Friday, January 2, 2009

fail to understand when non-white people distrust the police

As I've said before, when white Americans are in certain kinds of trouble, they rarely hesitate to call the police. That's because most of them trust the police. They rarely realize the significance during encounters with the police of their own protective "white" skin.

Many white folks also have trouble understanding the deep distrust of the police in other racialized communities. That's because they fail to realize how quick many police officers are to harass non-white people, and how much less they tend to value non-white lives.

White Americans should listen, with sincerity and respect, to the reported experiences of others with the entrenched racist attitudes among the police, and the rampant abuse such attitudes inspire. They should also listen to the corrosive effects on non-white communities of the relative impunity with which police repeatedly harass, and murder, non-white people.

In the following short film, Stacey Muhammad's "I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak," black Americans effectively explain their reasoned fear, distrust, and dismay regarding the police. I think that for starters, this film is perfect discussion material for all American classrooms. And any other gatherings that include white eyes and ears.

"I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak," by Stacey Muhammad, on Vimeo:

On November 25, 2006, undercover NYPD officers fired at least 50 rounds of bullets into a car carrying three UNARMED men of African American and Latino decent; killing one, SEAN BELL and seriously wounding two others. Bell age 23 was scheduled to be married on that fateful day.

Three of the five detectives involved in the shooting went to trial on charges ranging from manslaughter to reckless endangerment. All were found not guilty.

The incident has sparked fierce criticism of the NYPD as the city faces yet another murder of an unarmed African American man at the hands of those expected to protect and serve.

“I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak” is a short form documentary from Wildseed Films that highlights the voices of young black boys between the ages of 11 and 13 years old growing up in New York City.

They speak openly and honestly about their reaction to the Sean Bell tragedy as well as their fears and hopes as they approach manhood in a city where the lives of young black men are often cut short, too often, and too soon.

About the filmmaker:

Stacey Muhammad is an award winning independent filmmaker and activist committed to using the power of media to educate, enlighten and empower humanity.

Her first film, “A Glimpse of Heaven, The Legacy of the Million Man March”, screened at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, MD in 2005 and received rave reviews.

Since that time, the New Orleans, LA native has relocated to Brooklyn, NY and begun the work of documenting and preserving Hip Hop culture through film and digital media. Her projects include several short form documentaries including, "I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak" as well as "Self Construction: Recording session in honor of a movement".

Stacey is currently working with other artists, filmmakers and activists whose mission it is to document our history, preserve our culture and tell our own stories.

Her latest film, "Out of Our Right Minds, The Rise of Mental Illness amongst Black Women", is slated to be released in April 2009.

[h/t: Kai @ Zuky]


  1. Oh my god--that video made me cry so hard. Do you think white kids worry about being shot by the police? Nope.

    I linked it this post on Honky Talk (bottom of post).

  2. Thanks Macon, great video, er, film. For me, the apparently "inner-city" black kids come across as smarter than the image I have planted in my white mind of black kids. (On the other hand, I've noticed that in the corporate media, black people are so often filmed outside, on "the street," while white people usually get interviewed in some indoor setting. That creates different impressions. I'm not sure if it would've been a good idea to also change that dynamic or whatever in this film.)

  3. I have this vivid memory when I was nine or ten years old. A friend and I were playing on our block where four houses sat on each of the four-way stop sign corners.

    We were just two young girls squealing and having fun, yet out comes a white or asian, (I can't remember that part clearly, only that he was pale) who complains that we were making too much noise and throwing rocks at his house (which wasn't true, we wasn't that damn bad).

    We never had a problem before that I remember, since there were many children that lived in the neighborhood. It was very diverse.

    Anyway, we looked at him strangely feeling that we were no where near his house, not in front of it either, across the street on the other side practically. Yet he was so upset at us, he called the police! On Nine and Ten year olds! Was it because we were black? I have no idea, maybe it was just he had a long day at work and was trying to sleep...I was a kid.

