Racist Police or Keepers of the Peace?

Police officers are represented as keepers of the peace. Yet recently, many African American citizens have experienced what seems to be becoming reoccurring event where police brutality is becoming a social norm. Martese Johnson is one of these people. 20-year-old Martese Johnson was arrested outside a Charlottesville pub. Agents of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stated, “[Johnson] was very agitated and belligerent” (BBC News). Bryan Beaubrun, a student from the University of Virginia was the one who took the pictures of Johnson’s face after being beaten by the ABC officers. Beaubrun said, “He didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all” (ibid.). The article states that the officers were white male officers who stated that they approached Johnson after he was denied entry into the pub and proceeded to arrest him after pinning him down on the ground. Though the governor of Virginia has asked for an investigation to take place on this matter, Johnson still had to go to court after being charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice (CBSNews). The case is to continue until May 28.

This type of story is not much of surprise in today’s news articles but the article’s title does not really seem to fit the story. The title is “Virginia governor calls for inquiry into student arrest” but the article only mentions the governor’s statement once and continues to talk about events following the incident and the reception it has attained. BBC News seemed to take an “anti-racism” approach as it talks about how the agents are white and also includes a statement from Beaubrun who states that there was clear abuse of power demonstrated by the ABC agents.

As mentioned above, these types of articles are becoming more and more common as we see police brutality shown towards African-American citizens, most recently the Walter Scott shooting caught on camera by an unidentified bystander. The event took place in North Charleston, South Carolina where a white police officer fired eight shots at Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, after trying to run away from the officer (CBC News). I have posted the video but want to point out that this video is very violent as we can see the officer shoot the man and also contains inappropriate language. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.


In the video provided by the New York Times, the editor points out how the officer drops his stun gun beside the body to support his reason for shooting the victim where he stated that Scott tried to go for his gun (Schmidt and Apuzzo). The police officer is facing murder charges at the moment and has been arrested. Stories of police officers mistreating black people have really boomed within the last year starting with the Ferguson incident in August of last year but anti-blackness, the discrimination of black bodies going unacknowledged, does not play a role here as we continue to see multiple ways of people retaliating through social media using hashtag activism as a form of activism through the internet. Police officers around the US seem to be using violence as a lens where they portray visual minorities as violent and must use violent force towards them. This can be seen in a video of a homeless black man being killed by white officers in Los Angeles (BBC News).

Media support towards the black community is rising, as more men are being arrested or killed by police officers in the United States as seen in the titles of each article mentioned in this post. For those facing false charges, they acquire support from other members of the community. During Johnson’s trial, over 100 supporters were dressed in black to show unity and peace and demanded that Johnson be freed (CBSNews).

America is facing a problem with institutional racism where they are unable to provide a professional and appropriate service (in this case the justice system) to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin (Aulette and Wittner 580). But what we are also seeing is the support from community members to fight back against these actions and support for the families of those affected by this. We can put an end to this type of oppression. We have done it before in the past with the freedom of slaves and civil rights movements for everybody, therefore we must work together once again for equal rights.

BBC News. “US Police Shoot Homeless Man Dead in Los Angeles.” BBC News. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31688942&gt;.

CBC News. “Walter Scott Shooting: South Carolina Officer Fired, Charged with Murder.”CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/walter-scott-shooting-south-carolina-officer-fired-charged-with-murder-1.3024702&gt;.

CBSNews. “Martese Johnson, University of Virginia Student in Bloody Arrest, Makes First Court Appearance.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/martese-johnson-university-of-virginia-student-in-bloody-arrest-makes-first-court-appearance/&gt;.

Aulette, Judy, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. Oxford UP, 2014. 580. Print.

Schmidt, Michael, and Matt Apuzzo. “South Carolina Officer Is Charged With Murder in Black Man’s Death.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/us/south-carolina-officer-is-charged-with-murder-in-black-mans-death.html?_r=0&gt;.

