The Fact That Most Police Officers Aren't Racists Simply Isn't Good Enough
There Is A Disconnect Between African-Americans, Police, and Whites
MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry recently offered a sobering statistic regarding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and other unarmed African-Americans, by law enforcement agencies over the years on her show. http://www.mediaite.com/tv/melissa-harris-perry-delivers-heartbreaking-tribute-to-unarmed-black-men-killed-by-police/
Harris-Perry referred to a FBI study that states from 2006 to 2012, African-Americans died at the hands of law enforcement authorities at a rate of two per week. The study revealed that African-Americans are far more likely to be killed by a law enforcement officer than any other racial group.http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/police-killings-data/14060357/
You can be assured those results do not come as a surprise to most African-Americans. It's a long held belief in African-American communities across the country that interactions with police can often turn deadly.
In the early 70s, Richard Pryor, the comedic genius that he was, spoke about the dangers blacks faced in dealing with the police. He describe the proper way for a black man to interact with a white police officer: "....I am reaching into my pocket for my license....cause I don't want to be no mother?@%$ accident." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKq3Gm1mbT8
However, because that is a widely held view among African-Americans doesn't mean every officer is racist. It also doesn't mean that every death that occurs is as suspect as Brown, 18, who according to multiple witnesses was unarmed, and had his hands in the air when he was shot.
It would also be remiss to not admit there is a criminal element among a segment of the African-American community that take part in drugs and violence. They kill other African-Americans, and their criminal behavior brings down their neighborhood. They wield self-inflicting wounds on themselves, and the African-American culture they represent. I am quite sure there are times the only way these people can be brought down is through violence.
So, with that, I contend that a majority of police in America operate under the law, and serve the people in their communities with respect.
But here is where the problem, and the disconnect, comes in.
Just like the large majority of police who operate fairly, justly, and serve their respective communities in good faith, the same holds true for the majority of the African-American community.
The majority of African-Americans are law abiding people. They raise their families, go to work, and contribute to their communities. They send their children to college. Consider there are literally thousands of African-Americans at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as the other schools.
Their vision of the American dream is no different than anyone else's. However, they are thrown in with the small segment of African-Americans who are not looking to make a positive difference.
What we are seeing in the reporting of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., is a classic example of that. The vast majority of the people who are demonstrating over the death of Mr. Brown are peaceful, law-abiding citizens, who are expressing their first amendment rights. Most of them are African-American. But they are being thrown in with a segment of the African-Americans who wish to do nothing but bring chaos.
MSNBC showed a clip of a young, African-American male, running from a store. He appeared to have a liquor, or beer bottle, in his hand as he ran. At the same time it looked as if he was trying to hold up his pants.
There was no way to know what the youngster was running to, or running from, or why, as the clip looped round and round over the commentator's voice, he was running at all. I assure you in the minds of most that were watching he had probably done something illegal. Hell, that was certainly my first thought.
However, when I took more time to consider the situation there were countless other options. He just might have had some water in that bottle and was running to the aid of a protester who may have needed assistance. He may have been running to inform officers of a potential problem.
I am confident that few will think that way because some people, in particularly some white people, which includes some police, judge African-Americans by their worst actions. And, to be quite frankly, that is precisely how some black people judge police, by their worst actions.
Both sides have to change that mindset to bring peace. But the initiative has to come from law enforcement authorities. They are the entity that is charged with enforcing the laws and serving the community.
The day law enforcement authorities start consistently treating African-Americans with respect, the suspicion and anger from the African-American community will subside.