An article in the New York Times from April 19, 2015 by Robles and Dewan addresses the story of Walter L. Scott, a black man recently shot and killed by a white policeman in South Carolina. Scott’s story is not unfamiliar, as there have been multiple shootings of unarmed black males throughout the United States, particularly over the past year; however, his case highlights the practice of some states to impose jail time on those who have failed to pay debts related to child support (Robles & Dewan, 2015). This story demonstrates that many who are unable to pay child support further advance into a cycle of debt and disparity that is difficult to overcome, and therefore, the man faced an uphill battle that he could not escape (Robles & Dewan, 2015). This story and many others further highlights the discussion of law enforcement and the obvious level of inequality that exists because many of these offenders are black males; therefore, the issues surrounding this phenomenon have become fare too familiar in modern American society and continue to grow rather than to subside.
The role of police brutality that has threatened the lives of many black males has been significant in recent years, thereby creating an environment in which many black men are heavily scrutinized to the point that they are unable to go out in public without receiving looks or other gestures that make them appear to be guilty, even if they are not. This behavior is suspect by police officers and by those persons throughout society who make these judgments without knowing the entire story. This is a serious issue that appears to have reached a boiling point, and with the stories in the media continuing regarding police brutality and racial inequality as related to social class. This is a difficult situation that continues to grow and poses many challenges to the race as a whole, including those related to the treatment of black males by law enforcement, which is often brutal and excessive without cause (Apuzzo & Williams, 2015).
Social conflict theory and symbolic interactionism are applicable to this and many other examples within this subject area, as they reflect the discovery of inequality and perhaps a belief of superiority among law enforcement, particularly white male police officers. This appears to be a serious concern that creates social conflict and unnecessary tension among social classes, with the false belief that a white male has some type of greater power or authority over a black male. Although social equality across all races and cultures is the desired belief system, it is not necessarily the case in many communities where police brutality has increasingly become the norm. In addition, the classification of race is symbolic in and of itself among law enforcement, as many officers may target black males or members of other groups due to false beliefs or presumptions regarding their roles in society. This is a negative consequence of the authority of police officers to essentially do as they please in some communities without facing any consequences for their actions, and it reflects a lack of sound and reasonable judgment on the part of these officers.
Police brutality has contributed significantly to social stratification in many communities; therefore, it has been instrumental in promoting inequality and unnecessary use of force on unarmed black males, as several high profile cases have shown in recent years. These issues contribute to social conflicts and also symbolize a negative trend in law enforcement that further advances racial discrimination and other actions. This activity must be addressed in order to prevent further actions by white male officers and their aggressive and often irresponsible actions towards black males.
- Apuzzo, M., & Williams, T. (2015). Video of Walter Scott shooting reignites debate on police tactics. New York Times, retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/us/video-of-fatal-shooting-of-walter-scott-reignites-debate-on-police-use-of-force.html
- Robles, F., & Dewan, S. (2015). Skip child support. Go to jail. Lose job. Repeat. New York Times, retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/20/us/skip-child-support-go-to-jail-lose-job-repeat.html