From “brute” to “thug:” the demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America
Research suggests that race and racism is still a relevant and determinant factor in the United States (Advisory Board to the President's Initiative on Race, 1998; Thompson & Neville, 1999; Haney-Lopez, 2010). The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States and the first Black president led many to believe that America achieved racial equality. The term “post-racial” America was coined to validate this notion of racial parity, while simultaneously negating issues of racism as somehow irrelevant in this new era of American history. Despite this idea of being post-racial, several cultural critics and scholars point out that this racial equity has not been reached or achieved (Wise, 2010; Tesler & Sears, 2010). Further research indicates the widening gap in racial inequality in this post-racial era include the following: education research shows racial segregation has grown in the last forty years and policy makers have abandoned policies to create efforts for integration (Rothstein, 2013; Kucsera & Orfield, 2014); housing examinations determine that Black and White citizens still live in racially segregated communities (Desmond, 2012; Crowder et al, 2012); health disparities indicate the vast differences in health care determined by race (LaVeist, 2005; Dressler et. al, 2005); employment opportunities starkly contrast by racial differences favoring White potential employees over their Black counterparts (Western, 2006; Pager, 2007); voting rights have been shown to play a significant difference in changing election results and denying Black citizens through disenfranchisement laws (Harvey, 1994; Manza & Uggen, 2006; Uggen et al, 2006); incarceration has been shown to be unequally distributed across racial lines (Wacquant, 2002; Western, 2007; Alexander, 2010).
Despite the abundance of research specifying stark differences by race and creating enormous racial disparities, White Americans believe racial differences are declining (Sue et. al, 2007). In addition, many White Americans view themselves as good, moral, and believe in equality, which would refute ideas of prejudice or discrimination (Sue, 2004). Therefore, racism in a post-racial America is much more covert and implicit as opposed to earlier forms of overt and explicit forms of racial aggression. Scholarship indicates that new forms of racism have emerged via micro-aggressions that imply traditional racist ideology without having to be explicit in using race but now use other traditional American values (e.g. self-reliance) as a reason why individuals or groups are unsuccessful.