Treatment of African Americans in America
America is sought out to be a wonderful place of freedom and opportunity, “land of the free, home of the brave”. Yes, America is a wonderful country full of opportunity and many freedoms, but if you read between the lines there are generations upon generations of African Americans who have been and still are oppressed against in this “free” country. The injustice and maltreatment of African Americans has been around ever since they step foot on American soil. African Americans were taken from their homeland and enslaved and treated as chattel. Even after the end of slavery, African Americans were placed under harsh, racist laws that prevented them from carrying out their lives as normal American citizens. The injustice still lives on today. There are many cases of racial profiling in everyday life. It happens in the workplace and in the courtroom. In addition to the racial profiling, over the last 10 years, there have been many cases of extreme police brutality that have resulted in deaths of African American men and women at the hands of Caucasian police officers. Over the years, there has been a call for reparations for the inhumane doings of American society and that is a call that remains today, unanswered. Until we, America, as a whole, recognize our moral debt, we cannot stand together as one.
America has a dark history of mistreating blacks. These people have been mistreated over hundreds upon hundreds of years. The enslavement of blacks in America began in the year 1619, as the first wave of Africans were taken from their homeland and brought to Jamestown, Virginia to boost the production of tobacco in the United States. As the production of tobacco and other crops grew, the demand for slaves to farm these crops grew as well. These slaves were taken by force and sold for little money at auctions to the highest bidder. America brought in over 4 million slaves. These millions of African men and women built a strong economic foundation for America. How were these men and women paid for their hard work? They were not paid. They were treated horribly, being whipped, brutally beaten, and in some cases, killed. Now, eventually slavery was ended by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, but that did not come until January 31st, 1865. There is nearly two and a half centuries of enslavement and over a million deaths of innocent African men, women, boys, and girls gone unpaid instead they were set “free”.
Upon the end of slavery came the Jim Crow Laws. According to u-s-history.com, ” Jim Crow Laws were statutes and ordinances established between 1874 and 1975 to separate the white and black races in the American South. In theory, it was to create ‘separate but equal’ treatment, but in practice Jim Crow Laws condemned black citizens to inferior treatment and facilities. Education was segregated as were public facilities such as hotels and restaurants under Jim Crow Laws. In fact, the United States military was segregated until integrated by Harry S. Truman after World War II.” In Montgomery, Alabama, blacks and whites were not allowed to sit near each other on the bus. Blacks sat towards the back of the bus as whites sat at the front of the bus. Whites, during the early never had to stand on the bus. They always had a right to a seat while blacks had to stand in the back of the bus even if there was an open seat in the “white section” of the bus. Rosa Parks, during the 1950s, began to challenge these unjust laws. On her way home from a long day of work, Rosa Parks sat at the front of a bus and she refused to give up her seat to a white-man. Parks was arrested and thrown in jail for not giving up her seat. Following her arrest, a 32-month long bus boycott was put into place by the community. A Supreme Court ruling in November of 1965 found that the segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional and whites and blacks could sit anywhere they wanted to. Many of the Jim Crow Laws were banned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the racism and injustice still did not end in America.
African Americans in America have always been mistreated by police. “Statistics from the NPMSRP were compiled between the months of April 2009 and June 2010. During this time, there were 5,986 reports of misconduct, 382 fatalities linked to misconduct, settlements and judgments that totaled $347,455,000, and 33 % of misconduct cases that went through to convictions and 64 % of misconduct cases that received prison sentences. The average length of time convicted officers spent in prison was 14 months (Police Brutality Statistics, April 13, 2011),” (Chaney, Racism And Police Brutality In America). In the years 2012-2015 there was an epidemic of police brutality bases and some in which the victim was killed. As of June 11, 2015, according to data, there were 490 people killed by police. Out of those 490 people, 138 were African American. That number is nearly 30% and that is a big number considering African Americans only make up 13.2% of the United States’ population. Furthermore, American police killed 59 people within the first 24 days of 2015. That is more people killed by the police than the past 24 years in England and Wales. Within many cases of police brutality against African Americans, the officers were found not guilty and no punishment was given to those officers. For example, the case of Brown vs Wilson. In Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014, an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson. During the case, clear and conclusive video evidence of the situation was presented. Many witnesses support Officer Wilson’s story and many support Mike Brown’s story. One witness states, “Rather than aggressing, Brown was trying to prevent the cop from shooting him and ran when he got the chance, Johnson said. Johnson testified that Wilson shot at Brown while he was running away and killed him as Brown stumbled toward him with hands raised, trying to surrender, telling him he had no gun, angry that the cop kept shooting,” (Troutt). Even with video evidence and many witnesses stating his story was false, Officer Wilson was acquitted and he received no criminal punishment. Another example of this incident happened in Staten Island, New York City, on July 17, 2014. Eric Garner, under police custody, was put in a chokehold by for about 15 to 19 seconds and he died of suffocation. Eric became another victim of police brutality and excessive use of force by a police officer. The New York grand jury refused to indict Eric’s killer and no punishment or suspension was put in place. These are both examples, among many, that there is an absence of service of justice when there is clear evidence pointing that the police officers used excessive force in which ended in the death of an African American who did not deserve to die.
