From time to time, when I bring up matters of police brutality on social media, I’ll receive a comment like, "What about black on black crime?” A question I've come to ignore on the basis that it does nothing to actually advance the conversation about police misconduct.
What makes police brutality of greater concern and different than civilian (non-police) criminality is power, a power afforded to a select group within our society. When it is abused relationships breakdown. It is betrayed trust. Citizens who murder other citizens are not acting from positions of power and authority within a community. They are caught, arrested, tried and incarcerated for their crimes. Justice is served. There is a sense of powerlessness that is felt when those who have authority over you exploit their power and abuse rather than do good. When agents of the state continually abuse their power without consequence that is a cause for outrage. Law enforcement is there to enforce the law fairly and without partiality. They have branded themselves as those who "serve and protect" but the question is, serve and protect whom? The public or the shield? The public’s taxes pays their salary. In addition, we (the public) pay millions of dollars every year in police misconduct settlements and court judgments.
Within a social structure an officer shooting an unarmed black man is not the same as a black man shooting another black man. Death is horrific. Existentially, yes both are horrendous as both situations involves the perishing of people bearing God’s imprint. But systemically they have different effects. Particularly within the context of a country with a long arch of systematic racism and racial injustice towards black and brown people of color.
We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. — Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream, delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.