As seen in the Michael Brown case, an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a white police officer, who then immediately defended himself, proclaiming he “feared for his life” and shot the teen because he felt threatened (Fieldstone 2014). However, a friend that was with Michael Brown at the time of the shooting testified as a witness stating “[Michael] never once attempted to grab for the officer’s weapon and that Brown ran away from the officer with his hands held high in the air shouting “l don’t have a gun, stop shooting”‘ (Fieldstone 2014).
This strongly suggests that the black teen was not only unarmed, but also defenseless, not reaching for a weapon, and trying to escape from the officer that continued to hoot towards him. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, but such a privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex and systematically over empowers certain groups (Robbins et al. 2014:101).
To illustrate, Arthur and Case claim that the minority perspective on police use of violence is that middle and high social status and racial majority groups are often not the focus of police use Of force (1 994:168). This in turn means that visible minorities realize that they are most likely subject to and the primary focus of police use of force. As whites are positioned as racially innocent in times of violence when interracial murder occurs, they scapegoat people of color to be the ones responsible for and instigate violence.
Whites, as Tangelo et al. Note, have an essentialist mindset in that they create stereotypical thoughts of blacks and attribute them to be the perpetrators of violence (2014:112). This generalization leads to culturally constructed views of blacks that tend to be construed. The question of what is appropriate use of force by police is not a new social issue in the Ignited States, as an increasing number of accusations f police misusing their powers are reported year after year (Arthur and Case 1994:167).
Why did the police office choose to shoot the teen rather than using pepper spray, a taste/stun gun, or other means of temporarily disabling or monopolizing the teen if the office felt so threatened? It seems as if the police officer abused his power and shot the black teen, not fearing any consequences due to the unearned asset that he could count on not being charged for the murder due to prevalence and strength of white privilege within the United States.
Arthur and Case argue that “the injudicious application of force by police officers in the performance of their duties, especially when the officer is white and the victim is black has often lead to riots and social unrests” (1 994:1 67) As demonstrated in the Michael Brown case, the injudicious force (murder) of the black teen by the white officer lead to a “sparked outrage, riots and protests… And has inspired a national debate about police brutality, race relations and civil rights” Fieldstone (2014).
Many citizens not only in Missouri but all over the United States, regardless of race, color, or ethnicity, are outraged by the unjust actions of this police officer. Rationalizing his own behavior, Fieldstone (2014) reports that the officer informed authorities that he “feared for his life”, and that Brown “reached for his gun during a scuffle in his car before he fatally shot the teen outside of the vehicle”, supporting the notion that people of color are the perpetrators of violence and that the officer acted out of an instinct of survival (life or death).
Although white privilege leads to people of color being deemed as the perpetrators of violence, controversy looms over the issue that people of color are responsible for the violence rather than are police officers abusing heir power and force. As Fieldstone (2014) notes, there is evidence ‘Which includes what sounds like a volley of six shots, a brief pause, and then another four or five shots” which may be considered excessive by many. This poses the question: was the officer attempting to harm the black teen enough to stop the threat (I. . , a gun shot to an extremity) or was the officer’s intent to kill Brown who was said to be unarmed? The officer’s actions support the nature of white privilege and the prosecutor spoke to a crowd shortly after the murder, stating, ‘Why [the officer] would not, and in fact, should not, be indicted for killing unarmed 1 8-year-old Michael Brown” (Thompson 2014). The notion of social stratification is prevalent when talking about white privilege for several reasons.
The order and ranking of individuals based on race where those at the top Of the hierarchy are generally afforded more power, wealth, prestige, or privileges in a society Robbins et al. (2014:75) are evident in the United States. This results in consequences for those that are on the lower rungs of the hierarchal ladder. According to Robbins et al. , for hundreds of years “North American societies have been characterized by call stratification where members in these societies are placed into particular positions in a hierarchy that defines their social worth” (2014:80).
Not surprisingly, the positioning of “white” individuals is at the top of the racial hierarchies (2014:81). The dissertation of white privilege and violence also has the “effect of shoring up White solidarity in and beyond cross-racial discussions”(Tangelo et al. 2014: 114). White solidarity can be conceptualized as the tacit agreement of Whites to support one another engagement in the processes that maintain White supremacy (2014: 1 14).
Not only was the white police officer who killed the black teen at the top of the racial hierarchy while Brown was underneath him (presumably near the bottom), it can be argued that “white solidarity protects whites from public penalties resulting from their racial attitudes and behaviors” (2014: 1 15). The nature of white privilege is prevalent in the United States, where white police officers are receiving little to no punishment for their actions that are deemed questionable and citizens are seeking justice.
As Thompson reports, given the racial hierarchy that is prevalent in today’s society and the violence attributed with the Michael Brown case, “many Americans still wonder that maybe this time black lives would matter… Perhaps, despite so many decades of history, black people really could find justice in the American legal system (2014). The main issues appear to be: power and the implication that all White people, by virtue of their social position, hold social, historical, and institutional power in relation to all peoples of Color; and whose racial knowledge is legitimate” (Tangelo et al. 2014: 116).
In summary, there is truly an unruly power of white privilege in the United States that needs to be resolved. The story of Michael Brown tells us that given the nature of white privilege, unfair outcomes will come from unjust actions based on the color of the person’s skin color. Unfortunately, white people have access to greater power, authority, and privileges than those that are non-white (Robbins et al. (2014:81 ), and as the verdict is decided for this case, it will either continue to make the problem worse or help bring to light the seriousness of the nature of white privilege in the United States.