civil Rights. These people constantly suffered from discrimination, and couldn’t rely on police.
Nowadays, in this highly developed country racial minorities are still under pressure. Though there have been attempts to improve the situation with the help of various organizations, discrimination don’t seem to lessen much.
Police brutality is one of the main civil rights violations and included arrests, beatings, unlawful shootings and other harmful methods to calm the rebellions. My research deals with different kinds of law enforcements during the Movement of Civil Rights, and its reflection on present days. Unjustified arrests, verbal and physical maltreat of Afro-Americans are obvious evidences of racial discrimination. Targeting ofNegrosarouses deep concern and rebel among Afro-American people.
What was the starting point of the movement of Civil Rights?
After the abolition of slavery, a range of laws was adopted in the Southern States in order to discriminate rights ofNegros: they were prohibited to enter “white” transport, public cafes and other institutions. From that time on, struggle for equality took a significant place in the American history. However actions of Negro masses often faced mistreat from the side of police. Thus, in 1956 an Afro-American woman Rosa Park was arrested inAlabama, as she rejected to let a white man sit in the bus. It was the beginning of the movement of civil rights. Black leaders waited for such a case to organize the rebel of transport lines. Martin Luther King was the leader of the protest, and stood up against the brutal situation, encouraging people to fight against violence.
There were no Negroes among the bus drivers. Although some white drivers were polite, too many of them abused black people. Negroes were forced to stand, because free seats were only for “whites”. Even if there were no white passengers, Negroes weren’t allowed to occupy four front seats. Police didn’t protect the rights of Negroes, and they were left on the own, unable to rely on any help from the side of authorities. Police officers used to arrest children, if they rejected to give up the seat for white people. There were cases when Negroes were shot by irritated drivers. In this way having no rights, blacks could be abused by anyone, without any defense from police.
Black drivers were arrested for insignificant or even made-up traffic violations. Martin Luther himself was arrested for speed-violation. Police tyranny became an ordinary thing in major American states. When police understood that Negroes won’t give up so easily, they proceeded to another tactics: threatening. In 1956 the house of King was destroyed by the bomb. When it became evident that the protest won’t be stopped by violence, civil authorities began mass arrests, approving them by anti-boycott law of 1921 (United States of America: Race, Rights and Police Brutality, 2007). Negroes, however, were no longer afraid, as they knew what they were fighting for. Many of them willingly came to the police offices in order to find their surnames in the list of accused. People had to undergo insults and physical attacks; many of them sacrificed their lives for the sake of freedom and justice.
The central states where police shootings occurred especially often wereKansas City,California,Connecticut,Chicago,Texas,New York,PhiladelphiaandNew Jersey. Police shootings were a frequent thing during criminal pursuits, drug raids, traffic stops and other suspicious situations. The defenseless motorist Stanton Crew was killed by police officers inNew Jerseyin 1999. His sister said:
I don’t understand why law enforcement always says: we have to make split decisions. Why is the decision always to kill? The black life is so expendable (New Jersey Record, 1999).
Speaking about police brutality, I can’t help mentioning thatBirminghamwas known for special atmosphere of aggression. Local racists used to threaten, persecute and even kill black people unpunished. But not only Negroes suffered from Connor’s despotism. In 1961 the commissar of social security arrested the director of a local bus station, who wanted to serve Negroes, and imprisoned him for two years. There was a wave of violence, resulting in bus fire, beating and bomb explosions in black districts. Decent white citizens who disapproved mistreat, kept silence in public. In this way, the main moving force of authorities was fear. The silence was caused by the fear of social, political and economic repressions. The greatest tragedy ofBirminghamwas not the police brutality; it was the silence of decent people, threatened by the long-lasting tyranny. The commissar ordered police to use cudgels, police dogs and other brutal means to break up the rebellious demonstrations. 15,000 of participants, striving for justice, were arrested.
Our lives, our homes, our liberties each day are made less secure because of unrestrained and unpunished police brutality (Police Brutality: Law Enforcement Policies and Practices in New Jersey, 1993).
Another aspect of racial discrimination was a disdainful attitude towards children and women. The state governor ofArkansasused police forces not to let Negro children go to theCentralHigh SchoolinLittle Rock. Negro women couldn’t get proper working place. They had to do dirty and poorly-paid job, and could hardly earn a living. The movement of civil rights gave its black participants a feeling of self-confidence, freedom and something more significant than just purposes which they were trying to reach. But all their attempts still faced brutality local authorities.
During the summit of 1999 President Clinton expressed his views on discrimination, saying:
…We must continue to hold accountable those who abuse their power by using excessive or even deadly force… We don’t have to choose between keeping safe and treating people right, between enforcing the law and upholding civil rights. We can do both…
Black people have been victims of constant public and private aggression. Over the last years Afro-American people endured brutality from the side of state police, while their civil and human rights were humiliated. Police imprisoned murdered and brutally oppressed people’s fights for freedom and justice. Police misconduct is the major form of racist violence. It involves grave physical and psychological insult to people.
What were the purposes of racist police violence?
Firstly police repressions aimed to involve black people into peonage, low-paid and hard work, creating restrictions in employment and social life. Their major purpose was to maintain oppress demonstrations and rebels. Racist aggression reached its highest point after the Emancipation. Nearly 3 thousands of black people were lynched till the year of 1930. Such organizations as Ku Klux Klan were the most terroristic organizations.
Police brutality represent constant problem which Afro-Americans face even in contemporaryAmerica. What has been done by Negroes themselves to overcome this problem? The so-called “Black Panther” is known as a party which tried to struggle against the oppression with violent methods, but its attempts failed to achieve significant results. Later in 1970s there were held a number of “Stop Killer Cops” campaigns.
What has been done by the government to eliminate police brutality?
Brutality and abuse of Negro’s civil rights caused the necessity to reform police system and protect minorities from further mistreat. President Clinton supplied police funds with 20 millions dollars to arrange training and employ more Afro-Americans. Later there were taken measures to insure that police mistreat won’t take place in future. Special “warning systems” were established to sort out the police officers who brutally treated the Negroes.
However there are cases of unjustified shootings on the roads, during the criminal pursuits and in other suspicious situations even nowadays. Sometimes the black suspects are shot with multiple fires. Women and children also not protected from police brutality. Thus, inKansas City, a child perished, having been shot after the pursuit of policemen. InCaliforniapolicemen shot an elderly immigrant in his bed during the morning drug raid, although no drugs were found, and even the name on the search warrant was different. Some police officers were dismissed, others were freed of accusation.
A way to improve the situation is to ensure that further abuses from the side of police won’t be tolerated. The state and local authorities should renovate the methods to overcome police maltreat in its destructive forms, as further violence may cause distrust and separation in the society. The government should be responsible for actions of police.