By Melvin Bui
Systematic oppression and unjust policing toward African Americans was expounded in an honest discussion on racial equity and power. The Los Angeles Community College District fostered a space for the discussion, Pursuing Racial Equity in Police Reform on Nov. 12.
“The LACCD is dedicated to equity justice and must lead by example with structural and permanent change,” LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez said. The voices of students are vital and always welcomed, he said.
The discussion was facilitated by Los Angeles Pierce College Sociology Professor A. James Mckeever.
Professor of Sociology and Executive Director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland, Rawshawn Ray was the keynote speaker. Ray was appointed a Rubenstein Fellow, a prestigious early to mid-career award that is given every two years to scholars and policy experts with an array of expertise at the Brookings Institution. His studies focused on the unhealthy trend of police policies and interactions. More of Ray’s studies can be viewed on his website: https://www.rashawnray.com
“Put on your seatbelts, we’re going to go through a lot of information in a short amount of time,” Ray said.
He said the stigma toward “blackness” was perpetuated by stereotypes and that African Americans are overly criminizaled in white spaces. He said people with dark skinned are approached with a flight mentality and presumed to be criminals.
“Men’s mental health is more likely to suffer in neighborhoods where police frisk and use force more often, womens health is more likely to suffer in neighborhoods where police kill more often. Women living in neighborhoods with more police killings report more diabetes, blood pressure and obesity than men,” said a study from the Brooking Institution, The Collateral Consequences of State-sanctioned Police Violence for Women.
Police chiefs in large cities are required to have a Masters degree or Bachelor’s degree.
A study from the Brookings Institution has shown police officers that are more educated are prone to make less mistakes.
Ray said there should be more requirements set in-place in order for people to become police officers, like an associates degree or required mental health courses.
Ray said social media platforms like Twitter have been a social movements like Black Lives Matter. BLM was started by Three African American women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013.
The BLM movement gained more than 30 million tweets in 10 days, said a study from the Brookings Institution. “There has been no other social movement like this since the ending of slavery, in only eight years the movement has gained an immense amount of support,” Ray said.
Defunding the Police is not about cutting police funding, but reallocating already existing funds and using it for mental health and social services.
“We need to create a program that will protect police officers when they come forward about injustice within the department, so they won’t be bullied by other officers,” Ray said.
Police officers usually live somewhere else from the communities they serve, which creates a disconnection between officers and the people, he said. “They’re just here to annex physical force because of a phone call,” Ray said.
Police pay-outs civilian for misconduct helps to disregard “justifiable homicides” and only adds to police notoriety. The recent death of Breonna Taylor was deemed a justifiable homicide, while the George Floyd death was considered a non-justifiable homicide.
None of the officers were charged for her death. Only one officer got charged and it was for shooting the wall and endangering the neighbor.
Ray said that the drywall of her apartment received more justice than her actual death. The $12 million that was used for Taylor’s pay-out did not come from the Louisville Metro Police Department’s budget and came from tax payers’ money. “Breonna Taylors own money was used to pay for her death,” Ray said.
Police killings are only the tip of the iceberg, he said.