Recently, the United States of America has experienced an alarming increase in police brutality against people of color, especially African American males. There have been numerous incidents of unarmed African American males being killed by law enforcement officers across the nation. Please see the examples below:
On July 17, 2014, African American father of six, Eric Garner, 43, dies after being held in a police chokehold while he is being arrested for selling individual cigarettes illegally in New York.
On August 9, 2014, a white police officer kills an unarmed black teenager, aspiring college student, Michael Brown, resulting in protests and rioting in Ferguson, Missouri. The decision not to indict the police officer, Darren Wilson, further triggered riots and escalated racial attention in Ferguson, and across the country.
On August 11, 2015, Ezell Ford, 25, an unarmed African American with a mental illness was killed by Los Angeles police officers as he walked in the street. The autopsy showed that he was shot three times, including one in the back from close range.
On November 22, 2015, Tamir Rice, a 12 year old African American boy was killed by police officers while playing with a toy gun.
On April 7, 2015, Walter Scott, an unarmed 50 year old African American male was shot multiple times in the back by police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina.
On July 5, 2016 Alton Sterling was shot multiple times while subdued by two police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned examples only represent a fraction of these types of incidents that are occurring all over the country. Even though there is a lot that we do not know about these cases, the bottom line is that it appears that there are too many people of color dying at the hands of the very people that are hired to protect the citizens of this country.
During the 2015 annual conference in Orlando, Florida, ACA sponsored a town hall meeting on African American Males, The Police and Counselors: A Call of Conscience. Although this session appeared to be highly successful, one of the main themes that emerged from the session was ACA’s lack of response to pertinent issues facing the US in relation to people of color and police brutality. Given that ACA is the largest profession counseling association in the world and we pride ourselves on our advocacy works, our lack of involvement on this important topic is glaring and needs to be addressed in a comprehensive way.
Some may ask how is this relevant to the counseling profession? However, a cursory glance at ACA’s Code of Ethics suggest that the aforementioned issues are relevant to the counseling profession. Specifically, the first three core professional values probably best illustrate how these issues are pertinent to the counseling profession.
1. Enhancing human development throughout the life span.
2. Honoring diversity and embracing a multicultural approach in support of worth, dignity, potential, and the uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts
3. Promoting social justice.
These three core counseling principles certainly speak to the essence of the issues previously discussed. Thus, I believe that it is imperative for ACA to become more involved with regards to police brutality and people of color. Furthermore, I advocate a multipronged approach.
First, I believe that ACA has to openly acknowledge the existing problem.
Second, I believe that ACA should conduct an initial assessment to determine some of the root causes of the problem
Third, ACA should state a position in relation to the problem.
Fourth, ACA should explore systematic advocacy efforts.
Fifth, ACA should explore the nature of this aggression, both micro and macro.
Sixth, ACA should identify tangible ways that they can assist individuals, communities, and others dealing with these issues.
A series of special issues in Counseling Today highlighting the issues.
Additional Sessions at the 2017 ACA Conference.
A Special ISSUE in JCD
David Staten a Professor of Rehabilitation Counselor Education at South Carolina State University. He also co-owns a counseling practice, MERGE Counseling and Coaching, L.L.C The website is www.merge378.com