Sunday, December 7, 2014

How We See the Police

Growing up, I have always been taught that police are there to protect us, and they are not "scary" people - they exist to keep American citizens safe. Starting from a young age, most Americans are taught this. In elementary school, a police officer would come in to talk to our class once a year, but the officer would change his or her name to "Officer Friendly" when they would come in to see us. America tries so hard to convey the idea that policemen are friendly men and women just here to protect us and keep us safe.

Most of the time, the police do exactly that. However, when you hear stories such as what happened in Ferguson and now New York about police killing innocent African American men, everything American's have learned about policemen not being intimidating shatters, especially for blacks.

I came across an interesting video (click on link to view video) that featured black students from Charleston High School discussing both the shooting of Michael Brown and the case of Eric Garner. Rather than focusing on the details of each case, the students all discussed their views of the police force in America as a whole.

Below are some quotes that stuck out to me from the students in the video (Nueseline Goncalves, Jeff Ramos, and Keisha Fertil) about their opinions on police:

"I don't like them at all."

"When I see them, I get mad."

"I get scared when I see them."

"[Police are] not people we can always rely on."

"They do have power, and they abuse it."

Their opinions on police juxtapose everything that I and many other Americans were taught to believe about police. We are not supposed to get scared and mad when we see them, but these African American students do feel scared and mad. We are supposed to rely on police, but these African American students do not feel as if they can rely on them. Police are supposed to use their power to keep us safe, but these African American students feel as if they abuse it.

Obviously, the majority of police are kindhearted people who devote their life to protecting American citizens. Many of these men are considered heroes; however, media tends to only convey the negative aspects of society, such as the Brown and Garner cases, rather than showing the good that many police do. Because of the horrible incidents that have been reported, many Americans, such as these students at Charleston High School, now see the police as people who are hurting society rather than helping it.

I wonder if these black students from Charleston High School have had similar experiences such as what I had growing up with "Officer Friendly" coming into school to talk to us. What would happen if Officer Friendly were to talk to African American students in areas such as Ferguson now? 

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