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Fear of the ‘Big Bad Black” stems from guilt of past dirty deeds

Black males encountering police are suspect just for being Black; if you’re large, that’s two strikes and you may be called out By now you’ve probably witnessed the recent cell phone video of the North Miami,

Black males encountering police are suspect just for being Black; if you’re large, that’s two strikes and you may be called out

By now you’ve probably witnessed the recent cell phone video of the North Miami, Fla. cop discharging his weapon at an African-American man lying flat on his back with his hands in the air. That image was worth one million words: No threat by the man. Totally compliant with police. In the cops’ eyes, however, he was a Big Black Male.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. is publisher and editor-in-chief of the Compton Herald.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. is publisher and editor-in-chief of the Compton Herald.

Then, why did one of the police officer shoot the compliant, unarmed man? Let’s recap the incredible chain of events.

After a 23-year-old autistic man carrying a toy truck wandered from a mental health center in North Miami out into the street, Monday, a worker there named Charles Kinsey went to retrieve him.

A few minutes later the autistic man sat down in a busy street, cross-legged blocking the roadway while playing with a small, rectangular white toy. Kinsey was on the ground next to him trying to talk him out of the roadway when police officers responding to a 911 call of a man with a gun, arrive and began barking orders.

They commanded the men to lie on the ground. Kinsey complied, thrusting his arms into the air (according to subsequent testimony by him) and tried to convince the autistic patient to do the same. He didn’t and within moments, one of the policemen fires his automatic rifle three times, striking Kinsey in the leg.

The video, taken before the officer fired his weapon, shows Kinsey on his back with his hands in the air telling police he didn’t have a weapon and asking them not to fire. A second brief video shows officers who are carrying rifles physically patting down Kinsey and the autistic man while they are lying on the ground.

In an interview with WSVN-Channel 7 in Miami, Kinsey said that after he was shot, officers approached and flipped him over and handcuffed him.

Kinsey asked the officer why he fired his weapon, the cop responded, “I don’t know.”

The aforementioned police shooting of yet another unarmed Black male, which easily could have ended tragically, provides context into White cop-involved shootings that are occurring more and more frequently with little provocation.

Charles Kinsey’s case is familiar to the African-American community and by extension to the Latino community in the urban core. The underlying theme is fear. I am no psychologist or social scientist, so this doesn’t qualify as an esoteric, scientific hypothesis, by any means.

But, being a Black male of sizable physique, having experienced more than a fair share of traffic encounters with police, qualifies me to offer undeniable plausibility about the role of fear in encounters between cops and Black men that all-too-often end with deadly consequences for the latter.

In street vernacular, it’s known as fear of the “Big, Bad Black.” Simply put: White cops fear Black men and are prone to shoot first and spin a story, later.  I’ve sensed that fear many times. It’s readily detectable in an officer’s eyes and body language. Because officers on occasion have noted my size with statements like, “You’re a big guy,” and, “You’ve been working out!” — indicates intimidation which equates to fear.

The FBI maintains statistics of felonious deaths to officers resulting from criminal acts. In 2013 in 16 states, 27 cops fell to assailants. A year earlier, 49 officers were killed in 2012. The assailants were not reduced to ethnic statistics, but it can be assumed Blacks males killing cops has been negligible throughout the nation’s history, so they cannot be classified as predators of White cops.

So then, why the fear?

Could it be attributed to past dirty deeds by rogue cops, resulting in a guilt complex and a psychological obsession with a target on their back? Is the fear an expectation of reprisal (especially in the South) by cops who secretly belong to hate groups? Whichever, the incontrovertible fact remains — many White law enforcement personnel generally fear Black males, regardless of stature and size. The “Big Bad Black” is a figment of a guilty conscience.

Until cops assigned to urban America are better trained, those who clandestinely belong to hate groups are ferreted out, and until fearful cops patrolling urban areas in the U.S. exorcise their psychological demons, the killings will continue.

The only way this can be avoided is through dialogue and a familiarity with Black and Brown urban culture.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. is Publisher and Editor of Compton Herald. He attended junior and senior high school in Compton, and is an alumnus of California State University, Los Angeles.

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