“Scratch My Back, and I’ll Scratch Yours”: Stereotypes are over, if you want it.

by tcicconi on October 19, 2015 - 10:17am

Part A) Summary.                                                                                                    

The article that I will be summarizing is entitled "How Systematic Racism Entangles All Police Officers - Even Black Cops" by German Lopez on May 7th, 2015 for Vox. The Article's main focus relies on how systemic racism and bias has an effect on all police officers working under the United States Law Enforcement, no matter what race they may be associated with. The author introduces his topic by bringing focus onto a black police officer named Neil Franklin. Despite his associated race, Franklin has developed harsh racial bias against black minorities after serving under both the Baltimore Police Departments and Maryland State Police over many decades. Could it be that black police officers are racist against their own race? Through Mr. Franklin, the author states that institutional and systematic racism are at play in the US Law Enforcement, which are much more powerful than one's personal views on race. This systematic racism is mainly seen in the way how policing is racially skewed and biased; police departments spend a majority of their time patrolling extremely segregated crime ridden and poverty stricken areas, that areas predominantly populated with black or other minority citizens. It also doesn't help that police officers are encouraged by the government through federal grants to arrest as many individuals as possible for drug related crimes, or even measuring the amount of arrests cops executed by the officer as a means to evaluate their eligibility to receiving a raise or a promotion. The author goes on to mention that although racism can be seen on the individual level, a majority of racism can be found at the implicit level, that is mainly built on subconscious biases. This unconscious bias is developed in a variety of different ways; some researchers even state that media is a large contributing factor of this; African-Americans are more often portrayed as being more aggressive or violent in comparison to other races. As a result, the stereotype is unconsciously connected in these officers’ heads, whether or not they actually believe in it. The officers also go through an involuntary process known as de-individualization, which is described by the author as people losing their sense of self-awareness when taking part in large groups. Because of this process, black police officers in particular are more likely to associate themselves as police officers first over belonging to a certain race, which can make it easier for them to discriminate against citizens of their own race. The author concludes that these issues will unfortunately not be solved in the near future; he suggests certain ideas that could potentially reduce racial bias amongst American cops, such as raising awareness towards these issues, have them participate in communal activities in predominantly black communities, in order to help reduce the subconscious bias, as well as advocating the creation of new policies in order to reduce the skewedness of present law enforcement.

Part B) Analysis.

            The last year and a half have been a very difficult time for race relations in the United States; it has shown that there still is lots of progress to be made in terms of issues of racism, bias and discrimination. The article at hand highlights these issues head on- and proposes that the bias that is perpetrated by the officers may not necessarily be their fault- but mainly because of the system that they work for.  This is why it wasn't too surprising to me to see that it was possible to have police officers who had biases against people of their own race. This was mainly because that is unfortunately simply too naive to think that 'all white cops have biases, and all minority officers do not’. This passage of the article also reminded me of the movie “Crash”- in which a young police officer who  seems to be skeptical of minority stereotypes, but though an unfortunate chain of events (he shoots an innocent black citizen) he realizes his own prejudices. Although the police officer in that movie is white, the message is still very relevant. Even if these individuals were not working for a policing system that uses skewed measures to implement law enforcement upon individuals, it is still very possible for individuals to have biases against others. As the author clearly states, there are numerous different sources in which these stereotypes can be developed on a subconscious basis. If all of these stereotypes are developed unconsciously, how can we prevent individuals from making biases against certain races? Of course, as there can be many education programs that are created in order for the police officers to hopefully lose some of these biases- in fact, in a research paper conducted by James Baker, named "Just Kids? Peer Racism in a Predominantly White City", the majority of minorities who have experienced harsh racism agree that education and the creation of community groups related to racism and other stereotypes would help eliminate bias (82). However, I personally believe that the solution is not that simple; such programs may shed some sort of light for certain police officers, or perhaps even put certain things into perspective for them, but will one hour-and-a-half seminar really help destroy or reduce bias to the subconscious level? We have to remember that the stereotypes that are found in these individual’s heads are provided by the media, that already have a large presence in our daily lives (which has greatly increased with the advent of the internet), that constantly push and advocate these ideals in our heads.  As a result, when police officers make decisions regarding an individual’s innocence, they will mostly rely on their gut feeling, which is fueled by their biased subconscious as developed by mass media. Education on the issue, in my opinion, will only truly be successful if it is an ongoing process- similarly to this Reality of Race and Racism course- which will be more effective due to the fact more content is brought forward to the police officers, which will thus be more effective in breaking down these stereotypes, to the point where they will be capable of identifying them and recognizing that these racial stereotypes are not necessarily applicable to all individuals of that race. If they hear a variation of this message over a prolonged period of time, similarly to the ones provided to the media, they will adopt these ideals both consciously and unconsciously. There are some changes however that both America and its Law Enforcement system will have to make in order to decrease the skewness of policing in areas with elevated crime rates. The author of the article proposes the creation of new laws and policies that would help prevent this skewed policing, including less police patrolling in areas. I don’t however necessarily agree with this concept; if cops stop patrolling these regions with elevated criminal activity, will it not only increase the amount of criminal activity in these neighborhoods? We can’t simply take out the police officers that are patrolling in these regions and place them into ones that have less crime; these areas simply have less priority in the eyes of the Law Enforcement system, and I think that this is fair. Although I do advocate for the consistent police patrol, I am not necessarily promoting the concept of a police state either. To fix these issues relating to high levels of crime in these areas would rely on providing or renewing infrastructure to match the standards of the ones provided in wealthier regions. This will lead to job creation, and thus potentially reduce the crime rates in the area.  This is where the American Government needs to provide the change in itself; there are still lots of racial segregation issues in terms of housing policies in the United States, which has a heavy hand in determining neighborhood equality and quality. A majority of black neighborhoods lack the important factors that have a large hand in determining the amount of poverty there is in a neighborhood; unfortunately, black neighborhoods with low poverty are more comparable to white neighborhoods with high poverty than to ones with lower poverty. The fact is, if we actually treated the African-American population as equally as we did the Caucasian population, then maybe there would be more income and opportunity in these regions, less crime, not as much need for law enforcement to police in these areas, which thus exponentially reduces bias in policing. As the saying goes; “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. We have to help one another out in order to hopefully get rid of racism, and bias within American Law Enforcement. 

 

 

Works Cited

Lopez, George. “How Systematic Racism Entangles All Police Officers - Even Black Cops.” Vox. Vox Media, May 7th, 2015. Web. Accessed on October 12th, 2015.

 

Baker, James. “Just Kids? Peer Racism in a Predominantly White City.” Refuge 29.1 (2013). 75-85. Print. 

Comments

I decided to respond to your post, because racism in the police system is an issue that causes a lot of conflicts. While reading your summary, I was surprised to learn that police officers with black skin also have stereotypes about certain skin colors. However, I agree with you when you said that systematic racism is more powerful than personal stereotypes. On the other hand, it is important to not mix color of the skin and identity. As Audrey Smedley explained in her article "Race" and the Construction of Human Identity", the dominant society should not impose a "racial" identity on people from minorities. The color of your skin does not define who you are, and even less your behavior/actions. Moreover, I believe that a high police patrolling in certain areas is not necessarily linked to race; if data shows that there is a lot of criminal activities in an area, police officers need to supervise it. Finally, I agree with you that the best solution is to give equal chance of job opportunity to people from everywhere in order to perhaps reduce the quantity of crimes in certain areas. It is not through racial discrimination that we will make this world safer; it is with respect and humanity.