At eleven years old I was almost incarcerated at the Youth House in New York City for beating a white boy for calling me the N-word. My sister and I were two of a handful of black children allowed to attend Joan of Ark Junior High School on 93rd Street and Columbus Avenue, which was in a mostly upscale white neighborhood.
The boy was the son of a prominent Jewish physician and they lived nearby on plush West End Avenue. Lucky for me my mother arrived with a Rabbi family friend and my father sent an Italian lawyer. That Jewish physician wanted me in jail. The compromise worked out sent me to Harlem’s James F. Cooper Junior High School and my sister was allowed to remain and graduate.
You see I was guilty, no matter what! In the eyes of the boy’s father and white school administrators, I was the criminal. Of course the white teacher could have told how increasingly furious the boy had become because I constantly bested him in everything. That was not supposed to be. Apparently he had been taught that I was inferior to him. The other white students felt the same way, but they gave me no trouble.
Generally, a great majority of white people and a smaller majority of black people would probably agree that I took the law into my own hands – as that popular preach propounds. However, how does justice prevail where there is no penalty for denigrating me, as a person? What about my inalienable rights? There was (is) no law against my being called the N-word by the progeny of former slavers and their allies.
There are several things that civil rights leaders touch very lightly, if at all. They include the illicit drug trade and its impact in so-called minority neighborhoods, and the criminal justice industry from street level law enforcement through incarceration and parole. It all begins with cops on the streets. Cops are busy profiling you but they miss how drugs get into neighborhoods and how the money gets out; or do they?
Fear of the Police Benevolent Association’s powerful long arms have kept all manner of black leadership from determining the vetting process of white police officers before they are allowed to patrol in non-white neighborhoods.
It is clearly provable just by the log of recent police violence against black males, that white police officers in black neighborhoods believe black people are guilty until proved innocent. You are black; therefore you may be doing something wrong. If they don’t catch you this time they will keep trying. And they will provoke you hoping for an opportunity to beat you down or shoot you.
Too many white cops grew up in areas where the prevailing politics is white nationalism veiled as conservatism. A major point within that world-view is a historical despise of blacks, especially, and a distrust of all non-white people on planet Earth. These people are recruited and trained to control black and brown people with Rottweiler panache.
Some white cops may even be convicted felons or wife beaters. Many were marginal students who barely made it out of high school. Of those numbers the military was a popular safe haven, a place to get skilled at something, and to fight for the USA.
Would you expect a Rottweiler to comprehend social science, including economics? No. Then it is clear from the outset what the intent is for having these types with badges, guns, tasers and patrol cars in non-white areas of cities and towns. These types of cops are placed in non-white neighborhoods to control the people and protect white owned property.
And you can bet that their union tells them they can shoot people who “talk back” (those who foolishly invoke their constitutional right of free speech) and anyone else that even appears to be trouble, like if an officer feels startled by a person’s innocent movement.
Remember black folks, in that white police officer’s eyes, you may be guilty of something and he or she will make you prove that you are innocent.
Al Calloway is a longtime journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He may be reached at Al_Calloway@verizon.net