Instances of shootings involving police are dominating headlines once again. One of the bigger resulting stories involves San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem in protest of the treatment of African-Americans in America. Two University of Dallas basketball players, Manny Calton and Prince Giadolor, are following in Kaepernick’s footsteps by kneeling during the national anthem before UD basketball games.
I support the freedom of students to express their viewpoints, and believe that the peaceful protest of kneeling is a more effective way to promote the idea that black lives matter than the violent riots that often result from Black Lives Matter protests.
Although I do not support Black Lives Matter as an organization, I do think that black lives, and all lives, matter. There is some legitimacy to the problem Black Lives Matter is trying to address, but I would argue the problem is the result of systematic overpolicing, not necessarily institutionalized racism.
Overpolicing does exist in America, which incidentally leads to instances of police brutality; anyone with access to the internet can see that. Rather than a consequence of racism, however, it is simply a culmination of new proactive policing strategies, such as “stop-and-frisk,” combined with black citizens’ disadvantaged place in America, compounded by the “War on Drugs.”
Black people’s disadvantaged place in America is a complex problem with numerous economic, cultural and political causes, but for the sake of this article, all that matters is that black people are in this position. In 2009, a study done by the Bureau of Justice Statistics finds that African Americans are charged with 62 percent of robberies, 57 percent of murders and 45 percent of assaults in the 75 largest counties in the country, even though they make up only 15 percent of the population in those counties.
Naturally, because of those statistics, African Americans have more encounters with police than any other demographics and, because of more proactive policing strategies, there is a high police presence in predominantly black neighborhoods.
What can alleviate some of the tension between police and black communities is a reduction in unnecessary interactions between civilians and police.
“Stop-and-frisk” is a policy most famously implemented in New York City by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The strategy allows officers to legally stop pedestrians, question them and frisk them for weapons, drugs or other contraband.
Studies show that “stop-and-frisk” has few effects on robbery and burglary rates in New York and that 12.4 percent of stops result in convictions. A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that African Americans do indeed suffer from increased rates of nonlethal force, but not from lethal force. Reduced interactions from strategies such as “stop-and-frisk” would decrease the chance for nonlethal violent incidents and would increase trust between police and civilians because the civilians would not have to worry about police randomly stopping and searching them.
The banning of drugs increases the incentives for police departments to implement “stop-and-frisk.” While possessing certain drugs is illegal, police are now more likely to be suspicious of anyone walking down the street because it is possible for a person walking on the sidewalk to be breaking the law, and the only way to find out is to stop and search them.
It might surprise some that there is evidence that Saint Thomas Aquinas might support drug legalization if he were alive today.
“Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained,” Aquinas said.
In addition to legalizing drugs, police must revert back to a more reactive strategy of pursuing criminals after crimes have been committed and victims have been identified, and stop trying to prevent crimes before they happen. Not only will this reduce policing costs, but it will also reduce the Big Brother tendencies common in a proactive policing strategy, and it will reduce chances of the use of unnecessary force on civilians of all demographics.
It is not the police’s job to save us from ourselves; it is their job to protect us from others.
There is some truth in Black Lives Matter’s cause, but the strategy of some of its members rioting and violence is despicable and will only make it harder to achieve its goals. Reading Black Lives Matter’s website, I did not once find the words “peace” or “peaceful.” Calton and Giadolor’s protest is a good alternative.
Black Lives Matter should pursue a more peaceful approach to addressing the heavy-handedness of the police which affects all races and it should be more careful which police-involved deaths it protests because some police shootings are justified. Until this happens, directly advocating for drug legalization and a more reactionary police force would do more for black lives than what Black Lives Matter is doing.