April V. Taylor
It isn’t too often that cops are humiliated publicly for their racist treatment of Black people, but a recent incident in Austin, Texas during South by Southwest provided just that opportunity. In the aftermath of a fight on Sixth Street in front of the Blind Pig Pub, officers had tackled a Black man who they were using a stun gun on while a handcuffed white man hopped to his feet and ran off into the crowd.
The incident was caught on video and uploaded to Twitter where it has been shared thousands of times. The video was uploaded by a Twitter user who reports that he and his friend saw a fight break out between two men. The 30 second video provides a perfect illustration of how racism and stereotyping plagues police department’s interactions with the public, often resulting in different treatment of white and Black suspects.
The footage shows five officers piling on the Black man they have detained, while the white suspect hobbles to his feet and escapes as officers are completely engrossed in attacking the Black man. Officers did not notice the white suspect escaping until they heard audible gasps from the crowd.
Michael Bernay, an employee at Blind Pig Pub told My Fox Austin that he had, “Never seen anything like it.” He went on to state, “I was standing right outside the door and then I just saw two guys fighting and, you know, that’s pretty common around here, but these two guys started fighting, having friction, and then the cops jut pounced on them…the [other] guy got up and straight up ran down the street.”
While this was a singular incident, it speaks to a phenomenon within the larger context of policing in which white people often get away with things that Black people do not simply because officers are so singularly focused on criminalizing Black people. According to the Sentencing Project, Black people are six times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana offense than white people despite the fact that rates of usage are almost exactly the same between the two groups.