Black and White

… when we grew up, the typical policeman appeared like a guest at Mr. Rogers Neighborhood: a well-meaning neighbor deserving of respect for a very difficult job.

We are all the product of our upbringing and our environment. And the experiences of the African-American community differ markedly from the rest of us in both respects.

Most of us whites are unable to comprehend why many blacks cheered at the exoneration of O.J. Simpson for what seemed to be blatant murder. Or for the current uproar in the African-American community at violent police actions in their midst.

That’s because when we grew up, the typical policeman appeared to be like a guest at “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood:” a well-meaning neighbor deserving of respect for a very difficult job. We typically say “Good morning, Officer,” when we pass the police on the street as well as considering their honesty and uprightness a suitable model for our children.

Blacks experience the police in a very different way. They watch their friends get picked up or harassed for no apparent reason, frequently ending up in jail for extended terms compared to their white counterparts who may just receive probation for the same offense.

In defense of the police, patrolling black neighborhoods often involves extensive risks and increased confrontation that has killed many of their fellow officers. That doesn’t excuse the police actions, and hopefully they can be resolved by steps such as sensitivity training and dashboard cameras.

But as our fellow black citizens take to the streets in protest, we must also realize the legitimacy of their complaints and the weariness they feel in what has become a much too frequent storyline: members of their community dying before their rightful time for no apparent reason.