Even as riots in Ferguson, Missouri continue despite a curfew imposed by the governor, it is becoming apparent that they aren’t the only ones riled up by the shooting of Michael Brown.

Whatever is decided about this case, one thing is certain—race is always brought up.

Does race even matter? It SHOULDN’T matter under the law. Yes, innocent people of all races (and animals) are unjustly killed or injured by cops. However, that doesn’t answer the question: Is police brutality actually just a race problem?

Information reporting police brutality cases by race is sparse or not existent, but the Cato Institute does keep a database of police brutality. USA Today also reported that there is some information available, however it may not be useful:

While the racial analysis is striking, the database it’s based on has been long considered flawed and largely incomplete. The killings are self-reported by law enforcement and not all police departments participate so the database undercounts the actual number of deaths. Plus, the numbers are not audited after they are submitted to the FBI and the statistics on “justifiable” homicides have conflicted with independent measures of fatalities at the hands of police.

About 750 agencies contribute to the database, a fraction of the 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States.

University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, who has long studied police use of deadly force, said the FBI’s limited database underscores a gaping hole in the nation’s understanding of how often local police take a life on America’s streets — and under what circumstances.

”There is no national database for this type of information, and that is so crazy,” said Alpert. “We’ve been trying for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their image and liability. They don’t want to bother with it.’’

The media is quick to tell us about incidents in which police officers use excessive force on unarmed blacks. But whether or not there is a high incidence of race-based police brutality, there is one thing I’m certain about—any sort of injustice by the government or some other authority towards its citizens is something that everyone should be worried about. Consider the frequency of dogs killed and remember that it’s not just blacks who are injured, unjustly prisoned and or killed by police officers.

It shouldn’t be an “us versus them” issue. Compare it to other issues where you might not fit into the demographic being oppressed, but still might be subjugated to something that could end up violating your rights. “I’m not a terrorist,” you say. Yet, the National Security Agency might be listening in on your phone calls or reading your emails. Or, “I’m not gay,” but next time it might be your civil rights voted away.

Consider the difference between the heated riots and looting in Ferguson with the diverse and peaceful protests that occurred in Kansas City, Missouri last week.

A succession of speakers told stories of police brutality from New York to Los Angeles. People were encouraged to sign a petition to make the shooting of unarmed people in retreat by law enforcement officers a federal offense, and to require all police officers to wear body cameras.

Others argued against the militarization of police departments in general.

People in the crowd bore signs bearing the names of some who have been killed by law enforcement. One attendee was Narene Stokes of Kansas City, whose 24-year-old son, Ryan Stokes, was fatally shot by police in July 2013 near the Power & Light District. Police said he ignored orders to stop and show his hands.

Kansas City is demanding change through peaceful protests. And hopefully more people get on the bandwagon to demand change to laws which will hold police officers to higher standards. This, instead of people throwing racial insults or oversimplifying a poorly understood issue and grossly blaming true, innocent victims whose rights are violated.

The only way to overcome injustices committed by those with power is to stand together—not divided—against overzealous agents of the state who have no respect for us. Kansas City is a good example of how people can start from the ground up showing their frustration with nothing being done to stop senseless deaths. Just like movements of the past, such as the civil rights movement or women’s movement, it takes individuals coming together to produce change.

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