Black men are the principal beneficiaries of policing; they also bear its highest costs.
We can’t talk about policing in the United States without talking about race. It’s personal to me. I’m white. But I’m married to a black woman, and we’re the proud parents of a biracial son who, as he grows up and navigates American life, will face challenges that I never had in my own youth. He’s nine years old now and only barely beginning to wrestle with questions of race and identity. Yet as he matures into adulthood, he’s more likely to have encounters with police than I have been. These encounters are more likely to include some police use of force than if he were white. And that’s assuming he can resist his tendency, inherited from his father, to be somewhat of a smart aleck when confronted by authority figures.
My son’s greater likelihood of police encounters isn’t something easily fixed by legislation. There are nevertheless current efforts, in Washington and the states, as political leaders respond to the public outcry prompted by George Floyd’s inexcusable death at the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
At the federal level, alternative bills introduced by each party emphasize the intersection of race and policing, though, as one might expect, their approaches and proposed remedies differ somewhat. The Republican bill — the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act — would enact a federal anti-lynching law, encourage police departments to recruit more minority officers, fund police-education programs, and establish a new “Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.” The Democrats’ bill — the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — also includes anti-lynching, recruitment, and training provisions. In addition, it has an entire section dedicated to addressing “racial profiling,” which gives new enforcement powers to the federal Justice Department as well as providing for new “civil actions” — i.e., citizen lawsuits against police departments.
James R. Copland is a senior fellow and director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute. He is the author of “The Unelected: How an Unaccountable Elite is Governing America,” forthcoming in September. Follow him on Twitter here.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images