The inherent mistrust of the police by Black people began to develop about 50 years after the first slaves arrived (1619) in The United States, when slave patrols were used to keep slaves on the plantations. In 1669, South Carolina, through its legislature, created uniformed squads of men (all white) to capture, whip, and imprison slaves who left the confines of their master’s properties. This system of “injustice” began the mistrust of law enforcement felt by people of color in South Carolina, this continued during slavery. The belief that “law enforcement is not on our side” was exacerbated during post-Civil War segregation.
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 making all people citizens, regardless of race, who are born in the United States. It set the requirements to be a citizen and outlined the rights of citizens. Because the United States Supreme Court recognized states’ rights, the southern states were able to restrict the rights of Black people. In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that state laws requiring separate but equal accommodations, such as drinking fountains or restrooms, for Blacks were a “reasonable use of state government power. In 1898 the Supreme Court ruled in Williams v. Mississippi that use of poll taxes, literacy tests, and residential requirements were constitutional.
President John F. Kennedy proposed The Civil Rights Act that became law in 1964. After President Kennedy’s assassination, it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in all public places, it integrated public schools, and outlawed employment discrimination. The Voting Rights Act, was passed soon afterward. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Over the five decades that have followed his death an increasing percentage of African-Americans have earned college degrees and post-graduate degrees. Many have become successful in businesses and in professions. In William Julius Wilson’s (1978) book The Declining Significance of Race, he points to the class differences being a more significant problem than racial discrimination.
Why has integration not eliminated distrust and even contempt that much of Black society feels for those who are often risking their lives to protect them? Why do so many Black people resent those who have the power and legal authority to protect them and their families from the dangers of crime in their own neighborhoods?
Even with great progress in racial equality, the disparity between the rich and the poor is greater than ever. Hundreds of thousands of Black children are born into homes of uneducated parents each year. They suffer from a poor diet, little supervision, and a lack of training in how to read, how to speak correct English, and even what is normally considered right and wrong. Often, they are born to a single mother with little income, and no father in the home to teach, to discipline, and to love them. They are very easily drawn into gangs with older boys, and men who have found a way to get the material things that they want, usually through illegal means such as selling drugs, pimping, hustling, burglary, shoplifting, etc.
The high crime rate in these minority neighborhoods attracts more police patrols, more stops, more searches, and therefore more arrests. With the implementation of Problem-Oriented-Policing P.O.P., in large urban areas, crime rates began to drop, having peaked in the early ‘90s. As arrest rates and length of sentences increased, crime dropped. As more of the criminals were off the streets and serving longer sentences in jails and prisons, the city neighborhoods became safer.
Significant racial disparity based on population is alarming. Less than 13% of our nation’s population is Black and the vast majority of those arrested and incarcerated for property and violent crimes are Black. So, it is easy to understand through the eyes of African-Americans that racial profiling must be the cause of this disparity. The War On Cops, a book written by Heather Mac Donald, provides empirical data that, the root cause of the overwhelming disparity of Black crime is “the breakdown of the black family. This problem will be addressed by the author in future articles written for the readers of Panorama.
Frank Barron served as Richland County’s coroner.