In light of last week's events, here are two readings lists—each five articles long—from two New Americans for your consideration.
This Hyper-Policing of Black Bodies
As we saw in the case of Philando Castile, a traffic stop for a broken taillight or some other nebulous reason can be deadly for African Americans. Castile’s plight is common and in communities in Houston, Boston, Philadelphia, Oakland, Baltimore and elsewhere, black men face excessive traffic stops everyday. Black women face them, too, though at lower rates than black men. These seemingly unavoidable though sometimes deadly interactions with police and African Americans—this hyper-policing of black bodies—lead to mistrust, chronic stress, and, in cases of unjustifiable murders, disorders such as PTSD. Research shows that African Americans die at higher levels than their white counterparts. Some studies attribute these discrepancies in life expectancy to the chronic race-related stressors faced by African Americans in the United States. As the events of the past two weeks are reviewed, it is important to consider the climate of mistrust and the countless ways gun violence impacts public health. The articles below consider the aftermath of the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The articles were chosen because they highlight themes of mistrust, policing, and the impact of trauma on public health in African American communities.
1). This op-ed by Roxane Gay for the New York Times speaks to the disposability of black lives and the impact on communities through the lens of Alton Sterling’s murder. She writes: “I don’t know how to believe change is possible when there is so much evidence to the contrary. I don’t know how to feel that my life matters when there is so much evidence to the contrary.”
2) and 3) It is tragic for someone to witness a murder, and even more so when the person is a child. In recent years, social media has given names to some of the children who witnessed or have been left to grapple with the brutal murder of family members, friends, and loved ones. The psychological impact of this trauma on children is often understated. One article by Yamiche Alcindor for the New York Times examines the acute emotional and psychological impact on the young relatives of murdered men. In an article by Michael Daly at the Daily Beast, he reports on the child of Diamond Reynolds who witnessed the murder of Philando Castile. What remains to be seen is how this will impact them long-term.
4) In this article for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks to a climate of mistrust bred from that the countless and often unprovoked and unjustified deaths of black Americans. Even with modern technology and the recording and broadcast of these events, the violence doesn’t “cease” and the police are rarely held accountable.
5) Finally, it is important to review the use of traffic stops. Are traffic stops for missing or broken taillights the best use of an officer’s or citizen’s time? In this article for The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf offers an alternative to current practices to reduce driver-cop interactions in hopes of saving time—and lives.
Black Lives Matter Is Not Anti-Cop
The deaths of both officers and civilians were unwarranted. In its entirety, last week shows how much racism, both latent and overt, affects the treatment of African-American men and women and, ultimately, the society of which we are a part. And it’s not only pockets of police overreach that come to the forefront. Mental health, veterans, and gun control all found their way into discussion, too.
Here are my five articles to read in the aftermath of last week’s shootings.
Harris and Lander detail Obama's speech to 2,000 mourners. Obama's message condemned snap judgement while acknowledging that there is racism in the police force. Obama spoke to the loss of both members of the police force and Castile and Brown in an attempt to ease lines. Media outlets and leaders, meanwhile, are acknowledging that being "pro-black" and being "pro-cop" are not mutually exclusive.
Gun control legislation is off the table. Wong notes that, while the access Micah Johnson had to assault rifles has been called into question, conservative Texans don’t see the need for more gun control. Pete Sessions (R)Texas, states that while places such as Chicago have the strictest gun regulations in the country, there is a high prevalence of violence.
Speaking of gun control: Though Philando Castile had a permit for the gun he was carrying, the National Rifle Association is divided on how to respond.
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting its existence. F.B.I Director James B. Comey admitted to the police force’s long history of infrastructural racism. Comey argued that the conversation needs to start around that truth in order to move forwarded with appropriate steps.
Mental health, especially for veterans, came to the forefront. Shipp notes that friends who worked with Micah Johnson always thought he was “a bit off” after war. The evidence is apparent in his inconsistent manifestos, using the current state of race relations to justify the use of violence. Shipp says access to mental health care is limited, with veterans only receiving access after an interaction with police officers.
It is also worth noting that the idea of mental health is not often afforded to African Americans, who make up 12 percent of the U.S. population but approximately 25 percent of mental health needs in the country (a conservative estimate).
In this piece, Weigel acknowledges that party delineation is making Black Lives Matter a partisan issue. Weigel offers analysis for both sides, as Republicans such as former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani critiques the legitimacy of Black Lives Matter while others in the party seek to implement prison reform while still others equate the movement to being anti-cop.
To reiterate: That it is one of the things to understand this week.-Mariatu Santiago