But just because we don’t see the corruption of law enforcement in our own lives doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Police brutality is not the Bogeyman. It’s not an urban legend witnessed by none but told by many. It’s not a myth created by a primitive tribe that is too simple to understand the true source of the brokenness in its communities. Black people believe in police brutality for the same reason they believe in rain—because they’ve felt it.
Perhaps many in black communities have a skewed perception of how prevalent police brutality is. And perhaps many who contribute to criminal activity in these communities are guilty of shifting the blame they deserve to law enforcement, effectively fostering an unjustified culture of hostility towards the vast majority of police officers who are faithfully trying to keep those communities safe. But overstating your case is not the same thing as not having one, and unfairly dumping your share of guilt on your opponent doesn’t mean he’s perfectly innocent.
Conservatives are frequently, and unfairly, labeled as racists. Does it make you a racist to believe that a young black man named Michael Brown assaulted a police officer, tried to steal his weapon and then again displayed violent intent when that police officer was pointing the same gun at him? Not if you draw that conclusion based on the facts. But until enough evidence is available to reveal which implausible explanation for the events of August 9 is true, perhaps that label might fit those who insist on making judgments against Michael Brown simply because they refuse to walk a mile in the shoes of those who have had drastically different experiences with the police. For those of us who have never experienced law enforcement corrupted by power, basic human decency should require that we try to understand and consider the perspective of those who have before we insist that their account of Michael Brown’s death is somehow less believable than ours.