The heightened media attention surrounding the police being unnecessarily called on black people has sparked a frenzy and conversations on what the police presence within the black community signifies. There is constant debate on whether police presence is necessary in these situations. For example, recently when a white store manager at CVS called the police on a black woman because she was using coupons. In the video, he states that he is calling because she was “Trying to take advantage of the system." In this video, the manager is clearly shaken and in fear. However, the question is, what exactly is he in fear for?
For many white people calling the police on black people is their way of asserting control and ultimately showing their fear of black people. It has been an ongoing joke and reality within the black community that white people are quick to call the police on a black person. Even more so, if a white woman calls the police on black man that they know that they are automatically going to jail. For many, the police is how they invoke fear in black people. With the conversation of police brutality at an all-time high, one would take heed that the relationships between law enforcement and the black community is in a volatile state. Police involved deaths such as Michael Brown Jr, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Vonderitt Meyers, Philando Castle, Alton Sterling and many more have put the community on edge. Not only because their deaths were horrendous, but because the very same people that are meant to protect and serve were able to get away scot-free for killing these individuals. Not to mention that a majority of them were killed by police because someone called the police on them.
Another example of this if the story of Tamir Rice. A twelve-year-old boy playing in the park with a BB gun after thanksgiving of 2014. While Tamir was playing, someone who lived nearby called the police Tamir. Stating that he looks like he had a gun but he looked a child. Over the dispatch, it was said that Tamir looked like a young man in his 20’s. Not even 20 seconds at arriving at the scene where Tamir was playing the police officer jumps out of his squad car and begins to shoot. Tamir, who was only 12 years old, died instantly.
The history of the police dates back to slavery. One of the first slave patrols was founded in the Carolinas in 1704 to keep black and Native Americans in control. In those times, there weren’t called the police they were called “Paddy Rollers”. Paddy rollers would roam the south making sure that slaves were where they were supposed to be. This included checking notes from slave-owners nearby and catching runaway slaves. This kind of slave-patrol was not only happening in the South, it was in the north as well, with the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 as the law of the land. The Paddy Roller's position was to keep slaves under control and protect the slave-owner's interests. Because most slaves outnumbered that population of free and wealthy whites, slave-owners practiced a brutal tactic called ‘conditioning’ or ‘breaking a buck’. These tactics were meant to dehumanize slaves at their core. If a slave was caught doing something rebellious against his owner, the slave master would then have to make an example out of him. This was used to invoke fear into other slaves. Although there were some laws that were supposed to “protect” slaves, it is important to remember that these paddy rollers and night watchers were merely in the interest of the slave-owner.
After slavery came to an end, paddy rollers were no longer in the business of catching slaves. They were made to uphold government policies and laws that were detrimental to the African American community. In the year 1866, during the Reconstruction Era in the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) was born in Tennessee. The KKK invoked fear into black people who wanted to participate in politics and free life. They would ride around with white sheets over their heads terrorizing black people in their homes at night. In many cases, white men who were a part of the KKK would join the police force. This in turn enforced the racist agenda to keep black people subservient. After the 1915 movie Birth of a Nation, the number of KKK members grew rapidly and the number of police officers that were a part of the KKK increase drastically as well. Their violence, brutality and unlawfulness has been documented and recorded throughout history.
In conclusion, the debate on whether or not police presence is always necessary in the African American community is an important one. It is significant to remember that a police presence is not only all-too-often dangerous for black people, but it is a scare tactic to invoke fear in them as well. From its inception, law enforcement in the United States was not designed to protect black people, but to ultimately keep black people "in their place" and to control them. White people that feel threatened enough to call the police over small problems show their racist nature and their fear of black people. Understand that calling the police on a person of color can put that person’s life at risk. It has been historically documented repeatedly the potential life threatening danger that one is in when the police presence is involved. In layman's terms: simply please stop calling the police on black people for no reason.
Michelle Fitzgerald is a blogger for CSUITEMUSIC.com
Michelle is based out of St. Louis, Missouri