Do police officers have an existential fear of black men? Black men have an existential fear of the police.
I fear police officers, even though I've never been to jail or arrested, and even though I have family and friends who are either current or former police officers, federal investigators or corrections officers.
If a police officer is following me, I tense up, and a flood of thoughts flow through my imagination: "Why is he following me? Is he running my plates? Why? I'm an American! I'm driving a Kia! I'm an Episcopalian!"
As irrational — and admittedly comedic — as the above reads, the fear and anger black people have of police is quite rational and ought not be dismissed. Having grown up in St. Louis and visiting the city at the time of Michael Brown's death and the tense days and nights afterward, I was reminded of the area's segregated past. Not much has changed. For decades, certain parts of North St. Louis County were a no-go zone for black folks, with a myriad of restrictive covenants and intense police scrutiny. For black America, the feeling of exclusion and harassment goes back almost 400 years and persists today. I can only hope that it will dissipate by the time my son reaches my middle age.
© 2014 Fred McKissack Distributed by MCT Information Services