Ta-Nehisi Coates: Fear, Parenting, and the Police: We talked some, last week, about how fear drives black parents. I think this is the sort of case that I was thinking about:
The photos taken by Jordan Miles' mother show his face covered with raw, red bruises, his cheek and lip swollen, his right eye swollen shut. A bald spot mars the long black dreadlocks where the 18-year-old violist says police tore them from his head.
Now, 10 days after plainclothes officers stopped him on a street and arrested him after a struggle that they say revealed a soda bottle under his coat, not the gun they suspected, his right eye is still slightly swollen and bloodshot. His head is shaved. The three white officers who arrested him have been reassigned. And his mother says she is considering a lawsuit.
I think it's safe to say that these guys, despite tasering and beating a high-school senior to a pulp for "trying to avoid being seen" and carrying a Mountain Dew bottle, will be back on the street and enjoy a long career in the Pittsburgh police department. That's fine. As a society, we've decided that we'll tolerate the occasional beatdown, or murder, of an innocent in order to "feel safe." The cops are who we want them to be.
Meanwhile, some of us have friends who've been assaulted, or killed, by cops and a disproportionate number of us happen to be black. We are very clear that should one of our sons get caught up in a situation like this, the cop is, essentially, immune to any kind of meaningful censure. Having internalized this risk factor--among a dizzying array of other risk factors--we may, at times, be a little rougher on our kids.
I don't know if that's right, fair, or even smart. But I do know that some of us live in a world where you're allowed to throw snowballs at cops, yell "fucking pig" and walk away, and others of us live in a world where a young violinist who attends a performing arts high school literally has his hair ripped out for the horrendous crime of "trying to avoid being seen."