Womanist Musings discusses the relationship black children have with the police.
I have written previously about why I disagree with schools teaching kids about officer friendly. To be clear, cops have a long history of targeting people of colour for arrests, violence and death. What they may be willing to let go from a White man, woman, or child, they certainly do not give a pass to when it comes to people of colour. If a person is negotiating a second site of oppression, like disability or sexuality, it can cause a marked increase in abusive behaviour.
Children of colour have to be actively taught how to appear in a non threatening manner with police because it might well save their lives. Yep, announcing what you are doing clearly and loudly. Never ever touch your body unless directed to. Keep you hands on the wheel and visible at all times at a traffic stop. Be exceedingly polite calling the cop, officer or sir. Never raise your voice or be anything but compliant. Never hesitate for even the briefest of moments to follow a direct order. Etc and Etc.
The necessity of fearing the police is particularly strong for black men. As bell hooks’s We Real Cool argues, black men are viewed as “animals, brutes, natural-born rapists and murderers,” as “untamed, uncivilized, unthinking and unfeeling”; our racist and sexist society fears black men, admires them, even sexually fantasizes about them, but does not love them.
Men are all too often considered to be brutes: just think of the perennial argument that if women wander about in short skirts men will be compelled by their dicks to sexually harass or even rape them, or the belief of some people that if a woman doesn’t sexually satisfy her husband he’ll have to cheat on her, or patronizing statements about how “boys will be boys”. Similarly, black people are all too often considered to be subhuman: stereotypes of the Sapphire show that the whole “black people are animals” concept is not necessarily reserved for black men.
However, when you combine misandry, racism and the justice system, it creates a vile stew all its own.
If you’ve been hanging around the anti-racist community for long enough, you’ll be able to name off the top of your head dozens of cases of obvious justice-system racism directed against black men, from Rodney King to Troy Davis. But perhaps the worst kind of systematic violence against black men is the kind it’s hard to see.
More black men are in prison in America today than were enslaved in America in 1850. More African-American men are disenfranchised because of felony convictions today than because of all the laws against black people voting in 1870. A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery, primarily because of the chance of incarceration.
Admittedly, most of the rise is because there are more people of color in America now than there were during slavery; however, the problem not having improved is an indictment of our cultural racism and misandry.
One of the biggest causes of the incarceration of black men is the drug war, which disproportionately affects people of color, even though all races use drugs at approximately the same rate. Black men are more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white men or black women mostly because of the misandric, racist myths within the justice system that default to considering black men violent, drug-abusing criminals as opposed to people with the same chance of being a law-abiding citizen as anyone else.