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Between You and Me
Although many people believe there is no longer persecution against people of color, they aren’t entirely correct. To this day people of color are still judged and targeted by authority figures, politicians, and even other citizens of the world. The only thing that has changed is that this idea is not publicly accepted.
I am often asked whether I identify as black (like my mom) or white (like my dad), but I don’t know how to describe my race. However my parents, and my mom especially, tell me I will always be black in the eyes of the world. Even though I’m only sixteen years old, I’ve seen the way the world sees me as a black boy. I have observed the interaction of two races in the schools, media, and my home, which led me to my research on the inequities against people of color.
In recent years we have seen injustice on people of color through the media. Often this injustice is murder. The men who’ve committed these crimes, mostly police officers, have not been locked up or charged heavily because the victim is black. Since the victim is black, the system considers him to be a criminal or past offender, and to this day that is the mindset of America. People of color, who are citizens the same as anyone else, are viewed differently, as criminals, bad influences, and violent people. For these reasons, if you are a person of color, you will be seen differently and also treated differently. Even when I was eleven, I was stopped by an employee from the TSA for picking up my boarding pass that I accidentally dropped. The woman interrogated me for my ID to see if it checked out with my boarding pass. It wasn’t until now that I realized this was a “stop and frisk” used mainly against minorities to police criminality.
After reviewing nationwide reports, the nonprofit group, the Sentencing Project, states, “Police officers are more likely to stop black and Hispanic drivers for investigative reasons. Once pulled over, people of color are more likely than whites to be searched, and blacks are more likely than whites to be arrested” (Ghandnoosh, Ph.D 6).
In the 1990’s, the former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, introduced a measure to allow police officers to follow strategies such as “broken windows” and “quality of life” in order to keep the neighborhoods of New York safe. In other words, New York City’s “finest” were allowed to stop, question, and frisk, anyone they felt was criminal. This ultimately led to an increase of stops, frisks and misdemeanor arrests of people of color and the murders of two black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
In July 2014, Eric Garner was held down and strangled to death for selling untaxed cigarettes after saying he couldn’t breath over 10 times. Around 20 days later, Michael Brown was stopped for jaywalking and then shot multiple times after running from a struggle with a police officer, even when he put his hands up as commanded. Regarding Garner’s tragic death, Bill Bratton, the former police commissioner of New York, claimed he would retrain his officers on more acceptable use of force during these encounters.
Furthermore, after finding out that Garner had no pulse and was likely to die, a police lieutenant texted to his subordinate officers, “No big deal. We were effecting a lawful arrest.” Certainly to the mother of Eric Garner it was not just “no big deal.” Certainly to all other world wide citizens of all races this was not just “no big deal.” Only to these police officers was this “no big deal.”
From Bill Bratton’s response, I am being told that there will be no shortage or stop to these encounters. From the Lieutenant I am being told Eric Garner's death was lawful, as Garner himself showed no violence or threat to the police.Therefore I am being told by the New York justice system, that I, a boy of African American descent, could be locked up or killed for a petty misdemeanor.
Although I haven’t been targeted by the police, my father has warned me how nothing more than the color of my skin or the style of my clothes can “threaten” them. Several times he’s repeated to me, “I don’t want you wearing a hoodie or clothes that are worn down or torn up.” There is a double standard implicit in his words; a white kid can wear the clothes he wants. There is no stereotype that he’s a criminal. Finally, I asked him why I had to follow his request when all the other boys around me were wearing the same clothes he claimed were unacceptable for me. He answered my question with a story. When I was an infant and we lived in Brooklyn, my father was mugged. When he called the police, they looked for the guy who mugged him. Even though he didn’t mention the mugger’s race, everyone they pointed out was a black male between the ages of 14-26 with a hoodie over his head.
On further reflection on his story, I realized that a hoodie is the prime wardrobe worn by African Americans living in poorer areas. Yet, almost every teenage boy wears a hoodie to school to portray a gangster or a criminal and to prove his masculinity. I also realized these boys use slang such as “n****” to prove they are like the “black boy gangsters of Compton or Harlem.” Often white boys, who are friends of mine or who I barely know, will refer to me as “my n****.” I merely reply, “What’s up” because they’re trying to relate to me as their bro, but in a “cooler way.”
In reality it annoys me when they say this because although “n****” is often used by African Americans in modern time, it comes from a pejorative and a hurtful word. “N*****” as used throughout history is to lower a person of color. African Americans use it often now as a replacement for “bro'' or “dude” to take the racism out of the word. However, when these teenage boys, who are not of color, use it to mimic the black boys, they are completely disregarding the history of where this word comes from and how this is still a racial slur.
Many people still believe that there is no longer the same prejudice as there was in history. However, racism and stereotypes are still there as shown by the murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, the standard that black equals criminal, and the passive use of a racial words. The only difference is that the idea of racism is buried within society because it is no longer publicly accepted.