Fay Wells, a vice-president of strategy at a multinational corporation in Santa Monica, recounts her traumatic interactions with police when a neighbor called the cops after witnessing her break into her own home. Instead of examining the innumerable difficulties she must have encountered on her path to this leadership position as a black woman, I would like to expand upon a much overlooked topic this brings up in relation to black people and the police: the psychological violence the institution inflicts on black people.
Recent times has highlighted a grave issue about the high levels of police brutality against all people in America, but specifically, the disproportionate levels at which this physical violence gets inflicted upon the black population. Scroll down your Facebook newsfeed and you will find numerous posts either condemning the criminal justice system, or questions asking why black people do not trust our American protectors in blue.
What often gets overlooked is that when black people witness unjust police killings through media outlets, distrust in the police’s ability to protect all of America’s citizens becomes a natural response. Many black people have stories of being unjustly pulled over. Others can recount conversations with police where the ‘protectors’ have appeared suspicious and disrespectful in their tone. Also, possibly the most common interaction, is the gaze of condemnation a black person will receive when a cop drives by.
As benign as some of the interactions may seem, it generates a mistrust in the black mind that police are not there to protect them. These assumptions represent the reality of black livelihood.
So to the people who ask why black people do not trust the police, I implore you to ask a different question: when will police trust black people?
Fay Wells story can be located at this link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/11/18/my-white-neighbor-thought-i-was-breaking-into-my-own-apartment-nineteen-cops-showed-up/
And a slightly old but analogous story on a similar interaction with police in which the great Henry Louis-Gates takes the place of Wells can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/20/AR2009072001358.html