Police Brutality and Selective Rage
Selective rage is a term that refers to the phenomenon of people expressing outrage or anger over some cases of police brutality but not others based on their personal or political preferences, biases, or agendas. Selective rage can be influenced by factors such as the race, gender, age, or criminal history of the victim or the officer, the media coverage and framing of the incident, the political climate and polarization of the society, and the availability and quality of evidence and information.
Some examples of selective rage when it comes to high-profile police brutality cases are:
- Some people were outraged by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Derek Chauvin, a white officer, in Minneapolis in 2020, but not by the killing of Tony Timpa, a white man, by several officers, some of whom were Black, in Dallas in 2016. Both men died after being restrained by police officers who ignored their pleas that they could not breathe. Some critics argued that the media and the public paid more attention to Floyd's case. It fit the narrative of systemic racism and police violence against Black people while ignoring Timpa's case because it did not.
- Some people were outraged by the killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, by white officers who raided her apartment in Louisville in 2020, but not by the killing of Justine Damond, a white woman, by Mohamed Noor, a Black officer who shot her after she called 911 to report a possible assault in Minneapolis in 2017. Both women were innocent bystanders who were killed by police officers who acted recklessly and without justification. Some critics argued that the media and the public paid more attention to Taylor's case. It fit the narrative of systemic sexism and police violence against Black women while ignoring Damond's case because it did not.
- Some people were outraged by the killing of Ashli Babbitt, a white woman, by a Black officer who shot her as she tried to breach the Capitol building during the riot in Washington, D.C., in 2021, but not by the killing of Daniel Shaver, a white man, by Philip Brailsford, a white officer who shot him as he crawled on the floor of a hotel hallway in Mesa in 2016. Both Babbitt and Shaver were unarmed and posed no immediate threat to the officers or others. Some critics argued that the media and the public paid more attention to Babbitt's case. It fit the narrative of political persecution and police violence against Trump supporters while ignoring Shaver's case because it did not.
Selective rage can have negative consequences for the pursuit of justice and accountability in cases of police brutality. It can:
- Undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the movements and activists who advocate for police reform and racial equality.
- Create divisions and conflicts among different groups and communities that may have different perspectives and experiences of police brutality.
- Distract from the underlying causes and solutions of police brutality, such as the lack of training, oversight, and transparency of the police, the culture of impunity and corruption within the police, and the structural and institutional racism and discrimination in society.
To prevent selective rage, we need to take several steps, such as:
- Educate ourselves and others about the history and causes of police brutality and racial disparities in policing. We need to understand how slavery, segregation, discrimination, and bias have shaped the culture and practices of law enforcement in the U.S. and how they continue to affect the lives and rights of people of color.
- Use reliable sources like academic research, books, documentaries, and podcasts to learn more about these issues.
- Challenge our own assumptions and prejudices about police brutality and its victims. We need to recognize that we may have implicit or explicit biases that influence how we perceive and react to cases of police brutality. Some may be more likely to empathize with victims who look like us, share our values, or have a positive reputation, and more likely to blame or dismiss victims who do not.
- Expose ourselves to diverse perspectives and experiences of police brutality, such as by listening to the stories of those affected by it.
- Demand and support reforms that address the systemic and institutional factors that enable and encourage police brutality. We need to advocate for changes that improve the oversight, accountability, and transparency of the police and the policies and laws that govern their use of force.
- Use our power as citizens, voters, consumers, and activists to pressure and influence the decision-makers and stakeholders who can implement these reforms. We can also support movements and organizations that work to end police brutality and racial injustice, such as Voices of Strength and other police accountability groups.
Marissa Barrera - Founder and Executive Director