    We were upset at him for yelling and cussing at us and we did talk back, lol, but other than that, we were stupid kids. But, the police made their presence clear that we were to fear them. I swear, that police officer lorded over my small body and was like "If five-o tells you to do something, you do it! You hear me!?" Now, I was defiant and early on never trusted the police, but I was also very scared of them. His hand was on his gun and my friend and I were just traumatized by the fact that as young black girls, we had no idea what this big white cop could do to us. My mind was running through many scenarios with me in the back of the car

    They asked us where we lived as if we came from some other part of town. What were our names, I gave them a nickname that was fake. Classic what most black kids do now. Thinking about it now, I don't know how they expected to get honest information out of terrified children.

    I still question that day and have never called 911 except in case of medical emergency.

  4. This film touched me on many levels. As a mother of two black sons, I can tell you it spoke to the fears that I live with for my children.

  5. I hate not being able to trust the police to behave decently. Last fall, a kid got stabbed in the gut right on our corner, because I was hesitant to call the police on a group of group of kids being loud on the corner. So I feel like next time, I should call but I know our police department has a history of beating, tasing, and shooting people for no reason. I don't want to be the reason some kid gets killed for being loud while waiting for the bus.

  6. On New Year's Eve night (or early New Year's day) a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop shoots a 22 years old black male, at point blank range. (A recent radio news report, which I heard, reported that the cop thought he had a taser gun, not a revolver. Well, isn't the fingering on a handgun different from that of a taser? Also, does not one have to put a taser against the body, not operate it from a distance of the victim's body, as the cop in the video has done?) Here is a video of the news report, taken by bystanders that night, which shows the fatal shooting. WARNING: The video shows the man being murdered by the cop.

  7. Here is another video of the shooting of the 22 years old black man, by a transit cop in the San Francisco Bay Area. This video is from a different angle. You will notice that the passengers on the train were held in the station while the police round-up of "suspects" was taking place. But, right after the shooting occurred, the train suddenly was given the go-ahead to pull out of the station. Was this done so that the actions of the police could not be recorded by the many passengers with video cameras? Suposedly, the video cameras at the BART station were not recording that night.

  8. An Update on the BART cop who fatally shot, execution-style, an unarmed, lying face-down in a hog-tied position, young black man.

    BART officer arrested on murder warrant in NY Day shooting

    (01-14) 00:13 PST Oakland -- The BART police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man on an Oakland train platform and then refused to explain his actions to investigators was arrested Tuesday in Nevada on suspicion of murder, authorities said.

    Johannes Mehserle, 27, of Lafayette was taken into custody in Douglas County, Nev., said Deputy Steve Velez of the Douglas County sheriff's office. The arrest was also confirmed by David Chai, chief of staff to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.

    Mehserle was arrested in the New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old supermarket worker from Hayward who was lying facedown after being pulled off a BART train by police investigating a fight. An Alameda County judge signed an arrest warrant alleging murder, and Mehserle surrendered without incident, authorities said.

    The shooting, which was recorded by passengers in videos widely circulated on the Internet and television, prompted public outrage, and some viewers said that the shooting appeared to be an execution.

    You can read the rest of it here:

  9. This is ignorance. I've been to places where the police are indeed corrupt. But never do they profile racially, it's always politically and/or economically.
    50 rounds down range on an unarmed man? No, sorry, there is major missing pieces to this story. And there are more than one of these incidents? Sounds like some one is putting themselves into harms way by not exactly being a law abiding citizen.
    Let's use common sense. 50 rounds? Very excessive. 50 rounds down range aimed at an unarmed man? Virtually impossible. Media hype? Most definitely. Using such media hype to turn young blacks against police? Totally going in the opposite direction than this needs to go.
    Look, here is some real advise. This is an inner city problem. Why is that? If you don't know the real answer, do some real research. Discussion material for schools? Are you stupid or just that ignorant?


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