What could influence Black police officers to savagely beat a Black motorist?
Policing in the U.S. has, from its inception, treated Black people as domestic enemies. From the the slave patrols, which some historians consider to be among the nations earliest forms of policing, to the murder of George Floyd, and now the death of Nichols, law enforcement officers often have viewed Black people as what sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, in The Souls of Black Folk, called a problem.
American society assumes that Black people are prone to criminality and therefore should be subject to state power in the form of policing or, in some cases, vigilantism as in the killing of Ahmaud Arbury. This is a link deeply woven into American consciousness. And Black people are not immune. In this way, the long-held targeting of Black men by police and widely held negative beliefs about them are a powerful cocktail that can inform even Black officers to stop, detain and brutally beat a man who looks just like them.
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