The statistics in this article were last updated on July 26th, 2016.
*Insert fluffy BS intro about how much progress we’ve made in the fight for justice*
1,863 people have been killed by American police since Michael Brown was killed on August 9th, 2014. These numbers are on a steep INCLINE.
They’ve killed 608 people this year alone. In six months. That’s more than almost every other country in the world’s police forces kill in a decade.
They killed 1140 people last year. One thousand, one hundred and forty people were killed by American police last year.
Since 2001, the wars in Afghanistan & Iraq had a combined 6,845 American casualties.
Since 2001, American Police have killed over 7,500 people.
I could keep throwing stats at you all day, but I think you get the point. Things are bad. Things are really, really bad.
Straight Outta Compton was released in stores last month, and I’m sure that might seem like a totally irrelevant and weird segway, but if you know the group at all you probably know that they were one of the first artists to publicly speak out against police brutality.
“Speak a little truth and people lose their minds.” -Ice Cube
Their hit single, “F*** tha Police,” speaks on a SUPER real level about the War on Drugs, with lines like “Searching my car, looking for the product / Thinking every n**** is selling narcotics.” When Straight Outta Compton, the album that “F*** tha Police” is featured on, came out in 1988, arrests for crack possession were at an all-time high. Discrimination by police towards people of colour was rampant throughout the US, as the media was exploding with stories of the crack crisis which very clearly had a strong racial subtext. Although the War on Drugs was never explicitly labeled as being racist and discriminatory, its impact on the lives of countless African Americans from its implementation in 1970 right through to today tells a much different story.
The line “They put out my picture with silence / Because my identity by itself causes violence,” gives language to this pattern of blatant racism that exists within the police force- how, as seen in the movie, black people can and are frequently stopped, searched, and quite often brutalized, for no other reason apart from the fact that they are black.
“It wasn’t just about us, it wasn’t just about what happened to us. It was more of an anthem for people to be able to fight back and to have a song they can all rally around that feels the same way they feel. We wanted to show that our music had an impact on the community as a whole.” -Ice Cube
As much as Straight Outta Compton was an absolutely incredible film that I can’t wait to see again, when I first saw it last year on its opening night, I left the theatre terribly disturbed. Throughout the movie, upon every interaction between the members of N.W.A. and the police, I couldn’t help but see the faces of Walter Scott, of Christian Taylor, of Tamir Rice, of Trayvon Martin, of Mike Brown, flash before my eyes.
And I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of thousands of others that are unjustly and unequivocally targeted day in and day out by an oppressive system designed with control and ascendancy at the forefront.
When NWA wrote “F*** tha Police,” I don’t think each member thought that 30 years down the road they would have to explain the brutality they faced to their children and grandchildren as a modern issue.
I don’t think they anticipated the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of innocent people at the hands of police officers.
I don’t think they expected stories like that of Rodney King‘s to be such a common occurrence.
I don’t have any deep, profound thoughts about this to close with right now. I’m too overwhelmed with the similarities that I’ve been reminded of upon the movie’s release between life in Compton in the 80’s and life for all African American citizens today to try and come up with anything comprehensive and meaningful.
The system is failing far too many. The system is killing far too many. And I, for one, am entirely and exhaustedly, straight outta patience.