The Police and the Black Imagination
No one is saying cops wake up every day ready to put bullets through black people, but the truth is: the police are an extension of an American culture that often view black people as inherently derelict.
What are the Massachusetts cops talking about? What are these American naysayers afraid to admit? The Massachusetts Police Association actually said the only thing stupid in the Gates incident was Obama's comment that the Cambridge Police's tactics were stupid. Folks, it's not rocket science or even quantum physics. Racial profiling exists. Whether one is middle-class and educated, or poor and marginalized in the ghettos of this country. Not only does it exist, but blackness in the country remains in the American consciousness as a second-tier experience that is always under social and political scrutiny.
I grew up on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Some of you know this. It was a woodsy suburban enclave of working- and middle-class blacks with a splattering of white families here and there. We would wake up to deer, morning doves and the stench of a nearby cow pasture. And we knew the police by their first names. Not because they were the friendliest guys on the planet [although some were cordial]. They paroled my culdesac at least five times a day making sure all was tame in the outskirts of Cincinnati. Why? It was a place where blacks could easily morph from deer-loving humans to suspicious serpents. My paternal grandmother's brother was pulled from his home and lynched in rural Georgia because he refused to let white police officers enter his home to search for a man who they claimed stole some goods from a local grocer. It was later discovered the "fugitive" was innocent. Just last month I was walking down Kingston Avenue in Brooklyn, early evening, Hasidic families were fellowshipping in the streets, and a black officer started walking behind me. Why? I have the potential to be dangerous. Why? I'm a black male carrying a backpack. And the contents of my dangerous backpack? A jump rope, umbrella, insect repellent and a laptop.
Have we forgotten Amadou Diallo? He was profiled and then shot 19 times.
No one is saying police don't do their jobs. Or that white cops are the epitome of evil. No one is saying cops of all colors wake up every day ready to put bullets through black people, but the truth is: the police are an extension of an American culture that often view black people as inherently derelict. With that said, I simply ask folks to step back into reality and stop pretending profiling is in the imagination of paranoid black folks. The only thing stupid in this ordeal is the unwillingness of some Americans to live in reality.