In the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting, President Barack Obama announced a plan to tighten the police department’s use of military-style equipment. He also announced a $263 million program that will provide upward of 50,000 body cameras for police.
The hope is that these cameras will help document circumstances involving deadly conflicts such as the one in Ferguson.
However, the root of the problems in Ferguson stems from racial issues, as countless protesters have tried to point out. Police in Ferguson arrest African Americans at a rate three times higher than people from other races. And these issues aren’t unique to Missouri — in the United States, African Americans are incarcerated at a rate of nearly six times that of whites.
With protests in over 150 cities contesting the grand jury decision to not indict Darren Wilson — the white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown — and with President Obama proposing modifications to police operations, will these changes be enough?
Throwing money at a problem will not fix it.
We first need to recognize that the problem is rooted in historical and cultural inequality that has been present in America for hundreds of years.
According to CNN, last week a 12-year-old black boy was shot and killed by a white police officer in Cleveland, Ohio, after the police officer was investigating reports of someone pointing a gun at people. The 12-year-old boy had an air gun that looked real.
Protesters in Ohio and other states have tied this incident to the Ferguson case, labeling the deaths of the two black males as the result of negative cultural perceptions of African Americans.
Additionally, police officer Darren Wilson notably justified his actions by describing Michael Brown “as like a demon” who was charging him, determined to take his life. Demonizing anyone is culturally unacceptable.
Cultural change must take place before any real change can occur.
We should not divide African American males into two categories: the entertainer-athlete and the potential criminal. Instead, we must look past color and see not the stereotype but the neighbor, the son, the teenager, the father or the child.
If not, we will continue to have the young black boys with air guns, the Trayvon Martins and the Michael Browns.