There are two sides to every story and most of the time, we know which side we cling to. When the topic of police brutality arises, there is without a doubt a debate about to brew. One side of the spectrum believes that the police are doing their job and following protocol, however, the other side thinks otherwise. In order to truly become knowledgeable of your argument, it is wise to know both sides of the spectrum. Not only should you know both sides, but you should also be aware of the historical background to see how this issue has evolved throughout the years. Going back to the 1960s when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was put into place. These were a set of laws that prohibited discrimination in workplaces regardless of one’s race, religion, or sex. This law also applied to segregation in public places such as schools, theaters, and restaurants (Civil Rights Act of 1964).
After the Civil War, a trio of constitutional amendments abolished slavery, made the previous slaves citizens and gave all men the right to vote regardless of race. Nonetheless, numerous states—particularly within the South—used poll taxes, literacy tests and other measures to keep their African-American citizens basically disenfranchised. They too implemented strict segregation through the “Jim Crow” laws and condoned violence from white supremacist groups just like the Ku Klux Klan. For decades after Reconstruction, the U.S. Congress did not pass a single civil rights act. Finally, in 1957, it set up a civil rights section of the Justice Department, alongside a Commission on Civil Rights to examine discriminatory conditions. Three years afterward, Congress provided for court-appointed officials to assist blacks to register to vote. Both of the bills were extremely watered down to overcome southern resistance. When John F. Kennedy entered the White House back in 1961, he at first delayed supporting new anti-discrimination measures. With protests springing up throughout the South—including one in Birmingham, Alabama, where police brutally stifled nonviolent demonstrators with dogs, clubs and high-pressure fire hoses—Kennedy decided to act. In June 1963, he proposed by far the foremost comprehensive civil rights enactment to date, saying the United States “will not be completely free until all of its citizens are free”.
During the 1960s, police brutality was a motivation for a few race riots that occurred in America. The Watts Riots of 1965 happened in South Los Angeles after Marquette Frye, an African American man, was arrested by a white California Patrol officer on a charge of driving while intoxicated. Whereas historians now agree that Frye likely resisted arrest, it is unclear whether the officer used over the top constraint in his arrest. The riots kept going for six days and resulted in 34 deaths, over 1,000 injuries, and over $40 million in property damage. The Detroit Riot of 1967 happened after police attacked an illicit after-hours club serving liquor and arrested all those present, counting 82 African Americans. Nearby residents who saw the raid started protesting, vandalizing property, and setting fires. When police attempted to bar the neighborhood, protesters drove over the bar. The protestation was taken up in other parts of the city. After five days, 43 individuals had died, over 7,000 were arrested, over 1,000 building had burned down. The U.S National Guard and U.S. Army were sent by President Lyndon B. Johnson to end the riot. With the attempts to address the issue of police brutality and racial segregation, the Kerner Commission was created. The Kerner Commission was a group of 11 differing politicians and academicians, designated by President Johnson in 1967. Their job was to explain the race riots and give suggestions for preventing these acts from happening within the future. The President wanted proposals from the commission on how to make peace between minority communities and law enforcement.
This has yet to happen, 55 years ago and police brutality is still an issue. Police shootings of mostly African-American males have prompted civil rights protests across the country. The following quote is from a Reddit who recalls what police brutality was like back then and at the time, 2016 (Unrest of the 1960’s):
I clearly remember my parents and their friends sitting around the kitchen table having a lively discussion/debate about the pros and cons of killing all the protesters,’ recalls the Reddit user, who grew up ‘in a rural poor white family in Minnesota.’ He adds: ‘Some of the more conservative men kept saying the national guard should just come in with machine guns and ‘mow down all the hippies and n*****s’.’ The more ‘moderate’ adults in the room argued that ‘we probably don’t have to kill all of them, just the agitators.
Another Reddit user recalls the broadcast of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (Unrest of the 1960’s):
I was watching TV in the den, my parents had friends over for drinks and they were in the living room. The news interrupted my show to announce his death and I went in and told the group in the [living room]. Someone said ‘serves him right, he was just an n****r’ and everybody laughed.
Back then, racism was openly practiced and cherished in law. One commenter even said that it is easy to forget how acceptable and mainstream that bigotry was in that time. ‘The N-word was used in polite company. Real estate agents refused to show homes in white neighborhoods to anyone but whites. Classified ads had separate help wanted sections for men and women. In parts of the country, there were additional sections for colored men and colored women.’ That being said, ‘The mechanisms by which black people are kept from social equality still function in our society,’ The Reddit user states. ‘Our society is not as segregated, but it is still substantially segregated through economic measures’ (Unrest of the 1960’s)
In today’s society, police brutality is a controversial topic to talk about because one side argues that the police are taking the steps needed to keep the community safe from harm. The other side, however, argues that the police are prejudice, unfair, and targeting specific persons of color. Not only that, the victims are almost always unarmed and still killed. Of course, not all cops are prejudice and unfair but some have racial bias tendencies. 30% of victims in 2015 were unarmed African-American males. 69% of the African-American victims were not suspected of violence or an alleged crime. 99% of the unjust cases in 2015 have not resulted in any officer(s) being convicted of a crime. There are being actions taken to eliminate fewer killing due to a police officer, ultimately attempting to dissolve the controversy between the minorities and police community. The Police Department is requiring officers to use all other options before shooting, all uses of force to be reported, banning chokeholds, and require warnings before shooting (Mapping Police Violence). “As a nation, we require and have come to expect such training and standards of doctors, nurses, home health care professionals, child care workers and teachers. Why should police — who risk their own lives and have the power to take the lives of others — be exempt” (USA Today)?