No, Black Cops Acting Like White Cops Doesn’t Debunk Police Racism

On Monday, New York Times columnist Charles Blow reminded the nation, that being black in America has consequences when African-Americans interact with the police. He relayed the story of how his son, Tahj, a Yale University student, was confronted at gunpoint by a campus police officer. The young man was unarmed and had committed no crime. He had just left the campus library. However, because Blow’s son resembled the description of a burglary suspect, an officer accosted the student, and forced him to the ground.

In his opinion column, Charles Blow expressed anger and concern over the way his son was treated. He proclaimed:

I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.

While expressing outrage at how the police treated his son, Blow did not mention the race of the officer who confronted Tahj. That officer was, like the suspect, African-American. When right-wing bloggers discovered that the detaining officer was also black, it set off a frenzy of writers upbraiding Blow for being a race-baiter. proudly declared, “Race-Hoax Debunked: Cop Who Detained Charles Blow’s Son is Black”. Other right-leaning publications offered up similar rebukes. The New York Post, The American Thinker, and NewsBusters, all weighed in. Each right-wing site basically argued that the incident could not have been racial, because the officer involved was black.

In a follow up interview on CNN, Blow argued that the race of the officer was not as important as the fact that police culture encourages officers to profile black men. Academic studies support Blow’s argument. Sure if Blow knew the race of the officer when he first wrote his column, he probably should have mentioned it. Divulging the officer’s race would not have undermined his narrative, but it could have insulated him from later criticism alleging that he was hiding important details. However, nothing Blow said, or did not say, changes the reality that African-American men are viewed suspiciously by police officers, black and white alike.

Black males between the ages of 15 and 19, are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police officers, than their white male counterparts of the same age. White police officers account for the vast majority of deadly force incidents. However, when black officers do shoot and kill, the person they are shooting is usually African-American.

Conservatives seem incapable of comprehending the complex dynamics of modern American racism. In their simplistic understanding, all that is required to remove race from the equation is a minority police officer. If a black person is victimized by a black cop, conservatives reason that race must not have been a factor. To suggest racial assumptions could still be relevant is to “play the race card”. Yet, this shallow point of view fundamentally misinterprets how racism in police policy works. Police culture reflects some of the underlying biases held by the larger society. Racial profiling and police brutality are not typically the individual excesses of openly racist officers, hell bent on ethnic cleansing. Rather they are symptomatic of a covertly racist society that has yet to acknowledge the persistence of its own latent, but enduring prejudices.

The idea that a black police officer is automatically insulated from charges of anti-black racism because of his skin color is a misunderstanding of the complex nuances of racism. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is no less a racist than Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Clarke’s contempt for the African-American community he is supposed to serve, is a glaring example that a black cop can be every bit as much a bigot towards African-American men as a white cop. American police culture, reflecting the society that created it, has a race problem. That problem is manifested in the behavior of police departments, and individual officers, both white and black.

14 Replies to “No, Black Cops Acting Like White Cops Doesn’t Debunk Police Racism”

  1. Growing up in Chicago, a cop was a cop, most, black cops, when I was coming up were more,low-down…then that white cop.They,(the black cops) were given commendations for beating and killing black people,(two guns pete),comes to mind. So, please stop with the…”but,he was a black cop” bull****! A lot of them,(black cops), are self-haters…suffering with Stockholm syndrome!

  2. the black cops better remember out of the uniform they are just N word to their racist white brothers in blue!

  3. I think the main reason some Americans don’t understand that some blacks can be racist against other blacks is because they don’t understand the history of racism in this country. This issues goes back to the days of slavery when plantation owners used the divide and conquer strategy to control the enslaved. Some blacks were encouraged to mistreat other blacks and some who had lighter complexions were led to believe that they were better and smarter than those with darker complexions. Blacks in America have always had to deal with individuals like Herman Cain, Allen West, Clarence Thomas, Alan Keyes, etc. who, oftentimes, are our worst enemies when it comes to race. These individuals seem to forget they’re black when they align themselves with those who only tolerate their presence, if they can be of some use to them (useful idiots.) They forget that if these tools have to choose between them and their white brethren, they’ll lose every time. Priebus is the new RNC chair, right?

  4. Conservatives either are ignorant or lying about systemic racism. The justice system is racist. That doesn’t mean every person who works in justice is a racist. Some even try to work against the system in which they work.

    The “thin blue line” is real. A cop can be black, brown, yellow, red, white or purple. If he/she accepts the tenants of the “thin blue line” color matters not.

    When cops see young black males, what do they see? Close your eyes and picture young black men. What do you see? What is your race? We have been so brainwashed by the media in this country. Even though the majority of serial killers, mass murderers and pedophiles are white, all white people are not seen as these criminals. But because the media marches black men in handcuffs across the screen nightly, this is the first impression of black men.
    BTW, close your eyes and imagine an angel. What color do you see?

  5. some Americans don’t understand that some blacks can be racist against other blacks is because they don’t understand the history of racism in this country.

    This isn’t only history, majiir. The divide and conquer tactic used by plantation owners way back when is used today by modern-day plantation owners: GOP, RNC, RWers, and moneyed Libertarians. Now, only, they include politics, wages, health care, health insurance, education, jobs, and every issue we face as a nation…they’ve expanded and broadened the “divide and conquer” strategy in order to pit one group against the other so that they’re too busy fighting one another to see how they’re being used and abused.

  6. For Black cops:
    1. The dominant color is BLUE
    2. The cultural identification becomes the shield and their law enforcement brotherhood first
    a. makes sense in dealing with their colleagues
    b. makes sense with what they have to confront on the streets
    c. makes sense in wanting to become a law enforcement official in the first place. Not everyone would want to do this or would be able to. This is one hard, mean, and often thankless job.
    I’m not letting them off the hook for cultural and racial amnesia. I am acknowledging the complexities of multiple negotiations they are tasked with on a daily basis.

  7. I’m from the Chicago area originally. They can get away with more, knowing that all of the political and media concern is aimed at white cop/black person confrontations. No one looks at black cop/black person confrontations or cares.

  8. The cop overreacted. However, I think it is important in this case to recall the detail that they were looking for a particular burglary suspect who was identified as being black. This isn’t so much, “all blacks are potential criminals” as “we are looking for a particular black person”. There is definitely a problem with profiling, but this particular incident probably would not have happened if the suspect they were looking for were identified as white.

  9. Charles Blow is correct, what you’ve done matters less than how you look.

    Every police officer of every color knows that black people have a much higher rate of criminality than all other races.

    These people are conditioned to view blacks as criminals because most of the criminals they deal with are black. [WINK]

  10. Whelp, stop the BS. Criminal behavior is about even across the board. As someone said above, it’s the media’s brainwashing the public with images…and each is worth a thousand words…against black men of all ages. Numerical fallacies never work because it’s a biased point of view anyway. You count Faux News reports and then you believe you have true figures…check facts and you’re wrong and a black man is again killed because you’re wearing blinders and ignore the other signs of the truth.

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