Through President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and first few weeks in office, his stances on several high-profile issues have dominated media attention and conversation. After the inaguration, his administration took over the whitehouse.gov website and published a list of six “top issues” for his new presidency. One particular topic, “Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community,” immediately caught my eye and was a cause for concern.
The page states that, “The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration,” and continues to claim that, “Our country needs more law enforcement, more community engagement, and more effective policing… The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.”
As a young black man in a society that hyper-criminalizes my identity, I was immediately concerned by Trump’s staunch commitment to bolstering law enforcement. Never in my life have I felt true confidence in America’s legal system, and now I recognize even more that, perhaps, I never will in my lifetime. For centuries, this country has maintained an imbalanced justice system that disproportionately incriminates people that look like me. Therefore, with Trump calling for an increase in law enforcement, my only reaction is one of abject fear.
I simply do not feel entirely safe when around police officers sworn to protect my body. That personal reality impacts me even more when I consider that some of my white peers might never experience that same fright towards police officers. I simply can’t express full confidence towards American justice systems because on countless occasions, I have witnessed the deadly intersection of “law and order” and black youth. Look no further than police brutality or the schoolto-prison pipeline to see how this country’s law enforcement systematically criminalizes the black identity.
How could I not be scared by law enforcement in this nation, when one in three black men can expect to go to prison at least once in their lifetime? I have three brothers, one of which lives in New York City, where the city’s police department openly instituted ineffective stop and frisk practices, which regularized intense, state-sanctioned racial profiling. President Trump supports stop and frisk, claiming that the policy worked very well in New York City — even though the city’s practice was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013. Establishing the type of “law and order” that Trump aspires for would not only aid in the epidemic of mass incarceration but continue to uphold the blatant criminalization of communities or color.
Simply put, I don’t believe there is a need for more law enforcement in America. I especially don’t see the need for it considering how America’s prejudiced justice system currently operates. In fact, I don’t believe there has ever been a moment in history where the justice system has operated in a balanced way. I am scared about law enforcement because people of color in this country, especially Black and Latinx folks, have never been fairly treated by such law enforcement. That is a realization that, ultimately, affirms my apprehension towards Trump’s “law and order” administration. How does an influx in law enforcement decrease systemic injustices?
Most importantly, the historical context behind the use of the phrase, “law and order” has a profound impact. The terminology has been exercised by many presidents to create and justify prejudiced systems of criminalization, notably mass incarceration and the War on Drugs as early as the late 1960s. The two examples are both systems that disproportionately impact communities of color — specifically, black people in America. And, with the Trump Administration expressing a commitment to “law and order,” I fully expect the active upholding of those systems during his time in office.
Undoubtedly, the Trump Administration’s stances leaves me concerned for his presidency and for my community’s future over the next four years. His commitment to ensuring “law and order” reminds me vividly of America’s discriminatory commitment to systemically criminalizing communities of color. So, throughout his campaign, we must collectively reject any discriminatory law enforcement policies from Trump, as well as challenge any attempt to enforce discriminatory “law and order.” At the same time, we must also overlook Trump — as bizarre as that sounds. Simply, America’s criminalization of communities of color extends far beyond President Trump’s presence in office. Thus, it’s crucial that, even as we critique Trump, we also inspect and actively deconstruct the systemic discrimination that has consistently upheld “law and order” for centuries — before and, inevitably, beyond Trump’s time in the White House.