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Morgan Shipp

Kimberly Kendall-Drucker

English 112-10

10 May 2017

Liberty and Justice for Whom?

At a young age, we are taught the Pledge of Allegiance. As we grow older, we open our

eyes to face the brutal reality that ...with liberty and justice for all, is a cold and harsh lie. In a

country where racism and discrimination is far from new, people are tired and hungry for the

justice that is promised. Police officers continually make illegal and lethal decisions, due to

racial profiling and discrimination with little to no consequences.

America has a long history of racism towards African Americans. Throughout history,

Blacks have been denied both rights and respect. Now, rights are intact, but respect is still hard to

come by. African Americans continue to get pulled over and/or arrested just because they are

black: In no sector of American society is this racialized reality more glaring than in the nation's

criminal justice system, (Dunn). African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total

2.3 million incarcerated population (NAACP). This statistic forms a stereotype that black

people are more likely to be criminals and the rate of racial profiling and police brutality then

increases. The movie, Selma, deals with police brutality on multiple occasions, just because

African Americans wanted basic rights and respect. It shows that its been happening for a long

time, and although we as a society in America have come a long way since the Civil Rights

Movement, it has only been a little over 50 years and we still have a long way to go.

Angela Davis is well-known for her contribution to the Civil Rights Movement as a

member of the Black Panthers. Today she is a professor, activist, and feminist. In an interview
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with Stuart Jeffries from The Guardian, Davis tells him that nothing is going to change just by

indicting police who kill black people and that although they should be held accountable, it just

is not enough (Jeffries, The Guardian). Although she makes a strong, valid point, Davis fails to

realize that if officers were to actually have to pay for their wrongdoings and crimes, it would

ignite change. She states, There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that

takes us all the way back to the days of slavery...the development of the Ku Klux Klan, meaning

that times really havent changed, and she believes that people being brought to justice will not

bring any change. However, if more and more people of color could be brought to justice, it

would set a precedent and less police would result to such violent measures. Police continue to

take these measures because there is no consequence to their actions. Agreeably, it is not going to

be easy, it is not going to be fast, and it is not going to be enough, but it will be a push in the

right direction that will make everything else easier.

One of the biggest problems with the criminal justice system, when police are at fault, is

the prosecutor's. Police and prosecutors work to together quite frequently and personal and

professional relationships are formed, therefore, the prosecutors are going to be biased and find

it difficult to charge police for their crimes. There is a lot of conflict for the prosecutor which

brings the questions do prosecutors have too much power? and what can change for the justice

system during trials against police so that it is fair and just (Levine). These cases should not be

handled by the local D.A.; it should be removed to another county that doesnt work with the

officers county. This is so that no one would have worked closely to the officer on trial. The

reason why this isnt already happening because it takes too much time and money, but it is

worth every minute and every penny to ensure that justice is server and people pay for their

actions even if those people are indeed police officers. Police officers are human too, and with
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that fact, they also make mistakes like any other human. It is very possible that an officer

stereotypes someone and use lethal force against them because it was in their head that they

could be dangerous, and they may feel guilty for it. However, they still deserve to be punished

for what they did, and how the system works right now makes it harder for the judges and

prosecutors to see anything other than a human (that they know and care for) making a mistake.

It also, then, sets a precedent that other officers can get away with it.

Police are here to fight crime and protect civilians; however, recent events have shown

otherwise. The once protector has now become the subject of anger, and more importantly, fear

amongst the black community nationwide. Its not just adults who feel this way, but kids who

dont deserve to lose such innocent views on this world so early in life. Following the riot that

broke out in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, a study took place that questioned local

youths on how they felt about the situation. Estreet, Wells, Tirmazi, Sinclair, and Nebbit write

how scared the youth were and how the police had blocked off the buses so they couldnt get

home from school. They continued on how their parents were scared and how they were scared

about their parents trying to come get them. Getting out of school should be a relieving matter;

an experience that should be stress free, yet those kids were not relieved. They were scared for

their lives, their friends lives, and their families lives. The kids who were involved in the study

were already old enough to understand what was happening and why, but imagine smaller kids.

Imagine being a child and going to school to hear that your classmate isnt ever coming back.

That child isnt coming back because he was mistakenly shot and killed by a police officer who

thought he was carrying a real gun when it was actually a toy. These children are losing their

friends, parents, aunts and uncles, brothers, sisters, etc. before they can even comprehend what
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death is, let alone that other people kill others. They have to grow up too soon because this is

happening a lot and all over the country.

