Cops or Robbers?

One night at a bar in Virginia, Martese Johnson, a twenty-year-old black male, was violated and abused by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents. He was tackled and handled with unnecessary force, even though he was not shown to be fighting back (BBC News). Bystanders that were at the scene took pictures of Johnson on the ground covered in blood, and stated that Johnson was not being aggressive whatsoever (BBC News). Eventually, he was arrested and taken away from the pub by the ABC agents.

It is hard to believe that in our world at this point in time, there are still multiple acts of racism being portrayed. All of the cases that have been covered by the news and media may be different in the approach as to why the act was portrayed, but there is generally one thing that seems to be consistent amongst all of them: the fact that the act is from a white person of high authority. Whether it is a shooting because the officer thought that the black man had a gun, or a physical beating because they were ‘resisting arrest’, there always seems to be a controversy.

Although the specific news article took both the agents and Johnson’s points of view, most newscasts fail to do so. In most cases, the news and media will side with the authorities, claiming that the act that was pursued had been appropriate. By doing this, the media sends a message to the viewers that it is alright for white people of authority to kill helpless men and women, and that they are just doing their job in protecting our society. However, in reality, they are doing nothing but harm.

When looking at other events of anti-blackness, it can sometimes be clear that the power structures involved with the act get away from the scene without any physical or emotional punishment. For most cases, like this one, the officers involved with the crime are still put to work, just not on the field (BBC News). However, in the case of the victims, there is no sympathy.

In a world full of white supremacy, people of colour are forced to live their day-to-day lives in fear of being oppressed. While spending time with his nephew, Javon Johnson talks about his young nephews reaction to seeing the police, “He smiles, looks out the window, spots a cop car, drops his seat and says ‘Aw man uncle! Five-oh, we gotta hide!” This is a clear example of how our authority figures are scaring young black children, when really they should be seen as keepers of the peace. Instead of being seen as a source of protection, these authority figures are seen as violent because they use violence as a lens whenever dealing with people of colour. This results in multiple cases of fear of those who are supposed to protect us. With something as simple as a traffic stop, Javon Johnson states that black men “Must be aware of how quickly your hand moves to pocket for wallet or ID” because to a police officer, it could look like a threatening act.

In the cases of Michael Brown and a homeless man nicknamed Africa, the simple act of moving a hand resulted in their unfortunate deaths. Michael Brown was an unarmed black boy who was killed by a white officer who thought he was carrying a gun (Jones). Africa was a homeless black man with a mental disability who suffered the same fate when the white police officer thought that a simple move of the hand was an attempt to grab his gun (BBC News). Both of these stories show the racism that exists within people of high authority, since they are quite clearly stereotyping these black men as dangerous.

These acts of murder and hatred continue to happen and go unnoticed due to many factors, including the participation of the media. If the news and media did not continue to portray the actions of police officers in these situations as right and just, more viewers would come to realize that what they are doing is wrong. However, since the media is such a big part of our world today, society has adapted to believing everything that they say and show. In order for this problem to stop occurring, we must gain a higher level of skepticism, and take action against the wrongdoings of our authorities.



-BBC News. “US Police Shoot Homeless Man Dead in Los Angeles.” BBC News. BBC News, 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <>.

-BBC News. “Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. BBC News, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <>.
-Button Poetry. “Javon Johnston-Cus He’s Black (NPS 2013)”. Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
-Jones, Denise. “Badass Teachers Association.” : The Death of Michael Brown, Teachers, and Racism: 10 Things Every Badass Teacher Needs To Understand., 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

5 thoughts on “Cops or Robbers?

  1. lesg1249 says:

    I think that your blog emphasizes the need to have an open and constructive discussion on racial violence administered by white authority figures. It is clear through your examples and various news reports that police brutality to black people is a reoccurring event, however it does not seem to be getting any better. There has been a lack of input and ideas on how to decrease this issue. I think its a difficult situation because you really need to think about ways to change someones mindset, a task that isn’t easy. Do you think there are easy or effective ways to approach this issue? All in all, your blog was really well done and it made me think about where the best place to start is for decreasing racial violence.


  2. graceelisabeth says:

    Your blog definitely reinforced how prominent sentiments of anti blackness are within our society – an idea that has been throughly discussed throughout this course. I really appreciated the follow up stories that you included in your blog. It really shows how deep the racism, especially racial violence, affects people of colour. Your discussion about how the media’s portrayal of racist acts transfers into how our society perceives the situation is so valid. I think that it is not only the perspectives that they support that promote racist views, but also (like we learned in lecture) the language that they use. The media may show the victim’s point of view, however using specific language choices they can frame the victim to have certain untrustworthy qualities. Do you think that the media has shaped the racist perspectives of our society or does the media simply reinforce racist ideas that are already existed in other social structures?


  3. tlapp30 says:

    LESG1249: I don’t believe that it is an easy task at all, but I do believe that it is something that needs to be worked on in our society today! There is definitely no easy way to approach an issue this large, but it has to be done eventually! What do you think?

    GRACEELISABETH: I think that there are many factors that create the racist perspectives of our society; however, I believe that the media plays a bigger role in reinforcing rather than creating the actual racist ideas. I think that we need to being teaching at a younger age how to be skeptical with news and media as a whole, which will hopefully start towards changing the issues I mentioned in the post. Do you think skepticism is something that needs to be taught or do you think it is learned from experience?


  4. 12eg22 says:

    What a thought-provoking post! Your connection of the case to a broader framework was very strong. I agree that white police officers use violence as a lens to justify their actions against black men and women. I think also, a large factor is dehumanization; because of white supremacy, black people are perceived to be not fully human and therefore deserving of brutality. Furthermore, I found your story of the young black boy heart breaking; it exemplified for me the world we live in today. It reminded me of this visual activism piece wherein black men of varying ages were asked to do word association with the word police. The results were striking. You can watch the piece here:

    My question from your post is: When we are dealing with a life and death situation, as is the case for black people in the United States, how can we best address the problem immediately? There are larger structural issues that need addressing but how can we reduce the instances of violence immediately? (Please note I do not expect a full answer- this is just the question your post raised for me!)


  5. foster.s says:

    Your blog post was VERY intriguing! As the other girls said in their comments, this post was very thought-provoking. I wrote about the same article, and we did use some of the same terms from the course, but the way you used them in your arguments really brought out a new perspective for me to look at. I was especially interested in your point about how people of colour living in a predominantly white-supremacist society are oppressed throughout their lives and how when they (or in your example, a young child of colour) sees a police officer, they automatically fear them instead of feeling safe in their protection, as that is their job.
    This post was very very very thought provoking and I really enjoyed reading your post.
    Great job!!


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