Adrian Thomas, 20, a black construction worker, "feels safer at night passing the projects than the local police station house. 'The best way to live is to stay out of their way,' he said of the police."
Tyron Samuels, 18: "Black or white, if they’re a cop and you’re black, especially young and black, hanging on the street, they automatically think you’re a gangbanger or dope dealer. The black (officers) are worse than the white ones … I don’t know why; Sometimes you’d think brothers would understand."
An officer writing on the LAPD Blog: "Folks in South Central remain understandably wary of cops like me. I walk into their lives uninvited, at inopportune moments — a retail sales rep from the same corporation that brought them the Middle Passage, Jim Crow, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. Some of them hate me on sight. Others want to trust me, but it's hard."
Herbert Reed, an African-American captain in New York City's Department of Correction, says "young people in his Bronx neighborhood view the police as 'thugs with guns in blue uniforms.' For Mr. Reed, his peace officer's shield has become a badge of shame."
Bruce Springsteen is one white person who seems to understand why many non-white people don't trust the police. He wrote a powerful song for Amadou Diallo, a young black man gunned down by police in a storm of 41 bullets ("American Skin: 41 Shots"). Four police officers stopped Diallo because they thought he resembled someone else, and when he reached into his coat pocket to retrieve his wallet, they thought he was going for a gun.
When all of the officers involved in the Diallo killing were acquitted at a subsequent trial of any wrongdoing, blacks all over America must have thought, "Right, no surprise there." That's because, unlike most whites, blacks also commonly distrust the judicial system, especially when it comes to punishing the police when they do anything wrong. For them, the acquittals in Diallo's case echoed those in the earlier police beating of Rodney King, and I doubt they're expecting anything different in the upcoming trial of the police who shot Sean Bell, another unarmed black man downed in a proverbial hail of police bullets, more than 50 this time.
I remember that when O. J. Simpson was acquitted of killing his wife and her apparent lover, whites were surprised at the verdict, and then confused at the common black reaction, which was generally joy and jubilation. Because whites tend to trust the police and the judicial system, most could not fathom another community's joy that someone who was like them, at least in racial terms, had actually beaten the very system that's been beating them for so, so long.
As the clip below demonstrates, Michael Moore is probably another white person who trusts the police in his own dealings with them, but he also understands black anger on this issue. Interesting how, as I pointed out in a post below, racial analysis prepared for a largely white viewing audience apparently has to be framed in humorous terms. As Slavename writes, "It seems like white folks need to be spoonfed shit in a humorous way or else they ain’t tryin to hear it."
UPDATE: Sad, but unsurprising news on the Sean Bell case: "Officers Acquited"
UPDATE II: An excellent report at Racism Review on "Stop and Frisk Racism"