What happens when families do lose someone? Children are nave, but what happens

when a mother loses her child to a police officer who had no right to even have his weapon out to

begin with? How can someone kill someones child and carry on? These are the types of

questions that come to mind when hearing Constance Malcolms story. Malcolms son, Ramarley

Graham, was shot in front of her younger son and mother in her home (without a warrant) by

officer Richard Haste, who wrongfully believed that he was in possession of a firearm (Malcolm,

New York Times). It was a situation that couldve easily been handled a different way, where no

one had to die, but instead Haste took lethal measures anyway. Five years later, and Haste still

managed to get raises while he only got demoted to desk duty (Malcolm, New York Times). Five

years later, and Constance Malcolm still feels unrest because the man who took her son away

from her is living a normal life. Her younger son had to grow up fast and was most likely scarred

from that experience, and she has to live with a hole in her heart only the death of a child could

make. Her son was not sick; he was not already dying. No, one second he was there, just fine,

and the other second he was gone forever. People tend to neglect the families of the victims

because they either want to hold on to the idea that police are our protectors, or theyre too

frightened to think it might happen to them. If they stopped, for just a few minutes, to really

think about how the family was doing, they would better understand why this is such a big issue

in our country, and reacting in rage is not going to be the answer to fixing it.

For everyone who is upset about these deaths, theres someone else trying to find

reasoning behind the officers actions to support them. They justify it because the victim did look

suspicious or they had been doing something mildly illegal, but that does not mean they deserve
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to lose their lives. A study revealed that the chances of getting killed or injured during a police

encounter are mostly the same across races (Oaklander, Time). Although the article does

mention that more minorities get pulled over than white people, it fails to highlight the brutal and

racist reasonings by the shootings. Yes, police are more likely to use their guns if the person

theyve pulled over resists in anyway, but fear can make people do things they would not

normally do. African Americans continue to see other black people getting killed by police, so it

is understandable that they would be frightened, even if they hadnt done anything and they may

run or resist. If the officer hadnt been racially motivated to pull the person over in the first place,

then no one would end up injured or dead. Still, even if said person who was pulled over had a

reason to be pulled over like drugs, for example, that still does not excuse them ending up dead

by the encounter with the officer. Unless the civilian pulls out a gun on the officer, or is wanted

for murder and the officer has enough reasoning that their own life is in danger, there is no

reason to shoot and kill anyone, even if they were running. There are more than 500 police

killings a year in the United States, and that should prove to people that something is not right in

the system (Zimring 6). Although that number is pretty evenly divided by races, there are more

innocent people of color being killed than white people. Less white people are being pulled over,

so when they are, there is probably cause and most white people who get pulled over are going to

have a reason to resist or run because they know they are doing something illegal and that there

is going to be more of a reason to shoot them. However, no one deserves to be killed at all, but it

is true that there are more racially involved deaths due to police action than not.

There is a clear problem with todays criminal justice system. That being that it fails to

recognize police officers as criminals when they are killing people of color without justifiable

reason. The problem continues as the country falls in fear of those who are meant to protect us;
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those who were once known as heroes. This problem must end, starting with finding a new way

to make sure the police officers responsible for those deaths do get held accountable for their

actions. To do this, we must fight for it because its not going to be easy, its not going to happen

fast, and in the end its not going to be enough to end racism. However, remembering those who

we have lost to this problem is what is going to give the nation strength to change. Remember,

Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. Remember Sandra Bland, Darnesha

Harris, Gynnya McMillen, and Symone Marshall. Remember those names and all of the others

before them and those yet to come. Remember their families and use that fear, and anger, and

sadness and let it drive a revolution of people who are hungry for justice and are hopeful that

they will receive it. Police officers have been using lethal force based on racial discrimination for

too long, and it is time they received the consequences.

Works Cited
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Criminal Justice Fact Sheet. NAACP, Accessed

18 Apr. 2017.

Dunn, Ronnie A. "Race and the Relevance of Citizen Complaints Against the Police."

Administrative Theory & Praxis, vol. 32, no. 4, 2010, pp. 557-577, Research Library,


Estreet, Anthony T., et al. "Race and Social Justice in Baltimore: The Youth Perspective."

Reflections : Narratives of Professional Helping, vol. 21, no. 3, 2015, pp. 64-75,

Research Library,


Jeffries, Stuart. Angela Davis: 'Unbroken Line of Police Violence in US Back to Slavery'.

The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 Dec. 2014,


Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

Levine, Kate. "Who Shouldn't Prosecute the Police." Iowa Law Review, vol. 101, no. 4, 2016,

pp. 1447-1496, Research Library.


Malcolm, Constance. The Police Killed My Unarmed Son in 2012. Im Still Waiting for

Justice. The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Feb. 2017,

still-waiting-for-justice.html. Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.

Oakland, Mandy. Police Brutality: Racism in Police Shootings and Arrests. Time, Time, 27
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July 2016, Accessed 4 Apr.


Selma. Dir. Ava Duvernay. By Paul Webb. Perf. David Oyelowo and Tom Wilkinson and

Carmen Ejogo and Tim Roth. Paramount Home Entertainment, 2015. DVD.

Zimring, Franklin E. When Police Kill. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2017.