Protests against police treatment of minorities have evoked national conversations about race in America over the last few months. One recent high-profile case involving the shooting of an African-American teenager, Michael Brown, by a Caucasian police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, MO, has resulted in organized walkouts and protests in over 30 locations, trending topics and hashtags on social media and other demonstrations in several large cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Seattle.
“We have the right to go to the streets and have a peaceful protest,” sophomore Shelby Bartlett said. “In the amendment, it says ‘peaceful,’ but it never says ‘violent.’ Once it turns violent, that’s when the police force steps in. We’re blaming the police officers for upholding the law.”
Many believe that these protests occurring across the country against police brutality and treatment of minorities have portrayed police officers in a bad light.
“You will every once in a while find a corrupt police officer and you will every once in a while find a corrupt civilian, but that’s life,” sophomore Shelby Bartlett said. “We can’t just use one perception of a police officer to generalize the whole police force.”
Due to these protests and demonstrations occurring across the nation, many are beginning to question whether racism still persists in American society or if these protests simply exaggerate a limited issue.
The media’s widespread coverage of these events and the resulting protests and court cases have attracted the attention of virtually all Americans regardless of age or race and has convinced many that racism and discrimination still exists as a prevalent issue in the United States.
“The media is biased towards one side or another, so we don’t get all the bits of the story; we get what the media tells us,” Bartlett said. “If the media tells us it is bad, then we are going to think it is bad. If the media tells us it is good, we’ll see it as good. It’s about how the media feeds us information.”
“I feel like it’s a powerful movement and it’s actually causing change,” freshman Zoe Martinez said. “People say it’s not the most effective way to go about it, but without protests, no one would recognize the issue.”
Other students also believe that protests against police treatment of minorities calls attention to a serious issue of racism and discrimination in American society, preventing the issue from being swept under the rug.
“I think it is absolutely worth making the statement that all Americans deserve fair and equal treatment before the law, and that police are not invincible or infallible,” senior Jacob Williams said. “They have to follow the rules just like all the rest of us.”
Many are convinced that racism continues to exist in America and without the widespread media coverage of these cases, the issue of racism would be hidden in the shadows of other prevalent issues.
“Those big cases that are exposed in the media are the ones that really show how prevalent racism still is in America,” senior Ngozi Elobuike said.
There is no question that racism is deeply rooted in American history. The United States has oppressed several ethnic groups throughout its history and it has been just over 50 years since African-Americans were granted their civil rights in the 1960s. Despite this, some believe that even today not all ethnicities are treated fairly and equally in American society.
“Blacks are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated versus their white counterparts,” Williams said. “Cops are more likely to stop a black man than a white man walking the streets at night, and that’s just wrong.”
Although America has come a long way in regards to racial discrimination, it is possible that it will take many more years for all races to truly be treated and perceived as equals by all.
“It has only been 50 years since the end of segregation,” Elobuike said. “That is the lifespan of one person and the mentality of our whole entire society can’t change in the lifespan of one person.”
“I don’t think this problem is ever going to completely go away,” Williams said. “It’s like a great scab that is trying to scar up but is prevented from doing so because the wound keeps getting reopened.”
Although racism today, particularly among today’s youth, may not exist through segregation, it is fairly prevalent through racist jokes and stereotypes.
“I feel like teens don’t get subjected to racism, we just get a bunch of racist comments. Like a bunch of the stereotypes,” senior Nathan Mao said. “It’s not really teens being racist towards each other, it’s more of them making a joke even though it really offends some people.”
Since racist jokes are often taken jokingly among teens, it is easy to forget that each joke and stereotype evolves from an idea that can be offensive to many people.
“There is a basis for everything someone says,” Elobuike said. “If you say a stereotypical joke about a black person or a Mexican person, there is some basis in your joke because you really believe what you’re saying. You wouldn’t create the joke if you didn’t believe what you’re actually saying.”
Overall, these cases serve as reminders of the concept that people are people regardless of race.
“We’re supposed to be separate races: white, black, Mexican. Like we’re all of a different species,” Williams said. “I never accepted that idea. There’s only one race, and that’s the human race.”