By Kai EL’Zabar
WHY DO BLACK MEN RUN FROM POLICE?
Why do Black men run from the police? I have to ask because after the recent incidents where Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Eric Harris, Freddie Gray resulted in their deaths the question was postured. Why did he run if he’s innocent?
They run not from guilt but from the context that if they don’t run, they will end up dead, lamed or framed and sentenced to prison on trumped up bogus charges. This is the reality of Black male youth living in the hood under the shroud of mass incarcerations, police brutality, excessive aggression, trapped by the unpredictable whims and technicalities of the criminal justice system, where minor infractions can result into lifetime imprisonment that plagues their community. They witness this everyday.
They grow up spending a lifetime on the run from the oppressive reality that if they don’t, their life may become one of servitude. So running, though is not an instinctive reaction if you are a white male because his police experience is the opposite of his Black counterpart. He meets ‘officer friendly’ there to serve and protect him. Most young Black men are taught by their fathers, behaviors that will keep them safe when confronted by the police. Most know to keep their hands visible and to ask permission to make any move with hands or body.
My friend did not allow his sons to wear sandals because he wanted them to be prepared if they had to run. Today’s young Black men too, would do well to have a father tell them, “Pull those pants up son. You won’t get very far sagging if you have to run.”
Another friend instructed his sons to go in the opposite direction of the police sirens, or flashing lights. “You want to get as far away from the trouble. Don’t even be in the vicinity.” Far too many Blacks know about being arrested because he fit the “they-all-look-alike” description.
Fact is, it’s not unusual to find the police menacing the poorest, crime-ridden communities everyday. Instead of serving to protect these communities, police have instigated and intimidated the residents with reckless and irresponsible manhandling. If the same police were to drive by and say, “Hey guys, how’s your day going? . . .Stay out of trouble,” and then moved on, it would be the beginning of a different type relationship. However, what the average Black male knows is that there is an increased likelihood of negative interaction.
Even if there’s no arrest, they may be a detained, handcuffed in the back seat of the police car, held in detention, a body search or search of their car, whatever, and who knows how long that’s going to last? It translates to, you won’t be home for dinner tonight, or tomorrow. As a Bail re-evaluator in New York it was my responsibility to get people out of jail on their own recognizance because the prisons full of people awaiting a hearing or a trial. Most were locked up for possession of marijuana or petty theft. One of my clients had stolen a carton of cigarettes. He had no priors, so why had he been in jail for 13 months? Easy. He was a Black man. I witnessed white men charged with being in possession of cocaine released the same day they were charged. These are the distinctions in the handling of Blacks and whites in the American legal system.
Clearly this precedence creates a context within which Black males operate. They have developed a hostile perception of police and are therefore defensive. This dictates their behavior. They seek to avoid all police contact. Oftentimes they will go out of their way to avoid the places where the police might approach them including their place of employment.
These responses are not those of free men. They see the hood as comparative to a plantation and the police are the perceived overseers. They punish or reprimand anyone whose not where they think they should be doing what they think they should be doing. So the goal is to be out of police-sight. If a Black man is in the police’s periphery then he is subject to a beatdown whether it’s physical, psychological or emotional.
Unfortunately, too many Black men have been stopped or pulled over, arrested, and jailed just because he was within eyesight of an officer. Some have gone from being free to being a felon, which feeds the American free labor force, known as Slavery By Another Name and the legislature, The New Jim Crow. Many brothers may have low level warrants, traffic fines, child support issues, etc., which forces them to live like a fugitive always running for their freedom for fear of being stopped by a police for being Black.
- From Freedom to Felonies
- Negative reactions for minor infractions
- Dead, lamed or framed
- Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Eric Harris, Freddie Gray
That’s why Black men run.