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Sammy Parsons
Ashley Rea
ENC 2135
12 July 2016
Police Brutality and Race
In recent years, police brutality has made major headlines in the media. This is not to say
that this has not always been an issue, but with new technology such as cameras and video
recorders, police brutality has hit another pressure point for America. Race has always been an
issue for as long as this country has stood. The media has portrayed police brutality in terms of
race and racism; so is this to explain the reason behind many cases dealing with police brutality?
How has race and racism shaped the discourse of police brutality? Evidence in multiple cases
show signs of racism acted out through the abuse of law enforcement.
Police brutality is a civil rights violation that occurs when a police officer acts with
excessive force by using an amount of force with regards to a civilian that is more than
necessary (Police Brutality Law & Legal Definition). This excessive force and abuse of law
enforcement violates an individuals rights. In recent years, the excessive force used by police in
America has brought a focus to racist and discriminatory practices (Chaney and Robertson
481). The black population have been victims of racial oppression since African-Americans were
first forced to America in order to work at the hand of the white man (481). There have been
many instances of violence, assaults, and riots in American history concerning blacks and their
road to freedom. In most cases, police were also involved in the assaults and violence of the
black population and their riots for freedom (481). Chaney and Robertson both conclude that,
thus, to Whites, Blacks are viewed as deserving of harsh treatment in the criminal justice

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system (482). The idea that this is valid has been widely portrayed in the media in instances of
police brutality. Minorities, especially the black race, have been targeted in the media to have
suffered from police brutality more than the white race (Chapter One: Race and the Police).
Racial profiling is defined as the assumptions that the background of race and ethnicity of
an individual are grounds for suspicion (Chapter One: Race and the Police). The Leadership
Conference in Chapter One: Race and the Police states, unfortunately, that discretion is
routinely exercised through the prism of race. Race and ethnicity of an individual have been
issues for not only the black population but also for society in general. The publics perceptions
of this has blown up in media recently; blacks are more likely to be the victims of police
brutality (Chaney and Robertson 482). Robert Staples wrote in his article, White Power, Black
Crime, and Racial Politics, that since the end of segregation, there has been a political
movement, reflected in the media, that feeds the public a steady diet of images and platitudes that
perpetuate the idea that blacks pose a threat to whites, even if race is not directly mentioned.
Racial profiling plays a vital role in this specific topic of police brutality. In a recent study,
Interstate 95 was monitored under the federal court for traffic stops by the Maryland State Police
(Chapter One: Race and the Police). It was noted that 70 percent of the drivers stopped and
searched by the police were black (Chapter One: Race and the Police). Minorities have been
targeted by police through racial profiling and brutality. Hispanics and African-Americans have a
higher chance of being investigated than the white population (Chavez).
Oscar Grant was a young, African-American man who was shot and killed in Oakland on
the morning of New Years day of 2009 (Taylor 189). He was a victim of police brutality by a
BART police officer by the name of Johannes Mehserle (189). Oscar Grant and his friends were
headed home on a train when allegations that a fight had taken place on the actual ride caught

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the polices attention (189). When the train stopped, Oscar Grant and his friends were grabbed
and held in the train bound area. Jack Taylor writes in his journal article, the officers insisted
that Oscar Grant was resisting arrest and that more assertive force was necessary: he was viewed
as an imminent threat (189). When laid face down with his hands behind his back, Oscar
Grant was shot in the back by Officer Mehserle. Violence was used in an unnecessary manner
and therefore taking the life of an innocent individual. During the trial of Oscar Grants death
and Officer Mehserle, Mehserle stated that the shooting was an accident and that in the moment
of the attack he believed that he was and intended to reach for his taser (189). In later trials, the
claim was proven to be untrue and Mehserle was later charged with murder on January 13th in
Nevada (189). Officer Mehserles heedless and careless inattention for human life was seen as
an instance of police brutality.
Trayvon Martin was a 17-year old teenage boy who also was a victim of police brutality
and racial oppression. On February 26, 2012 Martin was shot and killed by the neighborhood
watch policeman, George Zimmerman. It was late evening when Zimmerman called in to his
police department a reporting of a suspicious guy walking between homes and starting to run
(Trayvon Martin Biography). Zimmermans dispatcher gave him clear instructions to stay
inside his car and not seek the teen. It was noted in court that at the moment Zimmerman spotted
Martin that he was on the phone with his girlfriend who testified that he believed he was being
followed and began to run. Martin was shot in the chest and killed after being a physical
confrontation with Zimmerman, leaving him with minor scratches on the back of his head.
Zimmerman was released from custody with no charges filed. Martins family got involved and
created a petition for Zimmermans arrest. As the trial began to take place, significant evidence

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of Martins innocence left Zimmerman charged with second-degree murder on April 11, 2012
(Trayvon Martin Biography).
Statistics have been collected regarding the correlation between police brutality and racial
oppression. Tom McKay wrote in his article, One Troubling Statistic Shows Just How Racist
Americas Police Brutality Problem Is, that white officers kill black suspects twice a week in the
United States, or an average of 96 times a year. McKay also states that 18% of the black
suspects were under the age of 21 when killed by the police, as opposed to just 8.7% of white
suspects. With this topic of police brutality, it is clear that race plays a vital role in the United
States. Racial oppression exists and is strongly correlated with police brutality and the major
stories that have made headlines in the past few years (Through The Media Lens: Covering
Race and Police Brutality). Another source noted that district attorneys have been known to
ignore the pleas of innocence of 1,000 people whom the police had framed and helped send to
jail in Philadelphias 39th division (Dix 60). It has been documented that police involved in a
misconduct of an individual or have abused their power in some way are known to charge their
victims with offenses in order to cover up their actions (60).
Despair, frustration, rage, and fear has taken over the black community. There have been
statistical and historical patterns of polices abuse of authority. Speculators on this subject have
proposed what is known as the C-Curve Theory (Conyers 3). This theory tries to explain what
the individual sees and notices among the riots and police violence in past and present society
(3). Excessive use of force against minority communities has been noted on repeat. Unequal
justice in the criminal justice system has been targeted at minorities, specifically the black
population and the ghetto perceived areas that most of these beatings and attacks take place in

