Shot in fear

The role phobia plays in the deaths of Black men

William Covington | 8/21/2014, midnight
At a National Black Peace Officer conference held last week in Los Angeles, officers spoke on the recent series of ...

At a National Black Peace Officer conference held last week in Los Angeles, officers spoke on the recent series of shootings involving African American men. Officers were polled and felt, in most cases, incidents like these are based on fear—the fear of the African American male.

An officer who preferred to remain anonymous, believed the Feguson shooting was a result of fear and anger because of the number of shots fired at Michael Brown. The anger, more than likely, came from percieved disrespect the White policeman may have encountered from Brown. The African American lawman goes on to say that many non-Black officers understand that fear is the best excuse/reason for firing your weapon. When African Americans are shot by police (or civilians) in a region that uses Stand Your Ground laws it is easier to win a verdict of justifiable homicide.

During the Trayvon Martin case, Patricia A. Wallace, a noted Michigan-based clinical psychologist said fear is generally described as a basic emotion occurring in response to an arousal or sensation that invokes a unique response within each individual. Fear of certain people or situations can be learned and is easily explained by theories of conditioning. The level or degree of fear an individual perceives is dependent on his or her personal history and the circuitry of the brain. Personal fear ranges in degrees from mild caution to extreme phobias and cause a detachment from reality. Wallace wants to quantify fear because the array of ways that a claim of “reasonable fear” could be interpreted provide opportunities for misinterpretation when incidents like Ferguson and Trayvon Martin occur. “How can we determine the level of fear without coming to some type of agreement that doesn’t allow for open season on African American males?” said Wallace.

Wallace believes that advocates of the Stand Your Ground laws would likely view standardization of the concept of reasonable fear favorably. They would realize that by employing a standard delineation, the possibilities of misuse of the genuine intent of the law are lessened tremendously.

President Barack Obama once said he has encountered White females avoiding him in his younger years, choosing to cross the street while clutching their purses and these are incidents that many Black men have learned to accept as commonplace, according to Dr. Sandra E. Cox, executive director of the Coalition of Mental Health Professionals. “Society has taught us to feel threatened by the Black male and as a result [they] are gunned down. There are alternatives to shooting to kill. How about non-lethal weapons, like tasers?”

In “Black Child” a book by Phyllis Harrison-Ross M.D., she describes an interview with a pregnant White female, who one day while riding an elevator encountered an African American male. Being on the elevator with just the two of them she became so scared that her uterus started to contract. Dr. Harrison-Ross stated the tension from the fear the woman experienced would likely impact the unborn fetus who may later develop a fear for African Americans.