While police brutality in Black communities seems more prevalent now due to the use of social media and video that has pushed high-profile cases like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner to the front of an important conversation on race, the issue of racial bias in policing is a historic one.
That didn’t stop former neurosurgeon and presidential hopeful Ben Carson from dismissing the fact that Black men and women are being disproportionately targeted by police, saying he needed more “evidence” that profiling exists in law enforcement while speaking to a bipartisan group of Black lawmakers and community leaders this past weekend.
During the 2020 Club’s Presidential Justice Forum at Allen University, a historically black university in Columbia, South Carolina, Carson said that he’s not convinced that there are racial biases in policing or that law enforcement singles out African Americans.
“I’m not aware of a lot of cases where a police officer comes up to someone like you and says ‘Hey, I don’t like you. I’m going to shoot you,’” he said to moderator Jeff Johnson from Black Entertainment Television. “I’m still waiting for the evidence.”
Johnson quickly responded: “I’ll show you the Tamir Rice tape,” to loud applause from the black audience.
Studies show that police are more likely to shoot an unarmed Black man than an unarmed White man, Think Progress notes. And Carson, whose skepticism shows a true disconnect between his reality and the ills Black communities face daily, need look no further than Ferguson, where the Justice Department earlier this year released a scathing report that implicated the police department in gross and wide-spread racially biased police practices. Black residents in the suburb of St. Louis were stopped, approached, and arrested at disproportionate rates compared to White residents.
Only when presented with similar evidence did Carson decide to address the issue.
“Whenever something like that happens, there must be swift justice,” he said when asked what he’d do about the fact that more than 30 unarmed black men and women have been killed by police this year. “If there is a situation where you have a rogue policeman who does something like that, that needs to be publicized and they need to be punished to the severest extent of the law.”
When pressed by a reporter about what policies he’d push to prevent the recurrence of police violence, whether it’s body cameras or improved police training, he refused to name concrete proposals.
Carson’s comments, while inflammatory and ignorant, are not surprising. Last week, Carson denounced protests to dismantle campus-wide racism across the nation, calling it “anarchy.” A top-aide recently revealed he knew very little about foreign policy and just days ago, Carson was called out for likening Syrian refugees to rabid dogs. And when asked about the Black Lives Matter movement during the Saturday forum, Carson said activists should be focusing on “Black lives that are lost at abortion clinics.”
Yes. Just to confirm. This is the man running for president of the United States of America.