This is Kalief Browder. Thanks to the NYPD, three years of his life are gone forever.

[Article updated on August 12, 2014]

It’s something I wish I didn’t have to say. One of the first things we teach children is to respect authority. Listen to your elders. Go ask a grown up. When there’s trouble, dial 911. But, what do you say when the people they are trained to look up to as protectors, too often end up being aggressors. I realize that millions of police officers across the country put their lives on the line every day. Their jobs are hard. It’s not easy. Yet, no one can deny the heartbreaking reoccurring reality of innocent Black youth being killed, neglected or abused by police officers and other people in positions of authority.

I often wonder how to truthfully explain police interaction to children. I image it would go like this:

1) If you’re ever in a car accident, don’t run towards the police for help. They might shoot you. RIP Jonathan Ferrell

2) If you are ever being unlawfully arrested or detained, forget your rights. Don’t speak up for yourself. Even with your hands behind your head, they might shoot you. RIP Oscar Grant

3) Try not to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, like at home when police raid it. Try to disappear into thin air. But, whatever you do, don’t be seen. By standing in the hallway, you might get shot. RIP Aiyana Jones

4) If you’re ever with an adult that is in trouble with the law, you may not be recognized as the child that you are. In fact, you may have to carry a sign with you specifically for traffic stops. They can read, “I’m a child, please don’t bash in the window next to my head,” or  “Please don’t shoot at the van that I’m in.” Ask Oriana Ferrell’s children.

5)  If you’re ever walking home and you’re stalked by a (non uniformed) neighborhood watchman, don’t try to defend yourself. Or else they’ll feel threatened and have the legally upheld right to shoot you. RIP Trayvon Martin

6) Never. Never. Never Walk home at night (or day). They will think you’re a criminal and accuse you of any crime they see fit . You might go to jail for 3 years, only to be released without any explanation. Ask Kalief Browder.

7) If you ever get lost or missing. Don’t expect them to come looking for you immediately unless you’re blonde haired and blue eyed. Just find your own way home. Ask Amir Jennings, Phylicia Barnes and countless others. RIP Latisha Frazier.

8) If you’re ever abducted and forced into sex slavery, don’t expect to be rescued. If they happen to see you, you  will not be taken to the hospital. You will be arrested for prostitution… even if you’re 13 years old (the average entry age for sex trafficking victims).

9) If you’re ever acting up at school, don’t worry about what your mother will do when you get home. You might not even go home. Jail could be your next destination, even if you’re 6 years old. – Ask Salecia Johnson.


10) If you’re ever in a car accident, don’t knock on someone’s door for help. You might get shot and labeled a criminal. RIP Renisha McBride

11) If you’re walking down the street…Nevermind. Don’t walk down the street. Don’t breathe. Don’t do anything “normal” because—> you might get shot, even with your hands raised. RIP Mike Brown

12) If you’re ever in Walmart, don’t hold a toy gun. They won’t asking any questions, even though there shouldn’t be a need to. The police will just shoot you down and come up with an excuse later. RIP John Crawford III

The list could go on and on. Though it may seem outlandish, everyone of these circumstances are a part of the everyday realities Black youth face in America. The ever present fear of Blackness robs Black children of the opportunity to have their adolescence and innocence recognized. Even as children, they’re both feared and criminalized. Though the police should be protecting them, historically racist irrational beliefs presume that Black children aren’t in fact children. This breeds serious child endangering consequences like false imprisonment, abandonment and death. Too often police officers believe their job is to protect the public from Black children and not the other way around. It’s sad to say. But right now, Black children can’t trust the police. And why should they?

15 thoughts on “Why Black Children Can’t Trust The Police

  1. I heard Kalief’s story over the weekend and I just can’t believe how long he sat in Rykers for something he didn’t do. If he were my child, I would have had be showing out on every news station in America.

      1. Do you want this story to go global ? Get In touch with Peter Rock of global media, he is On Face book with three accounts and has a very special network. “Peter Rock” theglobalmediamarketingnetwork.com Just send it to him.

  2. If you’re bleeding from a rollover accident and you’re a black male who’s prompted a white suburbanite to call the police, who arrive and shoot you; if you’re a non-suicidale teen who’s fallen from an overpass, broken your back, only to be tased a dozen times for non-compliance; or if you’re a 107-year-old man in his bedroom tormented by mischievous tenants who connive to have you terminated by SWAT, you can’t say “fuck the police”. We can hope each of these victims had the chance to curse the officers before their demise. It’s probably not unimaginable that these law enforcement overreactions might have been occasioned by the victims’ expressed astonishment, no doubt profane, that one, police were called without cause, two, they responded anyway, and three, their reaction was to escalate. If you are breaking no law and police are obstructing your pursuit of happiness, disabuse them of their misconception of authority, or they will kill all of us.

  3. I think this post is getting at a very serious issue; however, I don’t think it does much to provide any real substantive insight. The way the argument was laid out was a bit contrived. I could continue in the same format and say, 10. Don’t get on airplanes (RIP to the people have lost their lives due to airplane crashes). 11. If you need to go to the store to buy orange juice, don’t go, you may be struck by a car or even lightening (RIP the people in life who this has happened to). I think this format of throwing out one example here or there only perpetuates knee-jerk reactions. Try to find data that shows that these are widespread issues that disproportionately affect Black youths and then present that to the reader so that we can understand the breadth and the depth of the issue and have a solid footing to enter into meaningful dialogue with others.

    1. Though I understand your response, I am sure the author is just siting a few situations that can be related to unfortunately by many African Americans especially the males. I think it really matters where you live this is a common occurrence in our community. Sad but true.

      1. Spellcheck on my phone is speaking for me… I don’t think it really matters where you live

      2. Hello Roycie. The author seems to be an intelligent person. But even intelligent people can improve. The article could have been much more powerful with statistics that show the issue is widespread. You say it’s a common occurrence; I would’ve liked for that claim (which I imagine the author is implying) to have been backed up with statistics/data. It’s a good post in terms of making me upset as a black man. But I’d like to feel a little more intellectually stimulated and better equipped for future discussions on this topic. That’s all.

  4. I love the W.E Dubois comment. I needed to hear it. I sometimes find myself trying to fit in while losing myself. I can’t wait to take my courses on African writers throughout the diaspora. I bet I will get to read one of his books:)
    And yeah Kanye is confused.


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