Justice

25-Year-Old Fresh Prince Meme Maintains Relevance Today

July 7th 2016

By:
Taylor Bell

A meme featuring a scene from the popular 90s sitcom "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" is being shared on social media in light of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black killed men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier this week.

The meme, which depicts a black man interacting with a white police officer, shows the fear many black people feel when they encounter law enforcement.

Here is the meme:

Fresh Prince of Bel Air meme

Although the show premiere decades ago, the scene still resonates today.

On Tuesday, 37-year-old black man Alton Sterling was shot to death while he was pinned to the ground in front of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The day after that, Philando Castile, a black man in Minnesota, was shot at a traffic stop in front of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter despite his apparent compliance with the police officer. Both incidents were caught on camera and posted online.

Following the video footage of both killings, the nation erupted in protest and outrage, with many condemning the excessive force of police officers against people of color.

But while people are up in arms about these recent shootings, this has been an on-going issue in the black community that hasn't shown any signs of getting better.

In the 90s, a bystander famously captured the beating of black man Rodney King by four white police officers. Although King was already subdued on the ground, the officers were seen repeatedly beating him. As a result, the officers were charged with "assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force by a police officer" but were later acquitted of all charges.

Then in 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman while he was in a gated community in Florida.

Trayvon Martin & Mike Brown

Two year later, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson. It is unclear what led Wilson to fire, but some say that Brown had put his hands up to surrender, while authorities claim that Brown attempted to attack Wilson and take his gun, according to CNN. Both shootings incited criticism of police officers across the nation and added momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement.

As a result of this violent history with police officers, it is has been taught within black families to go the extra length to show submission to law enforcement to avoid being unnecessarily killed, as pointed out by Ta-Nehisi Coates in a piece for The Atlantic.

When African American parents give their children "The Talk," they do not urge them to make no sudden movements in the presence of police out of a profound respect for the democratic ideal, but out of the knowledge that police can, and will, kill them.

You can watch the full scene of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air here: