John T. Williams, a deaf Native American, was fatally shot by a police officer in Seattle, Washington. Jack Jacquez, an unarmed Hispanic man, was fatally shot by an officer in Rocky Ford, Colorado. Terrence Crutcher, a black man, was fatally shot by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Michael Brown, a black teenager, was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Breonna Taylor, a black woman, was fatally shot by a police officer, in Louisville, Kentucky.
The commonality between all of these murders? Each victim was a person of color killed by a police officer who used deadly force, even though the officer could have subdued the victim in countless other ways. Each victim’s death also occurred within the last twenty years.
To truly understand police brutality in the United States, we must first understand the similarly unique gun violence epidemic of this nation. Since 2015, the police shoot and kill an average of 3 people a day. This means that every year, the police are responsible for approximately 1,095 gun violence related deaths. Although police must exercise deadly force in some rare situations, most of these killings are unnecessary. Tasers, which many law enforcement personnel also carry, could be used in many of these situations, given that the person in question seemed threatening. Nonetheless, American “shoot first, think later” culture has penetrated even the organization that is meant to keep civilians safe, rendering law enforcement untrustworthy.
In addition, racial motivation underlies many of these murders. Subconscious, harmful stereotypes about racial groups, especially those that uphold the ideas that black and brown people are intimidating and violent, are the main reason that excessive force is exerted on these groups by white police officers. To further confirm this, we have seen the manner in which police deal with people carrying automatic weapons, demanding freedom and protesting the “stay at home” orders put in place by local governments in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While, rationally, the people carrying automatic rifles are more dangerous than an unarmed person of color, unarmed people of color are disproportionately shot by law enforcement.
It’s time for us to realize that activism is intersectional. It is situations like these, killings of individuals such as Breonna Taylor and Michael Brown, that beg us to look past the surface and realize the intersectionality required to solve the gun violence problem in the United States.