SF Police Shooting: Racial Bias Can't Be Ignored

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An anthropologists gather facts and social information from a direct source in order to accurately portray a chosen subject. Personal opinions should not influence their findings. Although anthropologists are human, it is their job to avoid biases. Otherwise, anyone could say anything about anybody and nobody will know the real facts.

It's a relationship similar to the one police are supposed to have with the public. Police are supposed to be experts in their field. Johannes Mehserle served only 11 months out of his two-year sentence for “accidentally” killing Oscar Grant, who happened to be unarmed when he was shot and killed inside an Oakland BART station. Because Mehserle was a cop, he was able to get the charges diminished, from murder to involuntary manslaughter. Where was the justice in that for Grant’s grieving family? Mehserle didn’t accidentally forget something; he KILLED someone. What kind of professional is that? We're supposed to feel comfortable with the fact that he reached for the wrong weapon? Currently, the shooting in the Bayview district of San Francisco is the talk of the town. Frankly speaking, whether or not the 19-year-old victim shot first, and whether or not he pimped a girl out in the past, isn’t my concern. My concern is, how is one supposed to feel safe when even the people that are “protecting” us are now becoming more and more of a threat to my life?

Growing up, you're taught that whenever you need help you call 911. But looking at all the “accidents,” “mistakes,” “justifiable homicides,” or just downright illegal actions that are considered legitimate simply because they are done by the police makes me a little hesitant to call them, or even want to be anywhere near them. If the Bayview victim were a young boy who didn’t have a criminal record, who came from a good area and was being asked for his Muni ticket in the Castro, for example, would things have happened differently? No one can answer that question because he did have a record, and he was not in the Castro. But one thing can be answered: How the police, the newspapers and other news media portrayed the story and the victim. In the stories that were published following the incident, the killing seemed to have been a police victory against a threat. Label after label after label described the victim, before the young man's name was even printed or mentioned. The news referred to him as a “Washington state parolee, sought for questioning in the slaying of a Seattle woman” -- as if he had no other identity. Obviously, his identity wasn’t as important as his criminal status. Despite what he did, didn’t do, was going to do, would have done or wanted to do, the family of this young boy will always have to live with those newspaper clippings.

The police are the people we are supposed to call for help, the people who are supposed to keep communities safe. The system has failed us, and my safety is the last thing I am assured of. How many of these stories do we really have to hear before something is done? How many more people are going to die from being shot by the police before actions are taken, before the word of a civilian and the word of a police officer are equal in weight?