In My Opinion
Why Black People Don’t Trust the Police
About two weeks ago, I was stopped by the police. It was a little after midnight and I was in upper Harlem driving home from a friend's house, when the police pulled me over.
Two police officers approached my car, hands on their weapons, and said I made an unsafe lane change. I apologized. Looking down at my still flashing indicator, wondering how they were categorizing unsafe? They asked for my license and registration and ordered me to get out of my car.
This is when I got nervous. My first instincts were to either call the friend I just left, who is an attorney. Or to quickly begin to audio or video record whatever transpired after. Either way I was very scared.
Why? Because I'm a black person and our historical and modern day relationship with the police leaves much to be desired.
This past winter I was driving home from the city one night when a couple driving way too fast for a New York City street suddenly swerved into my lane hitting my car and pushing me onto a snow bank. When the cops arrived they asked me if I was willing to take a breathalyzer. Me??? The one who was hit? The white couple who hit me with their German sports car were never asked such a thing.
There's a reason why black people don't trust the police.
Remember the 1991 beating of Rodney King?
Or the story of Amadou Diallo.who was only carrying only his wallet when he was shot 41 times by four plainclothes New York City policemen in 1999.
Or Sean Bell who was killed after five NYC police officers sprayed his car with more than 50 bullets as he left his bachelor party at a Queens nightclub. He was unarmed and to be married the next day. In 2010, the family of Sean Bell was awarded $7 million by the city of New York for his wrongful death.
And what about what happened in New Orleans? Where black men were shot and killed for sport by police officers off the Danziger Bridge in 2005. The police department covered it up for two years before any arrests were made. Charges were even initially dismissed by the district judge before the Justice Department got involved and finally, last summer, officers were convicted.
And so it is sad but not surprising, disgusting but not surprising to see how the Sanford police have mishandled the Trayvon Martin case. Martin’s parents were forced to sue the police department just to hear the 911 tapes, which clearly puts Zimmerman’s “self-defense” claim into question.
The police seem to have put a lot of effort in to defending Zimmerman, despite his history of 911 calls that suggests paranoia, instead of finding out the actual truth. They never even questioned Zimmerman and still haven’t. Yet they tested Trayvon for drugs.
And therefore it is the police who also engaged in racial profiling along with Zimmerman and went one step further by trying to cover up the death of a black child.
This is why most black people don’t trust the police.
Was I being racially profiled when I was stopped last week? Or when I was sssumed to be “in the wrong” when my car was smashed? Black women are beginning to fill the prison rolls in numbers that nearly meet the numbers of black men.
What about my younger brother? I can’t tell you how many times he’s been stopped on the street or pulled over by policemen for no good reason. Even as a young girl, I sensed my mother’s stress over my brother (a straight A student and Hofstra University graduate) and his safety. Or the many other black men in my life that I have been out with only to be stopped by the police unnecessarily night after night because of driving around in a nice car?
This is why black mothers fear for their sons.
Do you have any idea what I must teach my son about his dealings with police as part of his life skills? Do you know what it feels like to think my son could do everything “right” and still end up dead and the police wouldn’t care? Do you have a slight clue into my anguish?
This is why black mothers fear the police.
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