Lack of Media Exposure on Police Violence in Brown & Red Communities 12/1/15
Apparently Latinxs need to start causing harm in order to survive a police encounter this way, it wouldn’t be a surprise, we would just be fulfilling stereotypical expectations. That seems to be the only way to stay alive these days if you are Latinx. Have we become so stagnant in our desire to be equal that we allow institutions to take advantage of us being disengaged? … because that’s what’s happening! Hardly anyone is speaking out on police attacks on Latinxs but the world is up in arms when black lives are in danger and it’s no one’s fault but our own Raza!
The world stage has exhibited some of the most terrifying acts on humanity and at the same time, exposed some of our biggest hypocrisies in the last year. Paris showed us all how biased our outrage is though. It sparked a brief discussion on how traditionally white countries “get more play” from people’s hearts than countries of color like Palestine and especially Mexico.
This piece is prompted by recent events where a Planned Parenthood in Colorado was under siege by an Anglo gunman and actually killed 3 people (one being a Law Enforcement Officer). Luckily for the shooter, he survived the encounter and was not murdered like so many Latinxs have been during their involvements with police. There is a deep seeded issue here though. When examining the racial dynamic involved, the same hypocrisy that was exposed on the world stage can be found in these individual events from within the U.S. and within the Latinx community especially.
Many of us are quick to blame the victims of police violence/brutality because of actions they may have taken before the police arrived. While there is responsibility to be taken, we cannot forget to examine the actions of authorities and the higher standards they are held to either. Whether we want to admit it, there are biased images in our minds when certain descriptors are used and cops are not excluded from having them. This bias exists for anyone who has been exposed to someone else’s perceptions of society and its inhabitants, particularly media.
It begins at a young age from what children hear their parents say, leads into what is being taught in their schools and solidifies as adults when they see the stereotypes being played out in real life. The problem intensifies when personal experience blends with what has been previously formulated in their mind over time. Sometimes, the experience doesn’t even have to be personal for an opinion to form it just has to be real, just like the bias.
For example, when you here “Thug” or “Ghetto” you have a programed image that comes to mind. Even “Hillbilly” will have you imagining a certain type of person. By that same logic then, “Cholo,” “Wetback,” “Illegal” or even “barrio” also creates a certain mental picture. All these derogatory names are also associated with a certain ethnicity and race further stretching the subjective image in a person’s mind. Here is an example everyone can understand.
Think of a movie you have seen. What character was the Latina/o playing in that movie? The probability of the character being a criminal, blue-collar laborer or servant role is high. The point is when individuals become police officers that bias does not go away, they carry it with them on the job. Now consider this for a moment. White crimes are not hardly talked about, they exist but we will not hear about them until they cannot be covered like Planned Parenthood or South Carolina. Here is a jagged little pill, actions of violence against the Latinx community often goes unnoticed because they are still seen as immigrants freshly arrived and are not considered to have deep ties in the U.S. … which is complete horseshit.
This prejudice comes out in exaggerated aggression and use of force which, just like in black communities, often ends in fatalities. In a majority of Latinxs I always hear, “they should’ve just done what the cops were telling them to do” or “that’s what they get for thinking they’re all badass.” Ok, lets acknowledge that yes, some situations can be avoided but, why does the solution always have to be conformity? Why must people of color, Mexican Americans especially have to fit in someone else’s metaphoric box? Should we not be offered the same impartiality that is afforded to our Anglo counterparts? Should citizenship REALLY make a difference in how we treat fellow human beings?
Here’s a bottom line a lot of people aren’t comfortable acknowledging. REGARDLESS of an individual’s actions prior to law enforcement arriving, objectivity SHOULD BE OFFERED to ALL suspects. Many of us want to be judge and jury when in reality, we are citizens. Police are not those things either. They are supposed to simply enforce laws, not carry out punishment. So why are so many Latinxs dying at the hands of rogue cops? Because a false sense of power that is instilled from wearing a badge and subjectivity created by imparted bias allows them to; and no one is willing to challenge that even when they’re being outright bullies like in this video . In this country it is taboo to challenge authority, especially law enforcement. 9/11 placed civil service in a new light because of NYPD’s and NYFD’s reaction to the event which is commendable but the truth is, there are corrupt individuals embedded in our nation’s ranks who abuse the power bestowed by wearing a uniform. Latinxs are at the receiving end of this abuse just as much, if not more, than any other ethnicity in the country.
While the nation was focused on Michael Brown, Carlos Mejia was murdered in Salinas, California by police. But only local news outlets covered it with Mexican American News being the only national outfit releasing video and narrative. As a matter of fact, 8 Latinos were murdered in Salinas, CA by police between March and July of that year and the only news that talked about it was local; no national coverage. While Sandra Bland died in a Texas Jail, a beautiful young Lakota activist Sarah Lee Circle Bear died in a jail cell in Aberdeen, SD. There were some local articles written but again, no national coverage. This past summer, Rexdale Henry a Choctaw Activist was also found dead in his cell in Philadelphia, Miss. but there was no coverage of that either. What is media telling us about brown and red lives in the narrative of police brutality? That we don’t matter? Have we traveled back in time when racism and discrimination were publically accepted?
