Police Brutality and Coverage in the Latin@ Community

On February 15, 2016 Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed by three Pasco Police Officers. Some might recall the video of Zambrano-Montes’s encounter with the police circulating through the media, which followed the height of the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the death of another individual shot by the police, Michael Brown.

The Black Lives Matter movement made significant strides to garner attention towards the injustice committed. But, for the Latino community, how does police brutality affect us?  While the shooting in Pasco is not an isolated incident for the Latino community, the impact of this incident shares similarities with the systemic racism and racial tensions of Ferguson. Ferguson is sixty-seven percent black but its police force and government officials majority white, similarly Pasco is fifty-six percent Latino yet the majority of government and law enforcement officials are white. Even though both communities differ, the racial tension for both is worth considering. Including the reaction from both communities after each event. When Brown was shot and killed at the hands of police officers, many citizens from all over the country took to the streets in protest. Soon the hashtags #ferguson #blm and #justiceformikebrown were trending globally. The reaction to the Pasco shooting wasn’t nearly as significant to the one in Ferguson, but, for some, the lack of coverage and significant protests against police brutality in the Latino community poses an issue.

“Is it that we didn’t hear about it or that Latinos didn’t care about it?” added Georgina Perez.

“Why can’t we get the same type of coverage or help?” Kris Ramirez said, echoing the same sentiments when her brother was shot by LAPD in 2014.

A study from Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, showed that Latinos comprise less than one percent of total news media coverage, the small coverage that feature Latinos are often portrayed as criminals.

“Violence or discrimination against Latinos does not tend to resonate among most Americans because Latinos are generally not perceived as Americans but recent immigrants or foreigners with no deep roots and histories in the U.S.,” Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the center’s director, said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

The lack of coverage of Latinos shot and killed by police is not an indicator that this isn’t happening. Statistics on the killings committed by police officers are not only hard to find but are also inconsistent. Even so people have crowdsourced information to keep some form of record of police killings. According to research done by Al Dia news, at least 714 people were killed by law enforcement in 2015. 105 of those killed were identified as Latino. 16 of those Latinos were unarmed while 19 showed signs of mental illness.  In fact, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Latinos are 30 percent more likely to be killed by police than average (right after Native Americans and African Americans).

The reason behind so much coverage of any shooting or incident with the police lies in the hands of the people. People’s involvement can become so significant the the general news media cannot ignore their voices. The issues we face today can receive more coverage if we use social media to voice our concerns of crimes against our own community. But, we shouldn’t just be outspoken of the crimes against us. Sharing positive news of our own community, of working alongside others, also helps empower our narrative as Latin@s.

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