Specter of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion haunts US

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Anewwave of anger has swept across the United States fol­low­ing the death of Fred­die Gray in po­lice cus­tody in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land. The 25-year-old African Amer­i­can was de­tained for il­le­gally pos­sess­ing a knife. While be­ing trans­ported in a po­lice van, his head col­lided with the back of the ve­hi­cle, lead­ing to se­ri­ous in­jury to his neck and even­tual death.

As US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has said: “The key is to find (the) truth (in this in­ci­dent).” He has also said that the trend of African Amer­i­cans dy­ing at the hands of po­lice has be­come “a slowly de­vel­op­ing cri­sis”.

The quick re­sponse of the Bal­ti­more pros­e­cu­tor seems to have added to the public fury. Based on ini­tial find­ings, Gray did carry a knife but not the type that is banned. Also, the six po­lice­men who han­dled Gray’s case have been found re­spon­si­ble for his in­jury and death, and in­dicted on crim­i­nal charges.

Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the case and the legal process to pun­ish the guilty could take a long time. And although it is ab­nor­mal that so many African Amer­i­cans have died at the hands of po­lice of­fi­cers, it is tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing to find ev­i­dence to prove the crim­i­nals charges, es­pe­cially be­cause po­lice rep­re­sent the gov­ern­ment.

No won­der, Gary’s case has again aroused Amer­i­cans’ aware­ness of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and raised ten­sions. On a larger scale, this phe­nom­e­non has been a part of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety. Though hu­man rights in the US have greatly im­proved since the civil rights move­ment half a cen­tury ago, Amer­ica is still not free of eth­nic in­equal­ity.

The ab­surd rate of African Amer­i­cans dy­ing at the hands of po­lice of­fi­cers has its rea­sons. One such rea­son is the ex­ces­sive power po­lice of­fi­cers ex­er­cise at will. Since po­lice en­force law, they can eas­ily abuse it too by re­sort­ing to ex­ces­sive vi­o­lence, if their ac­tions are not checked. That’s why a grow­ing num­ber of Amer­i­can peo­ple are de­mand­ing that po­lice be mon­i­tored while on duty to pro­tect them from be­ing vic­tim­ized as well as de­ter them from vic­tim­iz­ing oth­ers.

For years, Amer­i­can po­lice of­fi­cers have been sus­pected of dis­pos­ing their cases high-hand­edly, and us­ing their firearms ex­ces­sively, even un­nec­es­sar­ily. But it was hard to find on-the-spot ev­i­dence of such acts un­til a video footage of the shoot­ing ofWal­ter Scott, an­other African Amer­i­can, in South Carolina was re­vealed last month. Michael Slager, the po­lice­man who shot Scott eight times, is now fac­ing mur­der charges.

The other rea­son why Amer­i­can po­lice have tar­geted African Amer­i­cans has a lot to do with the luke­warm re­sponse of the coun­try’s me­dia. The US me­dia have preached fair­ness and equal­ity for long and some out­lets in­deed have stood up for so­cial jus­tice. But, fac­ing the per­sis­tent dis­ease of po­lice abus­ing African Amer­i­cans, the me­dia out­lets have been largely tol­er­ant of the po­lice vi­o­lence.

The US is closer to re­al­iz­ing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the dark page of racial seg­re­ga­tion is truly his­tory. How­ever, cul­tural sep­a­ra­tion is far from over. The dis­tance be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the colored peo­ple, and even that among African Amer­i­cans them­selves, has not been bridged. For many, the Amer­i­can Dream is still quite dis­tant.

De­spite the specter of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion haunt­ing the US, the Amer­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tion and me­dia con­tinue to crit­i­cize other coun­tries’ for their so-called hu­man rights record. Sure, a coun­try need not be an epit­ome of per­fec­tion in ev­ery field be­fore crit­i­ciz­ing oth­ers. But it makes sense to first set one’s house in or­der be­fore judg­ing any­one else. It’s time the US started look­ing in­wardly and fixed its do­mes­tic prob­lems, es­pe­cially the abuse of African Amer­i­cans. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor and as­so­ciate dean at the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, Fu­dan Uni­ver­sity, Shang­hai.

WANG XIAOYING / CHINA DAILY

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