Discrimination in the US continues
Protest and rioting soon spread across the US after the Ferguson grand jury announced acquitting white police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of 18-year old African-American Michael Brown last August 9, 2014. In less than two days after the verdict was announced, violence marred the protests in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, Dallas and Atlanta.
More than 400 protesters and rioters were arrested.
Some say that the outburst has been blamed by many African-Americans as a sinister and deadly pattern of discrimination against them, particularly on how police officers deal with black suspects citing horrifying incidents of black suspects being shot and killed compared to white suspects. According to data stretching from 1999 to 2011, African-Americans have committed 26 percent of all police-shooting victims. On the average, young African-Americans are killed by cops at a ratio of 4.5 times more compared to people of other races and age. The latest was the shooting last November 22 of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy from Cleveland, Ohio, who was brandishing a BB gun, and was shot twice by a police officer after the boy allegedly tried to reach to his toy gun although did not point it at the officer.
As one would comment, there seems to be a pattern of extermination that they are being shot and killed for the slightest misdemeanor with the police claiming self defense, or resisting arrest, and getting away with it. Many African-Americans had been gunned down for merely disturbing the peace, with some even killed unarmed or after they have raised their hands to surrender. Nonetheless, should they surrender, they undergo violent treatment and brutality. In contrast, civil rights activists in the US argue that white suspects seldom experience the same degree of police brutality while undergoing arrest. In fact, Russia has taken the rioting to remind Washington of its hypocrisy of lecturing them on its human rights record when the riots now in the US speak clearly of how African-Americans are reacting to the harsh treatment they get from their own government that is presided by one of their own.
The rioting, burning and looting similar to what happened in the 60s exposed the truth that despite the numerous laws seeking to eradicate racial discrimination and the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American to become US President, racial discrimination and inequality persist. Often, poor Americans are the ones that entangle with the law, and the likelihood is they are African-Americans. Many of them suffer economic deprivation, and for that it has somewhat become instinctive for them to react impulsively, and for every misdemeanor, police officers enforce the law with full fury against them.
This could not be denied, for despite the fact African-Americans in the US constitute only 12 to 13 percent of the entire population, the US Department of Justice, no less, admitted in 2009 that they make up 40 percent of the almost 2.3 million male inmates. This is aside from the fact that the US holds the highest number of prisoners in the world. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African-Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated, and they constitute six times the number of whites in prison. In an August 2013, Wikipedia quoting Sentencing Project reported on racial disparities in the criminal justice system in the US, which it submitted to the UN, to quote: “one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime”.
Many sociologists say that racial discrimination will persist, for despite the fact that African-Americans barely constitute 18.4 percent of the entire population of about 319 million, the incidence of poverty among them remains high at 27.2 percent against the national level of 15.0 percent according to US Census. Maybe racial prejudice and discrimination could easily be fixed by legislation, like prohibiting a particular act and imposing the corresponding penalty, but certainly it would be far more difficult to legislate laws designed to widen and increase the economic opportunities of the African-Americans, including an equally great number of economically disenfranchised Latinos who remain at the economic edge of the ladder.
Yes, African-Americans are prone to commit violence, but some see it as expected because they bear the brunt of discrimination arising from economic inequality. The appalling poverty among African-Americans in relation to the total population in the US has become a powder keg. The high incidence of unemployment always go hand in hand with criminality and vices like drug addiction; that for every African-American a police officer on patrol could see as roaming around is more likely to be suspected as a potential troublemaker and could be frisked for firearms or bladed weapon. Such is the likely equation because in the land which many Filipinos look up as the land of milk and honey, is mired in deep economic inequality today.
Maybe the US today stands as the mightiest nation on earth that nobody would dare recklessly challenge, but behind the facade of formidability is the truth that its foundations are being eroded by inequality. As opportunity tightens it becomes a ticking time bomb that could explode anytime. In fact, just prior to President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address, US media reported that the top wealthiest 1 percent possess 40 percent of the nation’s wealth; the bottom 80 percent own 7 percent. No sooner, the same media reported that the “richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.” A September 2014 study by Harvard Business School declared that the growing disparity between the very wealthy and the lower and middle classes is no longer sustainable. That bleak report was substantiated in a documentary released in 2013 by Robert Reich stating that 95 percent of economic gains went to the top 1 percent since 2009 when the recovery allegedly started.
Finally, the author of the celebrated book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty, argued that “extremely high levels” of wealth inequality are “incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to modern democratic societies” and that “the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed.” Piketty’s conclusion is not just true to what is going on in the US, with the African-Americans affected most, but is equally true in this country. The oligarchy and the elite have not only monopolized the economy, compartmentalized our justice system, tailored-made our tax system to maximize their profit, and redefined policy to what suits them, thus making a farce our democratic system.
Today our electoral system is like a cockfight derby where the poor and ordinary voters are treated as onlookers with the elite and the oligarchy betting who from among their stable of corrupt politicians will win. And that weird derby of corrupt politicians is what we insists has qualified us to become a democratic society.