This Charlotte Protests Photo Gives Perspective

by Cate Carrejo

North Carolina is the latest scene of unrest between citizens and the police following this week's shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, who joined the ever growing list of black men killed by police. The protests began early Wednesday morning, and the dramatic scene was caught on camera by journalists there to cover the unrest. One image in particular visually expresses the fear that the police can incite, and seems to be a representation of how demographics oppressed by police perceive them in their communities. This photo of the North Carolina protests might make you think a little differently about the role of the police, and see them through the lens that those who are subject to more negative interactions.

The dramatic and ominous image of police officers dressed in riot gear, smoke from their flash grenades at their backs, says a lot about the state of the police in the United States. As Matthew Robinson points out in his tweet, the motto of the police is "protect and serve" but those officers definitely don't look like they're about to go out and protect the community. This picture illustrates how a lot of people, particularly in communities and demographics that experience more police force, perceive the police in general — this is what springs to mind when they think of police and why it's so hard to universally support police officers.

The reality is that black and Hispanic people are more likely to have negative interactions with the police, and therefore, it's reasonable that they won't perceive the police the same way white people do. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have interactions with the police where force is used, and they're more likely to be killed when they're displaying the same level of threat to a police officer as a white person. When you see this happen enough, have friends or family members who have experienced racism or violence at the hands of police, or even hear enough stories about people of your own ethnicity being treated this way by the people who are supposed to protect them, it can be really hard to support them.

Of course, that doesn't mean anyone should condone violence against the police. The right to protest does not include the right to use violence. So far, 16 officers have been injured in Charlotte, and all that does is give detractors an excuse to delegitimize minorities' cries for equality and justice. The instinct toward reciprocal violence is understandable, but it's unnecessary and ultimately harmful.

Yet after years of racially motivated bias and community oppression, it can't be all that surprising to anyone that these tensions erupt into violent protests. This photo shows that it's easy to view the police as instigators in these protests, and that perception needs to fundamentally change in order for these tensions to deescalate. The police are supposed to be on the community's side, not lined up for an attack. Once that starts to change, then everyone can come together to find solutions to police violence.