Published on August 22nd, 20140
What caused the Ferguson riot exists in so many other cities, too
Experience teaches black men that police officers exist not to protect them, but to criminalize and humiliate them. Few black boys get through adolescence without a story of police harassment, and with age, their stories proliferate. Aggressive police tactics turn black males into subjects of suspicion and skeptical scrutiny. This makes them vulnerable to harassment, whether their crime is real or imagined. Black men engaged in innocuous activities — walking home from a corner store, holding a BB gun at Walmart, leaving his bachelor party — become targeted as criminals by authorities. With each negative encounter, black men build up antagonism toward law enforcement. They develop defense mechanisms and toughen up to protect their pride and perceived respectability. With this built-up hostility, interactions over minor offenses, like suspicion of selling loose cigarettes, become quickly charged.