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(3). The insensitivity and disregard to these minority communities leave the black population in
despair, frustration, rage, and fear.
Recent stories of police brutality have hit major headlines in the news in the past few
years. Stories involving Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and the Ferguson case have deeply
affected the United States and polices reputation. New technology such as cameras and video
recorders have made the documentation of such incidents have a greater impact in the media
today (Chavez). Media coverage on the topic of police brutality and instances of this involving
racial oppression has been highly publicized. The media tends to hold a more sympathetic view
towards African-Americans on this topic- which in most cases is probably the right thing to do
(Sigelman 780). The emotional news has hit the hearts of Americans all over. The media creates
the publics perceptions on police brutality and racial oppression. The perceptions and opinions
are created on more broad values and terms (779). The media has been known for portraying
African-Americans as violent; they play a vital role in instances of police brutality (Embrick
839). The media has also given African-Americans an image where police officers are more
prone to racial profiling. However, attitudes dealing with this particular subject toward race are
much more complex than has sometimes been assumed (779). The white population seems to be
more optimistic regarding race relations these days (Embrick 838). David Embrick states in his
article concerning racial control and police brutality that the differences in views between
whites and minorities continue to highlight the two worlds in which we live, where on group
(whites) continues to be afforded more opportunities, dignities, and rights over other groups
(minorities). He goes on to say, media not only continues to stereotype minorities as violent
offenders that need to be controlled, but they distort images and language in ways that provide
privilege to whites who are almost always portrayed as innocent victims (Embrick 839). The

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United States has had this problem of racial separation since the beginning; although, this new
era of technology and crave for media has brought this specific topic of police brutality to a
whole new level.
David Embrick wrote a full account of his personal feelings dealing with racial
oppression and police brutality in America. In his journal Embrick talks about the police brutality
case concerning Michael Brown, a black man, who was shot by police officer, Darren Wilson,
and left on the street for hours after the shooting (Embrick 837). He believes that white
supremacy still exists and argues that social scientists have done nothing to reshape the United
States; that our country continues to control and punish minorities for the color of their skin
(Embrick 837). The inequality and hypocrisy has been highlighted in the media but still instances
of police brutality continue to happen. What is being done to stop the racial oppression that is so
evidently there in police attacks?
Police have been noted and perceived as a threat (Onyemaobim 158). Fatality at the
hands of police brutality has become so prevalent in todays society (158). The death and
tragedies of African-Americans by police officers in the United States has become a major
problem. Police brutality has shown quite a bit of evidence involving racial oppression.
However, there are good cops and there are bad cops. Race has been and most likely will always
be a problem in the United States due to our countries history of racial oppression and
discrimination. Race has been an issue involving the discourse of police brutality. There are real
statistics and documentaries reporting African-American deaths in the United States involving
police brutality. However, this is not to say that all police are racist, but evidence of the abuse of
law enforcement that police hold has shown significant targets on the black race and minority

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communities. There is notable evidence on the fact that police brutality in most cases tends to be
racially motivated and has in many ways shaped the discourse of this particular issue.
Word Count: 2276

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Works Cited
Chaney, Cassandra, and Ray V. Robertson. "Racism and police brutality in America."
Journal of African American Studies 17.4 (2013): 480+. General OneFile. Web. 11
July 2016.
"Chapter One: Race and the Police." The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human
Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.
Chavez, Obeydah. "Police Brutality: Excessive Force and Racial Profiling." Guardian
Liberty Voice. N.p., 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 July 2016.
Conyers, John. "POLICE VIOLENCE AND RIOTS." The Black Scholar 12.1 (1981): 2-5.
The Black Scholar 27.1 (1997): 59-62. Web.
Embrick, David G. "Two Nations, Revisited: The Lynching of Black and Brown Bodies,
Police Brutality, and Racial Control in Post-Racial Amerikkka." Critical Sociology
(2015): 835-43. Sage Journals. Web. 11 July 2016.
McKay, Tom. "One Troubling Statistic Shows Just How Racist America's Police Brutality
Problem Is." Mic. N.p., 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 July 2016.
Onyemaobim, Ikedi O. "The Michael Brown Legacy: Police Brutality And Minority
Prosecution." George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal 26.2 (2016): 157
182. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 July 2016.
"Police Brutality Law & Legal Definition." Police Brutality Law & Legal Definition. N.p., n.d.
Web. 13 July 2016.
Sigelman, Lee, Welch Susan, Bledsoe Timothy, and Combs Michael. "Police

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Brutality and Public Perceptions of Racial Discrimination: A Tale of Two
Beatings." Political Research Quarterly 50.4 (1997): 777-91. Web.
Staples, Robert. "White Power, Black Crime, And Racial Politics." Black Scholar 41.4
(2011): 31-41. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 July 2016.
Taylor, J. (2013), We Are All Oscar Grant: Police Brutality, Death, and the Work of
Mourning. Transform Anthropol, 21: 187197. doi:10.1111/traa.12010
"Through The Media Lens: Covering Race and Police Brutality." EBONY. N.p., n.d. Web.
11 July 2016.
"Trayvon Martin Biography." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.