WASHINGTON, DC (Press Shia Agency) – Executive Director of Veterans for Peace Michael McPhearson said one of the main reasons behind US police violence and the ongoing killings of African Americans is that White people in America are “taught to be afraid of black people”.

“…we, as a peace movement, have to be more involved in what is happening to people here at home in order for people to believe in peace because you cannot believe in peace if you are not seeing peace manifested in your own life or if you do not see a path; if you have problems; you see violence in your life, you do not see a way to work for peace in your own life. So how can I be concerned of what is happening overseas somewhere thousands of miles away, when I see so much violence right here at home,” McPhearson told the Press Shia Agency news agency. 

I asked my colleagues to think about the struggles black people are going through here in the United States, he said, adding that anti-violence protests across the US are often led by the youth. 

“Well, it (US police violence) is somewhat a complicated issue that started hundreds of years ago, you know, with the implementation of slave codes, the separation of black and white people, the teaching to our people in our society that black people are less than human and that still remains to a large degree. White people were taught to be afraid of black people; that black people are dangerous, that we are animals. And, well, that was once the dominant narrative; that was the main narrative. Now that is not the dominant and main narrative today and there has obviously been a lot of change."

He continued, “I mean we do not have slavery in the United States any longer and we do not have Jim Crow any longer. We still have a lot of the remnants of that and a lot of the same structure that was created. We still have white supremacy. That is what was created…this white supremacy structure was created in the United States hundreds of years ago and still is maintained to a great degree not completely. The fact that we have a black president shows that is not in full effect, but a lot of still is in effect. So, as a consequence, I believe many white officers become afraid of situations when there is no need to be afraid and, or the white officer might not be afraid but just does not value the life of this suspect or this person that they are looking at with great suspicion so they end up shooting him. So what you have I believe is first of all black people are looked at as suspect in first place. You know a person who might not be doing anything at all is looked at with suspicion, so the police will go and confront them and if that person acts with indignation, with anger, then a situation occurs that should have never occurred because they should have never been confronted in the first place.”

He stressed that police officers confront African Americans in a way that they might not confront a white people, saying that such treatments will lead to escalation of the situation.

“All these (violent behaviors) go back to what our country has taught over years about black people. We need to be clear here. Anybody can be killed by police. So black and brown people, people of color, are more vulnerable but poor people are very vulnerable too because in this country poor people are treated as if they are maybe not less than human but not equal. So poor white are also vulnerable to police violence. So the reason that it (the violence) continues other than racism is because what I have said about the movement for black lives, it is not just about black people. When we say black lives matter, we say not to say that no one else’s life matter, but because black lives are valued the least in this country that if you lift black lives’ up, that lifts everybody’s life up.”

The use of excessive force by law enforcement has become the focus of national debate in America, particularly over high-profile killings of African-Americans by mainly white officers during the last several years.

Last year, US police killed over 1,150 people in 2015, with the largest police departments disproportionately killing at least 321 African-Americans.

Watch the video of Press Shia Agency’s interview with Michael McPhearson below: