'The similarities between SA and America are important'

South Africans have condemned the killing this week of 2 black men by US police officers.

Protests have been held in parts of the US after two men were killed by police this week.

JOHANNESBURG -The deaths of two African American men who were shot and killed by police this week have once again highlighted the huge racial disparities in how US police use force.

Captured on at least two graphic videos, Alton Sterling was held down by police when he was shot on Tuesday.

In another fatal shooting Philando Castile was shot four times by a Minnesota police officer when his girlfriend live-streamed the incident on Wednesday.

More than 500 people have reportedly been gunned down by police since the start of the year.

In 2015 a Guardian study revealed that young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers. The study recorded 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers that year

This week's events have sparked a series of protests across the US and statements of solidarity from South Africans who have condemned the killing under the hashtag Black Lives Matter.

Andrew Faull of the Centre for Criminology at UCT explains that the culture of policing in the US is linked to its long-standing history of racial oppression.

"The United States is an unequal society and African Americans have for a long time, or since their introduction as slaves, been at the losing end of that inequality. That plays itself out in policing. "

He adds "Police organisational culture all over the world serves to guide police actions. Policing is very discretionary, police have to deal with a huge range of tasks and problems in their daily work and so it's quite normal in police occupations everywhere to develop certain ways of dealing with and responding to different scenarios and unfortunately that involves applying meaning to different bodies, sexes, places. In America it seems if you are an African American man, the meaning applied to your body often means you are a threat and we will treat you differently."

Faull says there are important lessons for South Africans to learn from what is happening in the US.

LISTEN: Dr Andrew Fall on the culture of policing in the US

Editor and founder of Vangaurd Magazine Panashe Chigumadzi gives further insight on some of the reasons why South Africans are able to empathise with black Americans.

"The similarities between America and South Africa are very important. Particularly that these are countries or nations that were built on settler colonialism and settler colonialism has a particular way of maintaining order. The nations that come out of settler colonialism are built on violence so what we are seeing is not something new, it is just a continuation or a continuum. That's why you are going to see a lot of parallels between the ways in which black life continues to be policed, whether or not you have let's say black people with political power."

Using the example of the Bambatha Rebellion in 1906, the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, right through to Marikana killings in 2012, Chigumadzi says "Policing is historically anti -black. In South Africa we have seen the way in which policing is very much anti-black and that goes all the way from colonial times, and apartheid. In post-apartheid South Africa we can think of Marikana or the Mido Macia incident."

If you wish to understand the movement behind #BlackLivesMatter, watch the video in the tweet below.