Tragedy strikes in New York as police shoot and kill Saheed Vassell, an unarmed, mentally ill African American man who held a metal pipe they mistook for a gun.
This terrible incident comes only a few weeks after police in Sacramento, California killed Stephon Clark, another unarmed black man, in his grandmother’s back yard: similarly his cell phone was mistaken for a gun. It’s estimated that police fired 20 rounds at the Clark, and a private autopsy conducted by the victim’s family found that he was struck eight times, twice in the side and six times in the back.
These tragic deaths have angered people across the nation, triggering protests by concerned citizens and activists. They are the latest in a long line of police killings of young black men over the last few years, including Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Michael Brown.
Statistically African American men are much more likely to be be killed by police than white men: in 2016, 6.7 black men per million residents were killed by police, compared to 2.9 white men per million. The numbers are even worse for Native American men: 10.1 are killed per million.
This is a terrible epidemic and a blight on our society. African Americans consistently report unfair treatment by law enforcement officers across the nation. The situation is grave, and the health and safety of young black men and boys is at great risk. Good citizens must stand up and take action, calling upon their elected government representatives at every level, from local, through state and the federal branches, to stave this unacceptable trend.
Clearly the will of congress, and President Trump, to affect change is lacking. But much can be achieved at the local and state levels, regardless of federal paralysis. Solidarity, empathy and a willingness to act are necessary, now more than ever.
It’s very important to talk about this issue. Write blog articles, post on social media, sign petitions, and call your congressman and state representatives. Also, discuss the crisis with your children at an age-appropriate level, and others in your community. Most important of all, vote for politicians who take this emergency seriously and are willing to act to end the violence. The people have the power to reverse this dark trend.
Learn more (Vox)
Photo: By The All-Nite Images [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons