U.S. persecution of Black Americans dominate global headlines and we are not even 30 days into the New Year.
The most recent headline is the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who the Scorpion Unit stopped and brutally beat earlier this year. On January 10, Nichols succumbed to his injuries. Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean and Preston Hemphill, were among the officers involved in Nichols death.
Both videos depict two men, Nichols and Anderson, who were both visibly frightened of law enforcement officers and fled. In one video, Nichols can be heard screaming for his mom while five officers punched and kicked him repeatedly. In the other video, Anderson can be heard yelling, “You are trying to George Floyd me.”
There is a debate among Americans as to whether these incidents should be considered acts of racism. CCG Bryson, who is known for his Christian conservative rapping, said “Can someone explain, logically, how 5 black officers killing a black man is white supremacy?” To which, Tariq Nasheed responded, it was the “white supremacist power structure that created that police unit that allocated the resources to them, trained them and incentivize them to go out there and terrorize the black community. That’s 100% white supremacy.” To be sure, prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump said on The Daily Show that “the race of the police officer isn’t the determining factor of whether they’re going to commit excessive use of force. But it is the race of the victim. And it’s often Black and brown people who bear the brunt of police brutality.”
It must be emphasized that American law enforcement officers’ harassment and treatment of Black Americans as suspects, through pedestrian and traffic stops, has been thoroughly researched. A recent study found when police use tactics to gain control in encounters with civilians, such as issuing commands in an aggressive way, it fosters fear and make those encounters less predictable (Pickett, Graham & Cullen, 2022). For instance, an officers’ frightening commands may cause an individual to flee the scene, or result in them being hesitant to leave their vehicles even when officers command them to (Pickett, Graham & Cullen, 2022).
U.S. Persecution of Black Americans Dominate Global Headlines. Will the International Community Step In?
In 2016, the IACHR found U.S. law and practices regarding police killings soared to high levels of impunity (Canada, 2022). As a result, the IACHR urged the U.S. to conduct “exhaustive, impartial, independent, effective and prompt investigations.” Although human rights bodies have repeatedly advised the U.S. to bring its domestic law into compliance with international law and standards on use of force practices, the U.S. has failed to comply (Canada, 2022).
As I mentioned last year, in Bullets of Terror: Staring Down the Second Amendment’s Barrel of Death, the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety does not go far enough, nor does it provide for specific criminal legislation for penalties against race-based policing that often results in death for many Black Americans.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination made clear that police are not free to use any amount of force. Indeed, the CERD stated the brutality and excessive or deadly use of force by law enforcement officials against Black and Latinx Americans, including against unarmed individuals, was deeply concerning. It also was concerned at the persistence of the practice of racial profiling by law enforcement officials in the U.S.
Both the End Racial Profiling Act of 2019 (H.R.4339) and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (H.R.1280) have not made it pass the House. Moreover, U.S. federal and state legislation that regulates the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials is not in accordance with international law and international standards.
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