The senseless murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this week have drawn increased attention to the ways that police officers interact with people of color, specifically Black men. This video from StoryCorps highlights the ways that popular ideas about being “post-racial” or not “seeing” race at all don’t actually fix these issues. Instead, it leaves Black people especially vulnerable to police brutality.
In the animated video, a young Black man who was raised by his White mother tells the story of the time when police officers nearly killed him. He was nineteen years old and was pulled over for a routine traffic stop when his friend, a White male, was discovered to have marijuana in his pocket.
Before allowing an illegal search and seizure of his car (and having never had a negative interaction with police), the young man asked for a warrant to search his car. From there he was brutally beaten and called racial slurs by officers.
Stories like these highlight the ways that White supremacy operates even when we choose not to “see” race at all. For this family, who had never discussed race because they had hoped that love would be enough, this was a serious wake-up call showing the ways that racial hatred and anti-Black sentiment are at the core of this country’s structure.
Clearly, colorblindness is not the answer to police brutality. Seeing race is the only way to address the ways that historical and current institutional racism lay the foundation for many of our existing systems of control, including police authorities.
Photo: YouTube screenshot