The magnitude of the disturbances that have occurred over the course of the past few nights in Charlotte, following the death of an African-American man who was shot by police, has cast a spotlight once more on the diabolical combination of factors at play within the United States: widespread racial segregation, law enforcement’s use of undue force and a weak control over firearm ownership.
The officers who killed Keith Lamont Scott in a parking lot this past Tuesday had been driving around the area hoping to arrest a different man. During the course of the operation, they ran into Lamont. According to police, he was armed and “posed an imminent, deadly threat.” According to family members, he was carrying a book. The only thing known for sure is that North Carolina’s governor had to declare a state of emergency yesterday in Charlotte and order the deployment of the National Guard, a force bearing similar armaments to the U.S. Army, to try and control this new episode of civil unrest that, for now, has left a multitude of wounded, including two from gunshots. Meanwhile, Tulsa, Oklahoma, has also been experiencing tension, as the place where Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old, unarmed African-American man, was killed this past Friday.
Paradoxically, since Barack Obama came to power in 2009, racism’s proverbial match seems to have been lit once again within a country historically marked by slavery and segregation. Oakland, Florida, New York and, most of all, Ferguson and Dallas have become recent scenes of controversial police action taken against African-Americans, provoking enormous face-offs between police officers and protesters, some of which have even included accompanying retaliatory actions.
So far this year, 172 African-Americans have been shot to death by police, which represents 25 percent of the total victims of police shootings. This is too many, if we take into account the fact that the African-American population represents 13 percent of the whole country. Racism, police violence, firearm ownership and socioeconomic inequality between whites and blacks have together formed a political hotbed, which has sought to seize control of Obama during his two terms in office. Yet, political opposition to arms control, high rates of unemployment, the marginalization of African-Americans and lenient court rulings in response to more-than-controversial police actions have made racial conflict the thorn in the side of the president, who is leaving behind a toxic legacy, riddled with open wounds.
Within this volatile mix, Donald Trump, who is particularly trigger-happy for controversy, has already jumped into the limelight, saying: “African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before … Honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.”
The dangerous consequences which would result from a man with xenophobic ideas like Trump becoming president of the United States are unimaginable. This is especially true at this point in time, as African-Americans’ feelings of mistrust toward authorities, already at historic levels, are only getting worse. The fact that elite African-American athletes have publicly disavowed taking part in such symbolic emblems as the national anthem, within a highly patriotic country, provides evidence of the situation’s extreme delicacy. As time goes on, its solution only becomes more complex.