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Mistrust of Police in Black Community Goes Back Decades, Centuries

by Todd A. Smith

 

Many people say that Americans are living in strange times in which not being woke enough will get folks canceled at the drop of a dime.


Many police officers have handed in their badges for fear that doing their jobs, the correct way, will still end in their termination and maybe even imprisonment.


Many normal conversations on social media have turned into bitter debates in which friendships have ended because of political or racial differences.


But I try to look at things in a glass half-full way instead of a glass half-empty way.


Although I have recently tried to shy away from debates about politics, race and religion on social media, in 2020 I often enjoyed engaging with people who look and think differently than me because they have educated me like I have educated them.


After police in Louisville, Ky. escaped prosecution after the death of Breonna Taylor, I had a White high school classmate ask me why some African-Americans remained upset at the Taylor death even after investigations said that the police had justification to shoot into her apartment after her boyfriend opened fire on them.


He asked an honest question from a sincere perspective, and I appreciated him wanting to learn more about the African-American perspective.


I told him that African-Americans had experienced decades, or even centuries, of mistreatment and abuse from police officers.


Therefore, even if a police officer is telling the truth, it often falls on deaf ears as far as the African-American community is concerned.


African-Americans know that there are great police officers who put their lives on the line for the community every day and the community is appreciative of that.


But African-Americans also know what it feels like to be singled out by police officers simply because of the color of our skin.


Although the situation is obviously bigger than my run-ins with the law, I often tell stories of my run-ins with police officers that go back to middle school.


In fact, I had zero encounters, bad or good, with any police officer until I reached eighth grade.


I guess that was around the time that I no longer was seen as a cute little kid, but a menacing teenager.


In RegalMag.com, on the radio and on television, I have told the story of how one of my childhood friends got placed into the back of a police car because a White lady that lived across the street from his mother’s house wanted the neighborhood totally quite on weekends so that she could read in her garage in peace.


The fact that police officers showed up for that nonsense and placed a young African-American sixth grader in the back of a cop car for it, still blows my mind.


I have often written about being stopped in my neighborhood as a 13-year-old and questioned about home break-ins in the neighborhood.


When I told the police officer that my parents made more money than every White family on the street, therefore giving me no need to steal, he said that he stopped everybody that looked suspicious.


After experiencing that type of racial profiling from police officers as a skinny teenager with braces and a flattop (not suspicious looking if you ask me), forgive me if I don’t believe much that comes out of police officers’ mouths.


So, when people like Elizabeth City, N.C. District Attorney Andrew Womble say that the killing of Andre Brown, Jr. was justified, do not get upset when African-Americans do not take their word for it, especially after cops kept shooting at him as he drove away, and no officer seemed in imminent danger.


If people look back on African-American history, they will see many instances of police officers and other law enforcement officials outright murdering African-American leaders like Fred Hampton and Little Bobby Hutton and getting away it.


In Hampton’s case, Chicago police officers and FBI personnel murdered him while he was asleep after getting a layout of his house from an FBI informant who had infiltrated the Illinois Black Panther Party.


Often, when police kill unarmed African-Americans, their defense is they thought they had a weapon and that they feared for their lives.


But in Hutton’s situation, he surrendered to police officers in only his underwear with his arms up.


Unless Hutton was braver than most men, I fail to believe that any man would put a weapon that close to his member.


Furthermore, the New York Police Department, and the FBI, participated to some degree in the assassination of Malcolm X in February 1965.


So, after all these instances of betrayal from law enforcement, it should be understandable why many African-Americans do not have much trust for law enforcement.


That is often the fact because their reputation precedes them.


If a man or woman has a well-known reputation for infidelity, that person cannot be surprised that their partner thinks they are cheating if they start behaving suspiciously.


The belief that cheating might have occurred is because that person’s reputation precedes them.


If a man has a history of beating his women, and then his wife shows up to work with a blackeye in the morning, won’t people who know the couple think that they have gotten into a fight?


Yes, because the man’s reputation precedes him.


My maternal grandfather would often tell his children, if you make your bed hard, you must lay in it.


For decades, or longer, cops have made their beds hard as it pertains to their treatment of the African-American community.


Unfortunately, now they are forced to lay in it, even if they specifically did not make the bed hard themselves.


This article was published on Friday 21 May, 2021.
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