The excerpts below are from the chapter entitled "The Police: A Black and White Experience":
The Police: A Black and White Experience
Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong New York, who is white, recently did a video discussion on race with Bishop T.D. Jakes, who is black. Bishop Jakes offered these thoughts on why some people, specifically white people, don’t believe that the offenses by the police against black people, are systemic:
“The reason that the people you talk to don’t believe it is systemic is because they are not victimized by it. I don’t blame them for not believing it because the police in their neighborhood don’t do that...The police that pull up to them are a help for them, and encouragement for them, and they (the people) are assumed to be good people. They are assumed to be good people until proven otherwise, even if they’ve had a few drinks. They just had too much to drink. I’ll make it plain. If you live in one part of Chicago and you’ve got a drug problem, you go to jail, and if you live in another part of Chicago, it’s a sickness, and you go to rehab. What is a crime in our community is a sickness in your community, treatable with sympathy and empathy and kindness, and it’s talked about openly. If I had the same problem and live in the wrong zip code, I’m a criminal and a dog and an outlaw. These kinds of inconsistencies…” (A Discussion on Racism | Carl Lentz & Bishop T.D. Jakes | Hillsong East Coast, 2020)
Finally, I would like to look at Tim Scott. Tim Scott is a United States Senator. Here is an accounting from Forbes.com of his treatment by the police AFTER he became a Senator:
“Conservatives who are inclined to dismiss the significance of disparities like these should listen to Tim Scott, one of two blacks and the only black Republican in the U.S. Senate. A couple of weeks ago, Scott told his colleagues about some of his own experiences with the special scrutiny that black men tend to receive, including seven traffic stops within a single year when he was already an elected official, exclusion from a political event to which four white companions were admitted, and demands for identification on Capitol Hill after he was elected to the Senate.
‘There’s absolutely nothing more frustrating, more damaging to your soul, than when you know you’re following the rules and being treated like you are not,’ he said, quoting a former staff member who replaced his Chrysler 300 with a less fancy car after it repeatedly attracted police attention. ‘I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell.’
Scott made it clear he was not claiming most cops are racist, saying ‘the vast majority of our law enforcement officers have only two things in mind: protect and serve.’ But it only takes a few less enlightened cops, combined with a system that allows them to act on their prejudices at no personal cost, to create what Scott called ‘a trust gap’ between police and minority communities. ‘I simply ask you this,’ he concluded. ‘Recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish, of another, does not mean it does not exist.’” (Sullum, 2016)
Even a U.S. Senator cannot escape being initially viewed as black by police. None of his educational, phenomenal political success, or even political party matter because the color of his skin speaks so loudly and often speaks first.
In a previous chapter, I quoted a Forbes.com analysis of 2016 NYPD data on the use of force that said that African Americans “are more than fifty percent more likely to have an interaction with police which involves any use of force (Sullum, 2016) The same study cites
“Data from the Police-Public Contact Survey, which asks people about their encounters with cops, indicate much bigger racial differences in the use of force. Blacks are more than three times as likely as whites to report that police used force against them. Noting that the NYPD data and the survey data come from two different perspectives, Fryer suggests the truth ‘is likely somewhere in the middle.”’ (Sullum, 2016)
Fryer’s “likely somewhere in the middle” comment was made in 2016. The more regular wear of body cams by the police and the phenomenon of citizens using cell phones to record police interactions suggests that we should lean to the higher estimate and beyond. Bishop Jakes talked about how white people experience the police as opposed to black people. In America, you can be a multi-million dollar athlete, a Ph.D. candidate at a prestigious university, even a U.S. Senator, and America’s system of policing will often address you first by your racial credentials rather than your economic, educational, or political ones. Often in America, it’s as simple as black and white.
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