Most recently, on November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice, a 12 year old African American boy was shot and killed by an officer-in-training, Timothy Loehmann, outside a Cleveland, Ohio recreation center. According to cnn.com, ” The November 2014 shooting unfolded shortly after a witness at the recreation center called 911, reporting there was ‘a guy with a pistol,’ adding that the weapon was ‘probably’ fake.” Furthermore, “Information that the gun the caller saw was probably not real and that the person holding it appeared to be a juvenile was not conveyed to Loehmann and Garmback, according to recordings that law enforcement released.” Moreover, “When the officers arrived they encountered a person who looked much older than 12 and in communication played for reporters Monday, one of the officers can be heard relaying that a person in their 20s had been shot.” Now Rice was 5 feet and 7 inches tall and he weighed about 170 pounds, but he was still a twelve year old boy. Continuing, “Video of the incident shows a patrol car pull up on the snowy grass near a gazebo where Tamir is standing. Within seconds of arriving on the scene, Loehmann shoots the boy.” There is no evidence that there was a warning given to the young boy. Video evidence only shows the officer arriving on the scene and there he shoots and kills 12 year old Tamir Rice. In conclusion of the trial, officer Loehmann and his trainer were not indicted and are still free and another case goes without justice being served.
There have been many solutions proposed to solve the police brutality epidemic in America. For example, “Cops must wear cameras and microphones to preempt exculpatory storytelling,” (Troutt). Furthermore, “Cops must be well trained in avoiding implicit bias, so they don’t dehumanize the public they serve,” (Troutt, IMAGINING RACIAL JUSTICE IN AMERICA). Also, “Judges should be urged to allow juries to hear evidence of implicit bias among police officers,” (Troutt, IMAGINING RACIAL JUSTICE IN AMERICA). Another example, “Police departments must finally keep reliable records on their use of deadly force so we can stop guessing at the numbers,” (Troutt, IMAGINING RACIAL JUSTICE IN AMERICA). Continuing, “Prosecutors should more aggressively seek manslaughter charges rather than murder charges, so that lethal mistakes don’t go unpunished,” (Troutt, IMAGINING RACIAL JUSTICE IN AMERICA). Lastly, “The appointment of special prosecutors in questionable cases should be routine, to avoid the conflict of interest between prosecutors and police,” (Troutt, IMAGINING RACIAL JUSTICE IN AMERICA). These are all great solutions to reduce the rate of police brutality complaints, but the injustice lives on in everyday life.
One paradigm of the African American race in America is that African American’s are mostly criminal. Black males fit the “prototypical criminal” stereotype. As written in “Racism And Police Brutality In America”, African Americans with more “Afrocentric” features tend to receive longer prison sentences than African Americans with less Afrocentric features. Some of these features include, dark skin, wide noses, fuller lips, etc. “Negrophobia” is described as the irrational fear of African Americans and the fear This is a fear that is experienced by many Americans and it is based on the racial and criminal stereotypes of African Americans. Negrophobia heightens racism, psychological distress, and discrimination experienced by African Americans.
