Wisdom Wednesday: When Fear Kills

In the wake of the shooting of Missouri teen, Mike Brown, let’s talk about authority and the varieties thereof.  Before you make assumptions about how this post will play out, you should know that I’m not into police bashing.  I think it’s insensitive and totally unnecessary to cast judgment before all the facts have been uncovered.  The institution of  law enforcement has its place and purpose, and is even biblically sound (see–Romans 13:1-4). 

That being said, there is another side to this coin.  Because of our fallen nature, sin has infected each of us, and the primary symptom of this infection is fear.  Consequently, fear causes irrational responses within us.  This creates a problem when people in authority–namely police officers–are placed in life-threatening situations.  These volitile situations create a heightened awareness and sensitivity that make Skittles bags appear to be guns.  Death of the unarmed occurs at the confluence of power and fear; whether that power is clothed in a uniform with a badge or a flawed legislation (i.e. Stand Your Ground).  This is fastly becoming an epidemic  in our society based on most recent events. 

There is a proven disparity between the races when it comes to these tragic events of late.  The landscape of the African-American community is frought with families that have been affected by the loss of loved-ones due to irrational and unjustified deadly force.  The relationship between law enforcement and the community seems the be the most strained where African-Americans are predominant.  Of course, this is nothing new to the citizens of these communities, but that doesn’t seem to spark much change in this paradigm.  In fact, many of the laws that are in effect today were designed to target people of certain racial descent.     

According to a book I recently read, Between Barak and a Hard Place, by Tim wise, the current “war on drugs” instituted in the late 1990’s, was loosely intended to shift the focus of law enforcement to rest heavily upon people of color.  This resulted in a disproportionate ratio of arrests, persecutions, and random consent searches between whites and people of color.  Here are some interesting stats sited by Tim Wise in his book:

  • Blacks are 48 times more likely than whites to be incarcerated for a fisrt-time drug offense.
  • In fifteen states, the rate of black incarceration for drug offenses is anywhere from 20 to 57 times greater than for whites, despite equal or greater rates of drug law violations by whites.
  • Blacks are twice as likely to be sent to prison for cocaine use than whites, when all of the factors surrounding an arrest are the same, and serve on average 40 months more than white offenders.

These statistics are so because of one key point:

  • According to another study conducted in Oakland, CA in 2013:African-Americans stopped by police were searched 42 percent of the time, compared to 27 percent for Latinos and 17 percent for whites and Asians. Yet, those searches resulted in the recovery of contraband 27 percent of the time for African-Americans and Latinos, 28 percent of the time for whites and 25 percent of the time for Asians.

Naturally, there are things that African-American youth-especially men-need to understand when dealing with the police.  Certain things make you an easier target and a bigger threat capable of escalating a bad situation into an even worse one extremely quickly.  In no way am I saying that the culprits are always blameless when confronted by the police, but it should never warrant deadly force without proper judgment.  With authority comes the resposibility of proper judgment.  There is a cycle of hostility that exists between African-Americans and law enforcement that never favors the side of the perpetrator.  Any signs of resistance or sudden, unexpected moves tend to exacerbate the situation and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts: that African-Americans are hostile, resistant, and deserve unreasonable and sometimes deadly force.

One could argue that because of these types of confirmations, people of color should fear law enforcement.  The hostility that so animates the demeanor of African-Americans when confronted by law enforcement could be result of the constant menacing scrutiny of the police.  This, in turn, leads to hostility in law enforcement when confronting African-Americans, which in the cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and many others…ultimately leads to death of the unarmed. 


Let’s talk:  Some pressing questions need to be asked:

  1. What do statistics like this really speak of?
  2. Do people of color deserve this type of treatment due to a lack of morals?
  3. Are people of color so menacing, so aggresive, so hostile that the use of deadly force becomes the norm instead of the exception?


What do you think?  All comments welcomed.


As always, thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.  See you soon.

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