Police officers like the killer of Philando Castile have an unbeatable defense when their victims are black: They were scared.
By Jamelle Bouie
… Before the Civil War, Southern whites held a pathological fear of slave revolts, despite lauding slavery as a “positive good.” That fear led slaveholding states to create patrols, made up of white men in the community, who would enforce slave codes, with legal authority to capture runaways, interrogate enslaved people, and punish them if necessary. Scholars see these slave patrols as one forerunner to modern police departments, “the first uniquely American form of policing,” writes Katheryn Russell-Brown in The Color of Crime: Racial Hoaxes, White Fear, Black Protectionism, Police Harassment, and Other Macroaggressions.
… White city dwellers “believed that African Americans were violent and deviant” and “sought various public policy measures to seal themselves off from them.” The first municipal segregation laws, passed in Baltimore to divide the city into rigid black and white sections, emerged during this period, and police in cities like Philadelphia were used more to control the presence of blacks in white areas than to attack crime and violence, leaving many black Americans in a still-common situation—overpoliced for minor crimes and underpoliced for major ones.
This is still true. Among white Americans there is a strong cognitive connection between black people and crime. …
These stops, as researchers Charles Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody, and Donald Haider-Markel describe in Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship, largely target black people, particularly those driving in white neighborhoods, representing the literal enforcement of boundaries.
Generations of black writers and observers have noted the fear and anxiety that defines white America’s relationship to its black counterpart and how that manifests in those people charged with policing the borders between the two worlds. “He has never, himself, done anything for which to be hated—which of us has?—and yet he is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it,” writes James Baldwin of the “white policeman” in the essay “Fifth Avenue, Uptown.”
… Your property, your livelihood—even your life—depended on the whims of whites. In little more than an instant, a mob might burn your home, destroy your business, or revel in a ritualistic murder. …
Words not mentioned once in this article about the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez: “Hispanic” or “Latino.”
P.S., W hat are the odds that Officer Yanez was an affirmative action hire?