Racism In Michael Brown's To Kill A Mockingbird

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INTRODUCTION “How could they do it, how could they?” “I don 't know, but they did it. They 've done it before and they did it tonight and they 'll do it again, and when they do it - seems that only children weep.” HARPER LEE, To Kill A Mockingbird. On August 9th, 2014, 18-year old African-American Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown, unarmed, was shot 12 times, until he succumbed to his injuries. The day after Brown’s shooting saw national outrage and protests in and outside of Ferguson, giving new life to a movement conceived in the wake of the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer accused of fatally and unjustifiably shooting African-American teen Travyon…show more content…
Although instances of policemen being explicitly racist are widespread, institutional racism cannot be looked at simply in terms of the explicit biases held by racist actors in law enforcement. It has been theorized that racial biases are so ingrained both in society at large and in the law enforcement machinery specifically, that, more often than not, they tend to manifest subconsciously. The mere perception of race – even without any negative association – can itself lead to prejudice. Our intuitions, which we rely upon for fast and non-conscious mental processes, are beyond our ability to control. Hence, external factors – such as widespread racial biases – influence our gut reactions, and condition us to act, think, and react in certain ways. What makes these implicit biases particularly potent is that they can be present even in people who do not necessarily subscribe to racist ideologies. These biases exist in the form of associations in people’s minds – for instance, because of the social circumstances that condition one’s intuitions, a human being who hears ‘black’ is likely to make a subconscious association to ‘criminal’. This becomes particularly problematic in the manner in which these ingrained biases translate into actions. The most egalitarian individuals are still likely to subconsciously act with racial prejudice because of these…show more content…
A 2007 study tried to examine the degree to which ingrained biases affect how readily police officers shoot targets. Subjects were shown simulations of armed and unarmed black and white males, and were asked to ‘shoot’ all the armed persons. The study showed that policemen were quicker to shoot black armed males than white armed males, and further, were more likely to shoot black unarmed males than white unarmed males. That this subconscious association of African-American individuals with criminal tendencies is a factor in a policeman’s decision to shoot or not to shoot is extremely disturbing. It is made even more disturbing upon recognizing that these biases are not, as is often believed, seen only in consciously racist individuals, but even in people who believe themselves to be neutral and objective. It would be simplistic to pin police brutality and racial violence on racist actors - that would imply that institutional racism could be remedied by removing such officials from the system. However, acknowledging these ingrained biases and understanding their impact is crucial to recognizing that the system is itself inherently biased, and that a neutral and objective institution of law enforcement can only be created when the emphasis is placed not on racists, but on the construct of racism
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