YOWELL: Call out the racism in America

The only way to adequately address the racism and subsequent police brutality plaguing this nation is to stop tiptoeing around it

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Several white officers demonstrated blatant disrespect and excessive brutality to an all black family, and that should not be downplayed. 

Screenshot via Youtube

Several police officers in Phoenix, Arizona, are currently under investigation following a shoplifting incident gone wrong. The officers followed a vehicle — occupied by two adults and their two small children — from a local Family Dollar to a nearby apartment complex after receiving a phone call about a stolen doll. Upon arrival, the officers drew their weapons, approached the car and began threatening to shoot, which according to the filed police report was due to the backseat passengers “moving frantically.” 

A bystander began filming the incident almost immediately, allowing viewers to see the horrific scene play out for themselves. In the video, the pregnant woman and her two children — ages one and four — are seen occupying the backseat when they are told to step out of the vehicle. After stating that she cannot open the backdoor because it doesn’t work, the officer screams, “You’re going to f------ get shot,” and then forcibly removes the woman and her two children. Meanwhile her fiance’s head was being slammed against a car by another officer. A third, equally aggressive police officer, later approached the mother demanding that she put the one-year-old on the ground and put her hands in the air. After stating the child was unable to walk and couldn’t be put on the ground, the officer attempted to forcibly remove the child, allegedly dislocating its arm and grabbing her by the neck. 

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego later released a statement describing the behavior as “completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional.” What Gallego fails to acknowledge, however, is the underlying racism which motivated the violence that was displayed by the police officers that day. Several white officers demonstrated blatant disrespect and excessive brutality to an all black family, and that should not be downplayed. Though this event occurred far away in another state, the police officers' actions and the Mayor's response are unfortunately common examples of the systemic racism black members of our society face every day. 

Racism is still abundant in this nation, and whether it is shown by police officers, preachers or neighbors, racist behavior should not be sugar coated, accepted or ignored. It should instead be called out and brought to justice because the only way to truly address racism is to stop dismissing it.

Tiptoeing around the words “racist” or “racism” does not make the issue any less prevalent. In fact, it has the potential to perpetuate  racism by allowing the behavior to continue through positive reinforcement to the offender. If someone’s discriminatory behavior goes unrecognized, one of two things are possible. Either the offender may never know he is committing a wrongful act, or he is fully aware of his behavior but continuously gets away with it and therefore has no reason to stop. 

John Blake recently wrote an article for CNN entitled, “The polite way to call someone a racist,” which explores the different racial euphemisms that have arisen to avoid calling someone or their actions “racist.” This “racial doublespeak,” Blake explains, “evades more than it explains” by using terms such as “racially charged,” “white nativism” or “racial anxiety” to avoid using possibly “offensive” terms. Yet society cannot combat this deeply embedded social injustice without identifying it. 

“The irony is that people who refuse to use the proper condemnatory language while calling out racism are inadvertently reinforcing it,” explains Robin DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility.” She goes on to explain that in doing so, all people are doing is “talking in ridiculous circles” to avoid connecting themselves to the word. 

Society should not perceive the explicit labeling of blatantly racist actions as a taboo or offensive. What took place that day in Phoenix was not simply “inappropriate” and “unprofessional.” It is “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” to wear sweatpants to work, to call in sick to go to the beach or to steal a co-worker’s snack. The actions of those officers were absolutely appalling, transparently racist and downright unacceptable. The only solution is to stop allowing media outlets and politicians to feed the public watered down versions of the story with softer words and less implicating descriptions. Discriminating against someone because of the color of their skin — either subtly or violently — is racism, and it should be called out as such. 

Hailey Yowell is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at h.yowell@cavalierdaily.com

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