Police brutality, or resisting arrest?

00-anthonyhallYou can be forgiven for the impression that America is experiencing an epidemic of violent confrontations between Black kids and White cops. Their latest confrontation had White cops hurling profanities, and one of them even drawing his gun, just to disperse Black kids at an unruly pool party near Dallas, Texas.

That one trigger-happy cop was clearly wrong in this case. He has already been suspended and will be duly punished. But it only adds fuel to these racial flare-ups for those of us watching on TV or online to cast aspersions on the kids or blame upon the police.

Look carefully
As mindful as I am about how racial dynamics play out in these confrontations, an incident during last month’s riots in Baltimore chastened even me.

It stemmed from the very emotional eyewitness account a Black girl gave of seeing a White cop shoot a Black man in the back in the middle of the street. I believed her. No less a person than a White reporter for FOX News gave a similar eyewitness account.

Except that the Black man they saw was fleeing from the cop; he dropped the gun he had illegally in his possession; it misfired; he fell to the ground out of fright; he was so traumatized by his own reckless attempt to resist arrest that he had to be taken to hospital.

On the other hand, I saw with my own eyes the viral video of a White cop in South Carolina shooting a Black man in the back, then planting evidence to cover up his egregious misconduct.

‘Ferguson effect’
Unfortunately, the fallout from this epidemic of violent confrontations is a spike in all manner of crimes, in predominantly Black cities, across the country. It’s called “the Ferguson effect.”

Now we’re being treated to this chicken-or-the-egg spectacle: Black activists saying White cops are deliberately boycotting Black neighborhoods; White cops saying they’ve had it with Black activists accusing them of racism and police brutality for trying to police Black neighborhoods. Whatever the case, Black people compose more than 90 percent of those affected by this untenable state of affairs.

Meanwhile, the legacy of racism in America is such that confrontations between Black kids and White cops are never black and white. What is so, however, is that these confrontations would not be epidemic if disregarding police commands and resisting arrest had not somehow become normalized among so many Black kids.

Rules for kids
Ever since this latest epidemic of America’s original sin coming home to roost began last summer, I’ve been pleading with Black kids to follow the few simple rules listed in my August 12, 2014 column about Michael Brown’s death. Those rules are:
 •Do not run.
 •Follow instructions calmly (i.e., no sudden moves that might spook a nervous policeman).
 •Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions.
 •If instructed to turn around to be frisked or handcuffed, comply without uttering a word.
 •Save any disagreements or arguments you may have for the courtroom or your civilian complaints review board.

I suspect it will take a Black savior like President Obama to deliver this message effectively. I urge him to do so – before more Black kids end up like Michael Brown.

The way these confrontations are trending does not bode well. That said, nothing in this commentary is intended to convey any belief that Black kids are the only ones defying police commands and resisting arrest these days. After all, White kids are provoking similar confrontations (as their mindless rioting following last year’s NCAA hockey championship in Minnesota attests), but White cops are shooting many more of them.

Media silent
We rarely read or hear about these incidents because the media determined long ago that they do not provide the same kind of boon for ratings that stoking racial tensions between Black kids and White cops does.

Which, incidentally, is why there has been so much coverage of the all-too-familiar violence that erupted among concertgoers even before a hip-hop and R&B concert got underway in New Jersey on Sunday. True to form, White cops became the racist villains for using universally accepted methods to maintain/restore order, after many concertgoers became unruly.

I wonder how the hip-hop artists – who make a living vilifying cops – will feel when fans stop attending their concerts? It would be reasonable for fans to fear getting caught up in such wanton violence, especially knowing that cops might be reluctant to intervene out of reasonable fear of being accused of racism and police brutality.

Increasing incidents of deadly confrontations between White kids and White cops do not mean that issues of race are not involved in increasing incidents of deadly confrontations between Black kids and White cops.

It’s complicated.

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian native with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com.


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