What do blacks say about the police?

The Washington, D.C. area has a large number of black immigrants from Africa. My impression (and it’s only an impression) is that these immigrants make up a considerable percentage of people who care for the elderly in this area, and are well represented among local taxi drivers. I gather they are well represented in certain other job categories too, but it is in these capacities that I encounter them.

Do blacks from Africa view America as a racist nation? Not likely. They wouldn’t have come here if they did. My impression (and again, it’s only that) is that these immigrants find America a relatively congenial place.

They appreciate not just the economic opportunities, but also the presence of order and the absence of rampant corruption. I might be wrong, but I don’t sense that they detest the police or that they want America to be radically transformed.

But then, I doubt that many native African-Americans want this either. Keep in mind that, but for African-Americans, Bernie Sanders probably would be the Democratic nominee for president. African-American voters saved Joe Biden’s campaign, even though, as some of his opponents liked to point out, he collaborated with Dixiecrats, opposed school busing, and led the charge for stiff sentencing of drug offenders.

Michael Javen Fortner, author of Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment focuses here on black attitudes about the police. Do blacks in America really believe, as Sean Collins says, that “they can be killed anywhere at any time by anyone, but especially by law enforcement”?

Fortner argues that they don’t:

Polling data suggest that most African-Americans do not share Collins’s bleak view of their experiences. In a 2019 Pew survey, 44 percent of blacks reported being “unfairly stopped by police” because of their race; 54 percent said, “No, has not happened to me.” In a Monmouth poll taken after Floyd’s death, 44 percent of African-Americans reported that they or an immediate family member felt “harassed by police,” but a majority did not share this experience.

When asked, “How satisfied are you with the job your local police department does,” 21 percent said “very satisfied,” 51 percent said somewhat satisfied, 12 percent said somewhat dissatisfied, and only 5 percent said that they were “very” dissatisfied. These results do not suggest a complete endorsement of contemporary policing, as many blacks report negative interactions. Yet nearly three-quarters of surveyed African-Americans report themselves satisfied with their local police departments.

These results shouldn’t come as a surprise. But polling data present at least one counter-intuitive result:

A 2015 Gallup poll found that black adults who believed police treated black people unfairly were also more likely to desire a larger police presence in their local area than those who thought police treated black people fairly.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of black adults who say the police force treats blacks unfairly. But if they really believed that cops pose a serious threat to their physical well-being, they wouldn’t want more of them in their neighborhoods.

In addition, Fortner presents these findings:

A 2019 Vox poll found that despite being the racial group with the most unfavorable view of the police, most black people still supported hiring more police officers. And more recently, a June 2020 Yahoo News/YouGov survey taken after the killing of George Floyd found that 50 percent of black respondents still said that “we need more cops on the street,” even as 49 percent of black respondents said when they personally see a police officer it makes them feel “less secure.”

Fortner concludes:

Elite institutions have committed themselves to a theory, program, and performance increasingly detached from the aspirations, worldviews, and everyday concerns of millions of blacks. Activists have secured pledges to “defund” or “dismantle” police departments, but black Americans haven’t received concrete, alternative public-safety plans to curb violence. Most African-Americans clearly desire police reform over abolition. . . .

Their perspectives deserve consideration. Any “antiracist” movement that disregards how working and middle-class African-Americans define and pursue the good life is not worth its name.

(Emphasis added)

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