By Eddy Montilla.
When you try to find a solution for a problem and you only look at it from one angle, what you get at the end is a wrong or a partial answer. This is exactly the situation that the U.S. government, mass media and people in general have every time that a young black man is killed by police. They focus their attention, comments and bias either on the black killed man or on the white officer who killed him. When two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed in different incidents, but only separated by an interval of hours, the mass media quickly informed that 123 people have been killed by police so far this year with official figures showing that young black men are 21 times more likely to be killed than young white men. In cases like these ones, Many people always take to the streets in protest against what they call clear racism. Some people, like Micah Johnson, who killed five police officers in Dallas’ shooting, are looking for retaliatory actions against white police officers. And all of them are absolutely wrong because they only see or can only see one angle of the problem: A WHITE police officer killing an UNARMED BLACK man. They are only thinking about racism. How about the other angles?
Police officers take action based on judgments. If their calculation is wrong they can be killed or they can erroneously kill an innocent man. They do not base their actions on racism as many people believe, but on figures, and in statistical terms, who has the greater proclivity for the use of force and murder? Obviously, this argument does not entitle an officer to shoot a black person during a situation that “looks suspicious”, but it will give you an idea (if you put yourself in his or her place) about the difficult dilema they have to deal with: To shoot or being shot. I do not defend or approve any action that leads to the death of any person since it is an horrendous act regardless people’s color, actions, etc. However, it is not inconsistent with that to say that police officers are not killing black people because of racial prejudice as many people think or say. Police officers who daily deal with cases where black people are involved are not the best. I know that, you know that too, but they are not the bad guys of the movie either. They leave home and do not know if they will return until they ring the bell, which means that they live day by day under constant stress. It is very easy to criticize when you are not the person who is in great peril. Put yourself in their shoes and you will see and feel different, you will understand that there are more angles to see when it comes to solve this problem.
Whenever USA is shocked by cases like Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s, people do not waste time to label them as “unarmed and innocent black people who were brutally killed.” Unarmed? Probably right. Innocent? Absolutely wrong. Many of these black people who have been killed are far from being angels, just to cite one example, these two young men whose death sparked immediate national protests were not precisely role models or something similar: Sterling’s records show that he had been arrested in the past for aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, marijuana possession and for carrying an illegal weapon. Castile had not felony convictions like Sterling had, but Minnesota police had stopped him for driving without a muffler, for not having an insurance card, for driving after revocation of his driver’s license, and so on. They accused him of minor traffic issues dozens of times. The fact of having committed a crime (either a single misdemeanor or murder) can not justify the decision of shooting a person to death. That’s not right. But it is not right either to protest in the streets in the way many people do, defending those killed people as if they were a portrayal of Mother Teresa simply because they are not, at least, that is what they criminal record shows.
Racism exerts significant influence over a police officer when deciding whether to pull a trigger or not against a black person in the United States, but this is not the only fact that causes the problem. It is not the problem itself. Economic and social inequality, the wide gap between the haves and the have-nots and low levels of formal education might well be the real reasons of the loss of so many lives. Now the important question is with people’s attention directed towards the tip of the iceberg, will they be able to dive to the bottom and find the crux of the problem and its solution?
This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion with Eddy Montilla.
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