Shootings prove not all are treated equally under the law 

Voice of Reason

Another weekend, another preventable tragedy in America. And while media outlets — and anyone with a social media account — appear to have all the answers to questions asked a thousand times before, we’d like to take a different course.

This weekend’s shooting rampages display a disturbing trend in American law enforcement: unequal treatment of suspected criminals based solely on the color of their skin. Consider the “taken without incident” record for some mass shooters who are white, compared to the treatment of black men and women at the hands of our criminal justice system.

The gunman in El Paso, Texas, a white man, was taken unharmed for his day in court. He gets due process, guaranteed to him under the Bill of Rights. The white student shooter at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch in May was also taken alive; ditto for the April 30 shooter at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. The student shooter in Parkland, Florida, is writing love letters from his jail cell. The murderer from the 2015 Planned Parenthood shootings is still alive and in a mental institution. They gave up, put down their guns and were arrested, according to common police protocol. All too often, that protocol doesn’t extend to black men and women.

Compare the “taken without incident” of mass shooters to the treatment of black men, who hadn’t even committed violent crimes, who didn’t gun down people at school, at work, at shopping centers. Those men posed no threat to law enforcement or to society, but were killed anyway. Here’s a partial list: Alton Sterling was handcuffed and lying on the ground when a police officer shot him in the head. Terence Crutcher is seen on video with his hands in the air, but the officer who killed him said he was reaching through his car window. Incredible, since the window was rolled up. Kenneth Walker was on his knees and shackled in Columbus, Georgia, when a sheriff’s deputy shot him in the head.

Philando Castile told police he had a gun, and was shot in front of his family when reaching for the registration paperwork the police had asked him to get. Tamir Rice, 12 years old, was shot because cops found him “menacing” when he was playing with a toy gun in a park. Video shows no hesitation as the police got out of the car and opened fire. Only seconds passed and Tamir was dead.

Black men and women, like Sandra Bland (who filmed the circumstances of her arrest that showed “improper” arrest procedures) get far different treatment at the hands of the police than white suspects. It’s little wonder that the black community doesn't trust law enforcement: Justice is denied time and time again.

Institutional, systemic racism is a cancer eating away at our society. It’s birthing more violence, more division. We must recognize it and take action. Use your voice, demand appropriate training and appropriate punishment for those in law enforcement who overstep their authority.

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