BBC News. “Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. BBC News, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31965856&gt;.



8 thoughts on “Racist Police or Keepers of the Peace?

  1. Good job on your blog. I really like how you used multiple incidents of violence against blacks to support the ideas presented in this blog. I also enjoyed how you provided examples of the efforts that are being made to combat anti-blackness and institutional racism. These are important strides being made, because when these awful events of unnecessary violence occur, people are talking about it, and starting to fight against the discrimination.


    1. Thank you for the response. This is a scary topic that has to be picked at very carefully, which is why I added multiple examples that are recent to show that it’s not only happening in one place but in many places, including Canada. The best way of spreading the word today is through social media. As you pointed out, efforts for anti-blackness and institutional racism to stop begin with spreading stories of what is happening. I found out about what happened in South Carolina just through my Facebook News feed. I find it good that you liked my post 🙂


  2. Great job! I liked that you included a multitude of incidents that have happened recently in order to reiterate that this issue is truly on the rise and is not at all an isolated incident. You talked about a multitude of concepts that contribute to this systemic, recurring violence that reiterate existing institutions of power making it clear to understand what exactly is taking place when one of these incidents occur. I like that you talked about some of the historical actions that have been taken and need to be retaken in order to eradicate this ongoing issue, and the ways that society has adapted the advances we’ve made technologically into activism to create a whole new realm of it.
    I think it’s important to analyze the role that the media plays in situations like this and the authority they hold in determining the public’s reaction to these instances because it helps us understand the biases we sometimes seem to overlook and the dangers that are associated with the news outlets that do not extend their wholehearted support to these minority groups and the dangerous ideas they express. As much as the media can be used as a tool to educate, it can also be used to spread bigotry and misinform people. I’m pleased that most of the articles you’ve seen have extended their support to the black community during times like these.
    Solid review, thanks for the insight you’ve provided!!

    – MasalaCHICKen


    1. You are right, we should analyze how media is portraying what is happening. There are different sources out there that will take either side, so becoming more aware and educating yourself is the right way to go. Allowing ourselves to be influenced by whatever the media says should not only be our source of information because it could be a corrupted source. When I was researching this issue, I came across many that support the victims but there were always some that liked to point out how the police officers may have had the right to do what they did or had a title that contradicted itself. So my word of wisdom is to investigate through various sources to acquire a more information on the subject.


  3. Awesome review. The use of multiple, recent incidents really emphasis that anti-blackness has become a societal issue and is not limited to areas deemed racist. I love that you mention “violence as the lens” because we as society have this view that anyone who is not us is dangerous and we make them the villains so that is acceptable to use violent measurement against them ex. most cultures in the east: Arabs and Islamic people. In regards to the media. it’s the tool that can either help end racism and oppression or continue it and we as consumers of media and pop culture must be able to spot the biases in order to truly gain insight into the situation. Glad to end on an inspiring note.


    1. I like how you pointed out how society now sees Arabs and Islamic people as violent because this is an unfortunate truth. And once again it comes to a point of how uneducated or unaware some people are. In reality, Islam and Catholicism aren’t that different. But like you said, media can be the tool that can either help end the racism (by portraying our similarities) or continue the oppression (which is what major news network like CNN do when they portray negative things happening in Iraq or Afghanistan). I’m glad that I was able to be informative about this issue. 😛


  4. Hey, awesome blog! I like that you made sure to it was understood that this was not an isolated incident and that these kind of racist hate crimes happen so often. I think it’s interesting that this is being talked about so much and I personally believe actions are being taken against these violent and racist police officers more often in comparison to cases like that of George Zimmerman. All in all, great post! Have an awesome summer! 🙂 – NoSpeakAfricano


    1. Thanks for the reply. Like you said, it is important to point out that this is not just an isolated problem and to note that this is happening in areas that are also not deemed to be racist such as the shooting in Los Angeles which is an area where many people of different race, cultures and genders live. I hope you have a good summer too! 😀


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