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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The inconvenient truth: we need to do better

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“Unarmed black man killed by police in [city], [state]”. It is ominous that this sentence could be applied to a number of incidents that have been happening across the country. The saddest thing about what this sentence illustrates is that I am increasingly apathetic about the situation to the point that when I hear reports of another unarmed African American killed by the police, the first thing that comes to my mind is not disbelief or anger but “Again?”

The number of unarmed African American men and women killed by police last year alone is at least 1,106 people according to the organization, Killed By Police. The most prominent of the cases that we saw most recently was Freddie Grey, a 25-year-old African-American man who died of his injuries sustained by police officers in Baltimore while in police custody. The outrage that resulted from his death sparked massive pro- tests in Baltimore, as well as riots.

It is important to note that the Baltimore riots were influenced by the underlying issues that have plagued the African American community. Here are a couple of statistics that show that the American criminal justice system is often unfair towards African Americans. A statistic from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that 1 in 3 African-American males are likely to be imprisoned in their lifetime. On the contrary, White males who have a 1 in 17 chance in getting arrested in their lifetime. It is also important to note that 1 in 18 African-American women are likely to be imprisoned in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 111 Caucasian females.

Another statistic about racial injustice is seen in the NYPD database about Stop and Frisk. The Stop and Frisk Campaign allowed police officers to stop pedestrians to search them for contraband or weapons. The NYPD database shows that 82% of the New Yorkers who were stopped were innocent. African Americans consisted of 55% of the stops. This is despite the fact that African Americans consist of only 17.5% of New York City’s population in 2013. On the contrary, 12% of the people who were stopped were Caucasian, who consisted of 70.9% of the NYC’s population in 2013. Both of these statistics show that African Americans are seriously being mistreated by the judicial system and that Freddie Grey’s death is not an isolated incident.

So is there anything we can do? The easiest and most important thing we could do at Carleton is stepping out of our comfort zone and getting to know people with different backgrounds. By talking to people from different backgrounds, you would get a chance to realize what sort of challenges people face because of their identity. What is needed the most in solving the racial injustices in the system is a consensus among all sides regarding what the obstacles against the success of minorities truly are. Once there is a consensus on the issue we can all work together to address the problem.

I believe that the CSA Senate and the Carleton administration are vital to creating these life-changing exchanges. Both organizations could create new activities that foster dialogue about diversity, and make institutional changes that help create a diverse atmosphere on campus. They could also increase support to the existing events, so that the organizations that are currently working to create and promote diversity, such as the Office of Intercultural and International Life, will have more resources to work with. I believe that more students should work constructively with CSA Senate and the Carleton administration to help Carleton become a place where everyone is safe and welcome.

Senator Paul Wellstone has famously stated “We all do better when we all do better.” What the Baltimore riots and all the other issues of racial injustice are showing us is that we have to make a choice. We can choose to continue living our lives as though nothing has happened. Or we can choose to make our society a little better by informing ourselves about these issues, and working with others to make society a little fairer and accommodating for all of us. To honor those who have died as a result of a racially unfair system, we need to work on promoting and protecting racial equality as a community.

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