There is palpable friction between Black Americans and the police today. Much of the Black community has grown increasingly distrustful of the police, as another decade draws to a close in America without having eliminated or even palliated the scourge of police brutality. Perennially upset with the disproportionate attention they receive from the police (an issue that breached the political mainstage after many popular Democrats of late included it in their platforms), their lack of legal cooperation in the pursuit of justice, and the eternal grievance of witnessing Black be lives taken through every media outlet, Black Americans have little love left for law enforcement.
The offending party has responded to this in a few ways. In cases like that of Baltimore, where the murder of Freddie Gray sparked riots and an unprecedented wave of violence in the city, police simply stopped showing up as often. The officers of the Baltimore Police Department, probably feeling slighted and unappreciated in the wake of the city’s animosity toward them, left the people of Baltimore to themselves. Expectedly, the BPD’s odd brand of laissez-faire “policing” yielded disastrous results as shootings and violent crime continue to surge in their absence.
Other parts of the country, however, have chosen to confront the standoff between police and Black citizens rather than run from it. Three years ago, the then-Attorney General of New Jersey Christopher Porrino mandated racial bias training for all state officers following the murders of (and protests in the honor of) Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Terence Crutcher, which range from having happened one month to four months prior to the new policy. Although the policy is somewhat hopeful, and demonstrates that in some places in America there exist officials committed to resolving the problem of racially motivated police brutality, state-sponsored courses in antiracism or “implicit bias” are not nearly enough to combat the American tradition of racial violence, which predates America itself. One could not reasonably expect any half-millennium-old practice to die at the hands of less than a decade of preventative policymaking.
Central to Black people and the police’s impasse is their mutual indignation, that they both feel that they have been unjustly targeted by the other party. Black Americans have witnessed the misdeeds of crooked cops in their communities for centuries, and the police as an entity have withstood whatever public reprehension (if there was public reprehension) followed. All across America there are people who hate the police. They hear themselves called pigs (or are, comically, oinked at) and murderers regardless of whether or not they’ve done anything. The actions of the worst of their camp speak for all of them, so they are all implicated in their colleagues’ greatest sins.
Feeling that their public demonization is unfair for this reason, they further stoke the fires that burn them in championing toxic ideologies like the one behind “Blue Lives Matter,” a motto which has only served to expand the racial rift by literally exchanging “Black” and, symbolically, Black people, for “Blue” and the police. The police officers and advocates found rallying behind it on Facebook and in real life represent one of the most evidently anti-Black and delusional factions in White America today. Swiftly and shamelessly they overwrite the cry of an endangered species for its life to promote further safeguarding of the predator. Their message is clear, even if they won’t admit it: Black lives aren’t worth the fuss.
Although Black Americans and the police aren’t likely to stop locking horns any time in the foreseeable future, it is likely that federal action will be required to combat the issue effectively. But it is difficult to imagine the sitting President using his power to dissuade racist behavior in police officers or anyone. We do not expect him to continue the tradition of Harry S. Truman and Executive Order 9981, the antiracist mandate issued in response to racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces. President Trump infamously supported the idea of violence against suspected criminals so austerely that even some of the nation’s police chiefs disagreed with him. With the leader of the nation speaking in support of American law enforcement’s most spiteful, debauched faction, being the perpetrators of unwarranted police brutality, the future of Black-police relations does not look too different from its current form.