The US: Police Violence and Racism

A study carried out and released yesterday by the Washington Post reveals that in the past five months, at least 385 people have died in the United States after being shot down by the police. This places the amount of fatal attacks by [law enforcement] agents at more than double the number of such attacks recorded by the federal government in the last decade. According to Jim Bueerman, ex-police chief and current president of the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation, the majority of these cases are not reported.

The report comes to light at a time when abuse by the police force in the U.S., particularly bitter against ethnic minorities (African Americans and Latinos), has been placed at the center of the national debate and has provoked violent riots in various cities throughout the country. In particular, the number issued by the newspaper in the American capital reveals the systematic character of racist violence that characterizes a good part of the police forces in the United States. In recent months and years, this violent character has led to homicides, which have remained mainly unpunished. As was summarized here on April 9, last year, there were a dozen homicides committed by policemen in various states, whose victims were seven blacks and three Mexicans. The most prominent case in the media, highlighted by subsequent violent confrontations, was the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last August.

The common denominator of the cases is that the victims, at the time of their murder, were unarmed and did not pose a significant threat to their murderers. Additionally, public security corporations, if not municipal or state authorities, sought to conceal and protect the murderers. It is impossible for the rest to ignore the racist and classist pattern that has operated in all of the cases, and that corresponds to penitentiary politics that typically attack ethnic minorities in the United States.

Despite the evident human-rights crisis that the United States is experiencing, neither its president — the first African American to take office — nor its political class seem to realize the seriousness of the circumstances. Many variables converge in the structured violence that U.S. police forces show against the marginalized sectors of the nation’s population. These legal, economic, social, and, of course, cultural factors must be attended to and eradicated as soon as possible. By not acting, Washington will increase the risk of multiplying or even generating outbreaks of violence that, up until now, have been limited to a few areas, in addition to fostering ungovernable scenarios. Such a perspective would extend the infamy of the nation that proclaims itself as the model and defender of human rights on the world scale.

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