It seems that in comparison to people of color (POC), Anglos stand a much better chance at surviving police encounters no matter how many people they kill. The most recent survivor of police brutality is Robert Lewis Dear the Planned Parenthood shooter in Colorado. He murdered 3 people, one of them being a police officer, and was taken into custody alive; thank goodness for his safe arrival in handcuffs to the detainment facilityand not lead to the morgue. Back up to Dylann Roof who in late June of 2015 murdered 9 POC and was also taken into custody and offered Burger King by the arresting officers! This 2-minute video shows him being detained in a calm and peaceful manner. The result is this, society has preconceived notions about how we view Latinxs and continues to perpetuate them and guess what, Law Enforcement is part of our society, not above it.
As I mentioned before, that preconceived notion is carried with them on the job and comes out while interacting with a Latinx who is tired of the system stereotyping them, and stands up for themselves. Do not take the next question wrong because we value all life but, why is it that these encounters end up with Brown and Red people dying and whites living? Why do we have to be ok with that and blame victims of police brutality for the violence enacted upon them and our communities? In case you don’t realize it, that is what’s happening. These are actions being taken in our own barrios, not just to individuals. Do you think that because you follow every law to a “T” that you are not subject to an officer’s bias? They don’t know who you are, but they know what stereotypes have taught them. It does not help when media, especially the right wing of it (Conservatives) gives coverage to individuals like Donald Trump who plays off the fear of unenlightened people and perpetuate the stereotype in their minds. Lets touch on his ill informed logic.
Trump has brazenly made comment after comment about Mexicans flooding into his backyard and bringing crime like rape. Actually, he directly called Mexicans rapists. Hey Donny, here’s some facts for ya! The average age of rapist at arrest is 31 and immigrants is 41, 66% of survivors knew their rapist and 52% of all rapists ARE WHITE! It is comments like his that fan the fire of jingoism and extremist to follow through with their internalized racist ideology.
This most recent incident near the Planned Parenthood has been blamed on right-wing propaganda like Trump's and many Conservatives including some Presidential Candidates and their fear mongering tactics. It was later alleged that the shooter’s intentions had nothing to do with the Planned Parenthood so Conservatives jumped on Liberals in an attempt to diffuse the argument. Here is another bottom line fact: the shooter who killed people was white and lived as opposed to Latinxs and First Nations people who did not harm anyone and died. The reality goes even deeper. We can blame media all day but the inconvenient truth is NO ONE WILL DO THE WORK FOR US!
If we want to right the wrongs perpetrated against our communities, it is up to us to do it. We rely on other sources to do the work when we have the capabilities within ourselves. We have raza that can write, operate cameras, design websites and publish news and many of us are already doing it. Many times though, we get caught up in the culture of capitalism, reach elevated status and don’t look back. Time is the most precious investment and for many of us, it costs money that we don’t have. So we become distanced from our own experiences as a community. Compound that with the fact that much of our history has been TAUGHT OUT of the books our children use in school and the problem is amplified. We have learned NOT to value our cultura and contributions but learned to hate ourselves instead.
The disparity between black and brown exposure in the media is only part of the problem though. The major difference between the black and brown communities that are protesting and fighting for equality is that Blacks have learned to unite and mobilize, Raza won’t. I say “won’t” in place of “can’t” because we know what needs to happen but many of us refuse to take those steps while the ones who are are left dangling out int he wind. You do not even need to have the skills mentioned. The information comes to most of us via our news feeds in social media and still! It just takes too much effort to read. We all have the ability to empower change in ourselves; it is as simple as clicking “Like” or “Share” or just have an opinion and be willing to learn. But that may take too much time away form liking pictures of food or little kids. Much of raza does not read anymore either, that takes too much time too much time as well. They will watch a video and even then, only if it fits in their “3-minute window” of valuable social media trolling time. There are no excuses. The easy access we have to knowledge in today’s time is RIGHT AT OUR FINGERTIPS!
There are a handful of Chicanxs trying to elevate raza’s conscious to the atrocities committed against our communities over time but it is not enough. The old adage “it takes a village” could not stand truer today. We do not “have it good.” We have to understand that times have changed and the way racism operates has as well. Just like Latinxs have adapted to change over time, discriminatory practices have done the same. Just because racism isn’t hanging on a sign in a downtown window doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s gone underground and can be found in systemic institutions like laws and policies enacted that affect our very own communities.
We have to be willing to engage though. We have to be willing to sacrifice; a virtue that has been lost over time. Even sacrificing time has been something we have lost to institutionalized lives. Society has left us trying to keep up that we have no expendable time for other things, like an opinion or a position on any topic. But these are things that do not really cost us anything except a little humility.
Raza we have to wake up. We have to take control of our own communities and transform the narrative that has been created for us. We need to re-write it and change the direction for our children’s sake. The misconception is that you have to have an education to be engaged and that is completely false. You just have to be willing. When your kids are in school and learning about our nation’s history, ask yourself what you want to be able to say to them when they ask you, what side of history you were on; because they will.