- Black Americans have been vilified and criminalized the entirety of American history.
- It all started shortly after the abolishment of slavery and has maintained its strength through present day.
- In light of recent events, Syd shines a light on the ways in which this is happening, and how we move forward.
The vilification and criminalization of African American persons has been persistent, to say the least. Racism in America has not disappeared— only taken a more “socially acceptable” form. With social acceptability comes denial; with denial comes ignorance; and with ignorance comes complicity and complacency. In light of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor, and George Floyd, it is important to realize these events are nothing new, isolated, nor mere coincidence that they were black.
The criminalization of African Americans -especially African American men- started shortly after the abolishment of slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment. Slavery was made unconstitutional… except as punishment for a crime. The narrative spread of African American men as violent, a danger to pure white women. The irony of it all though was that the majority of the interracial rape those who pushed that narrative feared was done by white men against the constantly adultified black woman and girls. This criminalization and vilification continued through the civil rights movement. Black men were constantly overrepresented as felons through the media. With this overrepresentation came a subconscious false pretense of the inherent criminality of African Americans at large. They became, the public enemy. Being black became a crime in the minds of the public and of the criminal justice system.
The most recent expression of this assumed criminality by the justice system was with George Floyd. A video recently surfaced of Floyd’s death. He laid motionless under the violent chokehold of a police officer, two more held him down. The video is gut-wrenching; Floyd continued to say that he was unable to breathe. Many noted that video was reminiscent of one Eric Garner -also murdered by the police- who was killed during his arrest because he had a “suspicious” look… Floyd was suspected of forgery and did not resist arrest— yet then officer Chauvin and his three counterparts were persistent in their efforts, he choked Floyd for nearly the entirety of the seven-minute video.
Floyd was suspected of forgery -and was executed without trial- his guilt was assumed.
This kind of blatant racism does not only exist in law enforcement cases like Floyd’s, Garner’s, and Taylor’s— it extends to everyday hate crimes as well.
Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in February, while he was jogging. His murderers claimed that they thought Arbery was committing thefts in the area, -once again… criminalization- but when the video went viral seventy-four days later, the justice system could no longer ignore.
These cases— are nothing new, we have seen the lynching of black and brown people under the pretense of assumed guilt, for as long as this country has been around, yet people find ways to deny that these recent cases have anything to do with race at all.
To remedy this epidemic, the first call to action is the abolishment of the double standard. “Innocent until proven guilty,” needs to begin applying to all persons. It means undoing the hundreds of years of complacence and ignorance of overt racism— but it is not impossible. We need to start making it known that black lives matter— because truly, it never was established.