Police Brutality Not Your Problem, Right?

A Facebook friend of mine recently posted this meme, presumably in reacting to recent community protests in Minneapolis and Chicago against two separate police shootings.


I, too, used to think that police brutality was an issue only for those who were already committing crimes. Like the meme says, if you don’t want problems with law enforcement, don’t break any laws.

To be honest, a few years ago I might have posted or “liked” a statement like this. But I know better now.

After seeing dozens of news reports from all over the U.S. about police officers using excessive force when arresting suspects, I no longer think a “joke” that blames the targets of excessive force is funny.

In alleged cases of police brutality, simply assuming that criminals are getting what they deserve is 1) not true, and 2) not the point of recent community protests against police shootings.

Here is comment I posted on Facebook in response to the meme:

The issue is that police treat different types of people more harshly than others. You have the privilege of only having run-ins with law enforcement when/if you break a law or need their assistance (FYI – my Facebook friend is White). Other Americans get confronted by the police whether they are seemingly breaking the law or not.

Trayvon Martin was simply walking home. The man who confronted him was not a police officer but did claim to represent neighborhood security. What crime did Trayvon commit, and was it worthy of him being shot in the street?

Was the traffic violation Sandra Bland was accused of worthy of punishment by death? I could list literally dozens more examples of people who were allegedly severely beaten or killed before being proven guilty of any crime (and so can you).

Again, consider yourself lucky that you happened to be born into a group of people who are not routinely targeted by police and assumed to be criminals or violent by other members of society.

The question is: How can those who do not feel endangered help to change the system that is endangering our neighbors and friends? How can each of us speak out in favor of and actively pursue justice for all citizens – not special treatment, just equal treatment?

Photo: Los Angeles Times
Photo: Los Angeles Times

I’m all for posting comments and images that poke fun at or satirize current event. Heck, 90% of my Facebook stream pokes fun at things that other might consider sacred.

This particular post struck me because I can relate to its sentiment. I, too, used to think that run-ins with the police were only a problem for those in or near criminal activity.

As an African American, I can no longer deny that simply being Black in the U.S. puts me and my family at risk of unjust treatment by those who do not believe that Black Lives Matter.