Following the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 9-year-old black girl gave a tearful testimony to the local city council — pleading with police to stop killing people like her.
“We are black people, and we shouldn’t have to feel like this,” Zianna Oliphant said, as locals protested in the city council over the police’s treatment of black residents. “We shouldn’t have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to and have rights.”
“I’ve been born and raised in Charlotte,” she added. “And I never felt this way until now. And I can’t stand how we’re treated. It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed, and we can’t even see them anymore. It’s a shame that we have to go the graveyard and bury them. And we have tears, and we shouldn’t have tears. We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side.”
The speech shows how early black Americans can come to realize that something in the criminal justice system is wrong.
An analysis of the available FBI data by Vox’s Dara Lind shows that US police kill black people at disproportionate rates: They accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population. Although the data is incomplete, since it’s based on voluntary reports from police agencies around the country, it highlights the vast disparities in how police use force.
Higher crime in minority communities does not explain away the disparities. A 2015 study by researcher Cody Ross found, “There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.” That suggests something else — such as, potentially, racial bias — is going on.
These are the statistics and experiences that minority communities have been talking about for generations — and that have only recently broken into mainstream discourse due to high-profile police killings, from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to Scott in Charlotte. And they’re now leading even young children to protest in front of their city council.