Two years ago, Antwon Rose wrote “I understand people believe I’m just a statistic/ I say to them I’m different” in a poem about the disproportionate and unjustified shooting of African Americans. Yet, last Tuesday, Rose’s country failed him by making him yet another statistic of unwarranted and horrifying police brutality.
The seventeen-year-old high school student was fatally shot in the back thrice by an East Pittsburgh police officer while attempting to flee from a car during a traffic stop. Rose’s death has since sparked numerous protests in Pennsylvania and garnered national attention.
The Allegheny County Police Department released press statements in an attempt to clarify the senseless incident. Reports suggest that the police had been responding to the shooting of a 22- year old man on the same evening. The department had put out a call for a vehicle that had been had been seen fleeing the scene by bystanders and, at around 8:30 pm, the officers had located a car that matched the description when two people bolted out of the vehicle while the officers attempted to detain it. An officer then began to shoot, killing the teenager.
The County Police Superintendent, Coleman McDonough said that the officers found two guns in the vehicle Rose attempted to flee from. Despite this, the reports state that Rose was unarmed and therefore shot despite not posing any credible threat to the officers. A graphic video taken by a bystander that was uploaded online helped dissipate the events of the incident and highlighted the apparent fear and viciousness of the officer opening fire.
Rose’s killing was yet another shocking exhibition of rampant and unnecessary police aggression toward African Americans, so once again protesters took to the streets for three straight days after the shooting to honor Antwon and rally against this unchecked brutality that continues to cost black lives. These protests are a part of a larger cultural movement that demands an end to the social injustice plaguing the nation. Each and every unwarranted shooting of an African American highlights America’s larger race problem; in the United States, more than 70 unarmed black people have been killed by the police in the past three years alone. Moreover, an unarmed black person in the US is three times more likely to be shot by police than an unarmed white person.
The numerous unjustified shootings of Black Americans have curated a culture of a race full of people that don’t feel valued as members of society. With every unarmed black citizen being shot at the hands of police, African Americans suffer a deeper mental health toll that causes them to despair about their prospects in a nation that fails to award them with the basic tenets of safety. With every unarmed black citizen being shot at the hands of the police, a stereotype that has put so many innocent black citizens in jail but kept so many innocent white ones out of it is perpetuated, is reinforced, is maintained. With every unarmed black citizen being shot at the hands of police, racism in America climbs one step higher, as we attempt to push it down.
This race problem has gone on for too long and continues to build up a greater death toll as American legislators, citizens, and the media ignore it. The protests in Pittsburgh must thus be turned into sustained political action to stop racial policing that causes police officers to attack African Americans with impunity. We as a nation need to address this fatal issue and stop the bleeding before yet another black citizen is forced to pay with their lives as a result of the rife police brutality in the US.