200 people arrested and 15 police officers injured. The 26th largest city in the United States plunged into turmoil and the cast into the global spotlight. The Baltimore riots began as a civil protest of Freddie Gray’s suspicious death whilst in police custody. Things quickly escalated to a state of emergency due to the violent acts of a minority of individuals.
Even President Obama has agreed that the people of Baltimore had legitimate complaints; however, the violent minority have drowned out those complaints. The riots have only served to fuel the very stereotypes which they were protesting against.
The issues with race and racial profiling in policing are not new and it is not confined to the United States. In the 1970s studies showed that adolescent black boys were more likely than other ethnic groups to commit street robbery. This has resulted in there being a disproportionate amount of black people being searched on the street. It is alarming in the year 2015 that we are still relying on such methods of policing.
It appears to take very little to create such a stereotype, particularly where race is concerned. People have a tendency to ascribe a racial meaning to an event in the absence of any other information. Terrorists are Islamic or black people are criminals or Asian people are untrustworthy. When the media report a crime they largely report on the race of the criminal, with the exception of white criminals.
It does not take a riot to see how dangerous this is. Assigning a trait to a whole ethnic group because of the actions of an individual or group of individuals has extremely damaging results. It is abhorrent in 2015 that this continues to happen, that racial issues spark a city wide riot and that it takes a city wide riot for these issues to be highlighted.
The Equality Act 2010 includes race as a protected characteristic. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, yet people continue to buy into these stereotypes, repeat them, and make decisions based upon them. We do not tolerate racial slurs, or blatant racism yet there appears to be a more relaxed attitude to branding an entire ethnic group with a stereotype. Particularly in the current political climate and the emergence of extreme right fascists across Europe we must challenge others when they rely on such stereotypes.