KAMPALA – To write about racism and not to mention the shitshow that has been going down in the U.S. would be ignoring a major debate on racism. As a non-American hailing from a country where the police do not randomly shoot people, the media circus and the “debate” in the U.S. on the killings of Mr. Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Mr. Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Mr. Eric Garner in New York seems surreal at best, really.
Oh, and let’s not forget Mr. Walter Scott from Charleston who got shot and killed on camera because he ran away after being stopped for a broken tail light. Police officer Mr. Michael Slager then lied about why he shot Mr. Scott and placed his stun gun on Walter’s dead body.
Let’s start with the fact that the American police has shot and killed 102 unarmed people since January. In total, they killed 464 people. Evidently the American police force is so trigger-happy that the Guardian can make an interactive map out of the people they’ve killed. Somewhere, something went terribly wrong. Really, I cannot emphasize enough how fucked up this is.
Of those people that get shot, unarmed or not, a disproportionate percentage are black and latino’s (relative to the actual percentage of these groups in the general population). It is twice as likely that an unarmed person who got shot by the police is black (compared to this person being white).
Unsurprisingly, there are suddenly numerous initiatives of police trying to engage with the communities they operate in (link). Like the NY mayor Bill de Blasio prophecised during his appearance on the Daily Show: for the police to be efficient, you need the community on your side. As opposed to it not being on your side because you shoot and kill, on a regular basis, unarmed and innocent (black) people.
I do think that the discussion is too much focused on the innocence of some of these men. Yes, shooting innocent people is immoral by definition, but that emphasis implies that it is okay to shoot someone if they’re NOT innocent (like Mr. Brown, who stole some stuff from a convenience store, or Mr. Gray, who allegedly carried an illegal switchblade, or Mr. Garner, who was selling cigarettes illegally).
For me, the problem is not so much the 102 unarmed people shot, but the fact that the American police force killed 464 people this year. Unarmed or not, that’s a lot of people that the police thought necessary to kill.
Gun violence plagues the U.S. like AIDS, fueled by the insistence that owning a gun is somehow key to having freedom or being free. America, home of the brave and land of the free, where, if you’re black, you will disproportionally get shot at, stopped-and-frisked, and sentenced to jail. As opposed to considering a better measure of freedom being, say, the Press Freedom Index (U.S. ranked #49 in 2015) or the Democracy Index (U.S. ranked #16 in 2014), a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that perhaps the gun legislation in the U.S. is causing more problems than it protects freedom unhinges every attempt at serious debate.
So, if the police have classified you as being black (or hispanic, for that matter), you more likely to get (mis)treated by them. The proposed answer is now body cameras. To be honest, I find it quite ironic now that the police state is surveilling its police. The U.S. illegally watches pretty much everyone: their own citizens, allies, and enemie; but now even its own police force needs to be watched.
It is pathetic that the only way you get the police to not shoot unarmed black men is to equip the police with a camera that records their every move and every conservation. As if the only reason peope behave morally is the possibility of punishment. Once that possibility is absolute, you will have the nicest, kindest, and most cooperative police ever.
Nevermind the gun culture and the racism, the inequality of opportunity that is disproportionally drawn on the lines of race, -what America needs, as NRA-maniac Wayne de la Pierre once said, is a good guy with a gun. Because the only thing that’s going to stop a bad guy with a gun, is said good guy. Unfortunately, the good guys turned out to be bad guys, so let’s put them under surveillance so they HAVE to behave like the good guys they should be…