Respect for African Americans


Cullen H. Davis, Staff Columnist


That is the number of African American men shot and killed by police in the last year as of September 17, 2020. The question of what it will take for police to respect black men has been asked since the 1950s and has remained unanswered.

Here lies the most rhetorical question one can ask at the current social climate quite frankly because we as African Americans are exhausted. We have tried countless avenues, routes and plans to find the answer. Peaceful protests met with further police resistance, emotion-fueled riots and uproar misconstrued by the public and our prominent figures being told to “shut up.”

The recent events of American police and the response by the African American community have now entered a paradigm shift in this new era of social advancement. We are in 2020, the fight and journey for appreciation in areas of gender, religion, culture and sexual preference have been started and gained recognition, so why is this not apparent for black men?

This attitude has not only gained mass appeal by non-people of color in the United States, but around the globe as well. Evidence of some progress and the changed perception on the views of African Americans and race has been made. A higher attendance of non-POC in racial justice demonstrations, social media outcries, covering up racially motivated tattoos and donations to HBCUs, however, it is still not enough. In the midst of all this, the common denominator and popular statement made is the amount of individuals with the mindset of, “This is the first time they realize how bad it is and the lack of respect” but that is the problem. The lack of respect has been evident for over 500 years.

Respect goes back to the first European slave ship to land in Jamestown, Va. on August 20, 1619 carrying our native descendants as less than humans and more like cattle. Slavery was abolished in 1865, but the culture of slavery and a sense of duty to control and suppress African American freedom persisted. Lynch mobs, incarceration and the neo-slavery of Jim Crow all played vital roles in the continuance for the lack of respect for blacks. The disrespect then continued to our political figures, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. John Lewis. It then heightened to levels of brutality we saw in recent years against victims like Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Kalief Browder, and Breonna Taylor.

There is no magic fix, no overnight solution. Nonetheless, the keyword here is progress and to set up the next generation to be on a better field than we are currently in regards to police relations.

The issue is police and police brutality, and the only way to combat this is the profound rethinking of the organization of police departments around the country. Rethinking police culture and their tendency to see the community they serve as enemies must also be called into question. Addressing incarceration rates, reducing the size of the prison population, and changing the radical attitude towards de-ghettoization might be necessary because not only do they segregate blacks from the social and cultural capital of middle-class America, but make them easy targets for police who see ghettos as enemies.

We must take a firm grip on holding the police accountable and change the narrative that we are done being on the defense and counter-attack but are holding the oppressors accountable. Until the band-aid is ripped off and you expose the bruise of racially motivated tactics and dis-taste for the African American community in the long history in the “Land of the Free,” the disrespect will continue.