One of the biggest cases of injustice happened on the night of February 26, 2012. As best described by cnn.com, ” Trayvon Martin walked into a 7-Eleven in Sanford, Florida, grabbing a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona iced tea. The hood from his dark gray sweatshirt over his head, he walked up to the counter, reached deep into his pants’ pockets, paid the clerk, then walked out.” Martin was on his way home to his father’s fiancé’s house after grabbing his snack. On his way home, Trayvon encountered 28 year old, George Zimmerman, who at the time was serving as a neighborhood watch volunteer. Continuing, ” Zimmerman’s voice, meanwhile, comes through on a 911 call he made around that time, telling a dispatcher about ‘a real suspicious guy.’ ‘This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around.’ The dispatcher asked Zimmerman, who’d called 911 at least four times previously for other incidents, if he was following the person. He replies, ‘Yes.’ ‘OK. We don’t need you to do that,’ the dispatcher responded. But Zimmerman followed him anyway. There is not one person that can tell what happened that night during an exchange of words between Zimmerman and Martin, but it ended in the shooting and death of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African American teenager, at the hands of George Zimmerman, a 28 year old, white-hispanic, who racially profiled an African American teenager who was just trying to walk home. George Zimmerman, to this day, is still a free man who faces no punishment for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
African Americans are also discriminated against in the workplace. In fact, “‘I’m A Black Man And I’m Doing This Job Very Well’: How African American Professional Men Negotiate The Impact Of Racism On Their Career Development” states that African American men trail caucasian males in workforce participation, promotions, and pay. This article also states that African American men are twice more likely to be unemployed. Also, many employers refuse to extend the same opportunities for African American men as they do other employees. There are many reasons as to why they experience discrimination. For example, “Differences in cultural styles often lead employers to conclude that black men have attitudes and personal characteristics that conflict with a predominantly white social atmosphere. Many black men—although certainly not all—are more verbally direct, expressive, and assertive than white men, who provide the standard against which black male behavior is measured,” (Cornelius, ‘I’m A Black Man And I’m Doing This Job Very Well’: How African American Professional Men Negotiate The Impact Of Racism On Their Career Development). Yes, there are some African American men who fit the stereotype, but there are a higher percentage of them who do not, so this racial profiling should not happen.
There have been numerous attempts tried to help African Americans in America gain reparations for the countries wrongly doings. For example, a black emigrationist convention was held in 1854 and it called for a national indemnity. One of the statements filed by the convention states that America should , “redress of our grievances for the unparalleled wrongs, undisguised impositions, and unmitigated oppression which we have suffered at the hands of this American people,” (Allen, Past Due: The African American Quest For Reparations). Reparations were not given to African Americans after this. Furthermore, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner estimated that the United States owes African Americans $40 billion for unpaid labor. The Declaration of the Rights the Negro People of the world (Point 15) states, “We strongly condemn the cupidity of those nations of the world who, by open aggression or secret schemes, have seized the territories and inexhaustible natural wealth of Africa, and we place on record our most solemn determination to reclaim the treasures and possession of the vast continent of our forefathers,” (Allen, Past Due: The African American Quest For Reparations). Again, many people come together and demand reparations for moral and social injustice, but are not rewarded. Lastly the profound activist group, the Black Panthers, especially demanded reparations for injustice. They created a ten point program in which the points state the wrongdoings of “White America”. Point 3 of their ten point program states, “We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million Black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make,” (Allen, Past Due: The African American Quest for Reparations). Germany aided the Jews and gave reparations to the Jewish community for the wrongdoings of their country so why has the United States not rewarded the African American people with similar reparations?
America will stand, a house-divided, until we reckon our own moral and social debts. Statistics shows that African Americans have been mistreated ever since they stepped foot on American soil. America can never be able to forget or get over what they have done to generations upon generations of African American peoples. There have been efforts made by a numerous amount activist groups to gain reparations for America’s dark past and present, but that is a call that may never be answered. America, as it is still sits separate and a house-divided cannot stand alone.
Allen, Robert L. “Past Due: The African American Quest For Reparations.” Black Scholar 28.2 (1998): 2. Humanities International Complete.
Botelho, Greg. “What Happened the Night Trayvon Martin Died – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d.
Chaney, Cassandra, and Ray Robertson. “Racism And Police Brutality In America.” Journal Of African American Studies 17.4 (2013): 480. Advanced Placement Source.
Cornileus, Tonya. “‘I’m A Black Man And I’m Doing This Job Very Well’: How African American Professional Men Negotiate The Impact Of Racism On Their Career Development.” Journal Of African American Studies 17.4 (2013): 444. Advanced Placement Source.
Fantz, Ashley, Steve Almasy, and Catherine E. Shoichet. “No Indictment in Tamir Rice Case – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d.
“Jim Crow Laws.” Jim Crow Laws. 2016, U-s-history.com, n.d.
TROUTT, DAVID DANTE. “IMAGINING RACIAL JUSTICE IN AMERICA. (Cover Story).” Nation 299.26 (2014): 17. Advanced Placement Source.
Treatment of African Americans in America