Police Killing and Systematic Racism in the US

Sayed Faisal was just another Bangladeshi expatriate who went to the US with his parents for a better life. Faisal was the only child of his beloved parents. Faisal was only 20 years old and was studying at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. On Jan. 4,, 2023, Faisal was somehow armed with Kukri Knife, a common kitchen knife in South Asia, and found himself in a violent situation. The neighbors called the cops. Perhaps, Faisal was having a mental breakdown and needed to restrain only. But as the police came, they identified Faisal as a fatal attacker who was armed with broken glass and a Kukri knife and decided to shoot him. Faisal was killed by the white police in the process.

The local Bangladeshi community immediately identified the incident as racist and called for justice for young Faisal. As Faisal was the only child of his parents, the family is now seeking the answer. The Bangladeshi community has already held protests and demanded an answer from the Mayor, Sumbul Siddique.

It is quite surprising that the police identified Kukri knife and broken glass as lethal weapons. In this situation, Faisal is actually a victim and the Cambridge police is the aggressor who was quick to judge the situation based on skin color and race.

However, the case of Faisal is not an isolated one rather it is one of the many cases that took place in the US for decades now. Police Killing is one of the major human rights issues that the US is suffering from. And behind this problem, there lies systematic racism and white supremacy; especially within the US police.

Police Killing or brutality remains one of the major issues in the US human rights. Police in the United States killed an estimated 1,176 people in 2022, an average of more than three people a day and 100 people every month last year 2022. It is perhaps the deadliest year in the US. Previously, in 2021 police killed nearly 1,145 people. In 2020 police killed 1,152 people. In 2019 an estimated 1,097 people were killed, 1,140 in 2018, and 1,089 in 2017. Amid the pandemic, police brutality also triggered rights movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Police brutality in the US also has a racial dimension. Even though the black and Hispanic Americans consist of only 13% of the population, they are likely to be victims of police killing two and half times more than their white counterparts. 

The issue also lacks accountability as in most cases, officers get away without any legal punishment. In 2020, against 1152 cases of police killing, only 16 lawsuits were filed against officers. Such data suggest that in 99% of cases, perpetrators get away without any justice. According to Mapping the Police Violence, 98.1% of killings by police from 2013-2022 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime.

However, Police Killing is not the only human rights issue in the US. Instead, Faisal’s case is a reminder for us in this aspect that the issue remains alarming for more than a decade. Apart from alarming police brutality, American society is also suffering from white supremacy, systemic racism, hate crimes, and gun violence in many forms. As a result, the US itself is suffering from many human rights issues that need to be addressed.

Beyond the border, the US is centering its foreign policy around democracy and human rights. It is also known as the ‘Champion of Human Rights’. But back home, the country itself has serious human rights issues. Therefore, before lecturing the Global South, the US should also focus on its own human rights situation so that no parents face misfortune as Faisal’s parents. And lastly, upholding human rights domestically will also increase US’ credibility beyond the border.

[Image by liftarn, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons]

*Doreen Chowdhury is a doctoral researcher at the University of Groningen. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

 

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