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Latinx and Native American Police Brutality Cases Go Underreported

Fueled by a spike in the revelation of police violence cases catalyzed by protests around the country, people across the globe are stepping up for their Black brothers and sisters. Some, shocked by the succession of events on the news, frantically searched for ways to school themselves on Black history and culture in order to understand their pain and learn to be actively anti-racist. But among the growing advocators of police reform and abolishment, and among those who shout ACAB, it is very likely that many are unaware of how it also applies strongly to other races – namely Latinxs and Native Americans. 

Carlos Ingram-Lopez was pinned down by the police for 12 minutes while yelling for water and air, facing a strikingly similar incident to the now widely known murder of George Floyd. It took two months for Carlos’ death to be made public. 

22-year-old Sean Monterrossa was killed on his knees with his hands up, surrendering to the police who was dispatched on an alleged looting. They had mistaken his hammer in his pocket for a firearm. 

Mah-hi-vist “Red Bird” GoodBlanket was shot seven times after his parents phoned the police in worry of their son’s medical condition. After a short leave, the officers returned to work and were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Paul Castaway’s mother called the police for help when he went into a fit caused by his mental illness. He threatened to kill himself with a knife if the police shot him. And they did.  

In 2015, 67 Latinxs were killed by US police, 60% of which were without a gun. And from 2016 to 2018, 39% of the CA population comprised Latinxs, but 46% of victims of deadly police encounters were also of the Latinx community. This was the second most disproportionate behind African American rates that year. Despite this statistic, the public has failed to bring immediate attention to Latin American victims of police brutality as often or as much as Black American victims. 

Roberto Cintli Rodriguez is an associate professor of Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona. In an interview with NBC News, he stated that because police departments tend to register Latinx victims as white or unknown, the recorded rates of Latinx victims of police violence are significantly low in comparison with reality. 

Similarly, Native American death rates also go underreported; according to Michigan State University director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center, a large off-grid homeless population and those of mixed race may have caused this inconsistency

Via Newsy on Youtube
Statistics from Guardian’s The Counted, image via Newsy on Youtube

Latinxs have been subject to systemic racism for years, and under the Trump administration, they have been unjustly criminalized in the public eye. According to a Pew Research study in 2017, more Hispanics in America feel that their situation in the country is worsening. That same year, the state of Texas enacted a bill allowing officials to question crime victims and witnesses about their immigration status. In a criticizing tweet, Rep. Joaquin Castro pointed out that it “encourages racial profiling by law enforcement”.

People tend to apply stereotypes to the Native American population that might motivate aggressive police behavior, experts say. They are frequently viewed as violent and addicted to illegal substances. As a matter of fact, Native Americans are almost, if not equally as likely to be involved in a fatal police encounter as African Americans. A CDC report on 47 states from 1999 to 2011 found that Native Americans were actually more likely to be killed by law enforcement. And The Guardian’s The Counted reports that in 2016, while the total count of Native American deaths by police was less than that of Black Americans, their count per million was 3.47 greater. Yet news outlets have continuously turned their heads away from these cases. Of the 29 Native Americans killed between 1 May 2014 and 31 October 2015, top newspapers consistently covered just one

It is likely that the lower recognition of police violence against the Latinx community is caused by the notable absence of Latinx history in American education as well as the neglect by historians of documenting it. Even in terms of counting demographic statistics, the Census Bureau had only begun to do so beginning in the late 2oth century. 

Voto Latino CEO and president Maria Teresa Kumar brings light to a cause behind the apparent oversight of Latinx police killings in the media: “I think the media does a great job of wanting to silo who we are as Americans. They’re like, ‘Oh, that’s the immigrant issue, that’s the African-American issue, that’s the Asian issue.’ No, it’s us.” Because the mainstream funnels the issues based on race, resulting in a divide in the subjects covered, it’s no surprise that people develop the perception that certain topics are allocated to specific racial identities – and therefore, it’s an anomaly for issues like lynching and police brutality to be a reality for Latinx or Native American communities. 

In fact, both Latinx and Native Americans have a less publicized history of falling victim to lynching. Among the thousands of people of Mexican descent that were hanged, whipped, shot, or even burned between the 19th and 20th centuries, Texas had the highest number. A New York Times article explains that lynchings of Hispanics are often underemphasized by being portrayed as acts of justice for white settlers that lost their livestock.

Native Americans had to live in fear of white lynch mobs since Europeans began to settle in America. Because the settlers were expanding their land faster than laws could be enforced, many took matters into their own hands without an official court ruling. Not only that, but scores of Indian prisoners were also dragged from their cells and killed by enraged groups of white men.

Although the current attention that Black victims of police brutality receive is much needed, and to say that more awareness is necessary is an understatement, it’s important not to forget about Latin and Native American cases which are just as deserving of support. Not to mention the crucial need for greater education on Latinx and indigenous history and for the frequent employment of diverse groups of journalists. Groups like the Brown Berets and the Native Lives Matter movement were founded to protect the rights especially of Latinxs or Native Americans, but they do not ignore the fight to prevent police brutality against people of all racial identities. This approach is ideal; thinking and acting in solidarity with the entire racial spectrum, not just one, is at the root of allyship in the growing movement towards racial equality. Though light shines brighter on this issue, Latin Americans and indigenous Americans still battle in the dark.

Featured image via Pexels

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