Blacks’ uneasiness with police understandable to Tega Cay cop

Special to the Fort Mill TimesFebruary 24, 2014 

Sgt. Anthony White

— As Black History Month continues, one might wonder if attitudes toward the police have changed more than 20 years since songs like “Cop Killer” were at the top of hip hop charts.

At least one Tega Cay police officer would like to set the record straight. Sgt. Anthony White, 39, is not only a cop, but an African-American. He began serving the public for the York County Sheriff’s Office 13 years ago and joined the Tega Cay force seven years later.

“I knew I wanted to be a cop when I was a kid,” said White, who grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Clover.

“As kids, we would get shaky when we saw the police coming into our neighborhood because they were usually there for a negative reason.”

The officer said another thing that caused the residents of the neighborhood to become uneasy was the fact that none of the cops looked like them. By and large, they were white.

White grew up on Sumter Street Extension, but the street is known as Generation Lane. His mom was 17 when she had him. White was raised by his mom and grandparents.

“It was hard growing up,” White said. “I was surrounded by bootleggers and drug dealers, but not everyone was like that.”

After graduating from Clover High School he got married and had kids but age 26, he was divorced. It was around that time White heard the sheriff’s office was hiring.

When he worked for the county, he said the reception at first was mixed. Some blacks felt at ease when they saw him because they could relate to him more, he said. But he drew a parallel to the 1991 film “Boyz N the Hood,” which had a scene where a black police officer was shown as subordinate to a white officer of equal rank in South Central Los Angeles. During another scene, the black officer even refers to a young black man, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., with the “N word.”

“Some said I was playing for the wrong team and called me a ‘sell out,’” White said.

Making an arrest elicited mixed reactions.

“Some obeyed, and some said I was only arresting them because they were black,” White said.

“In the black community, it’s hard for them to relate. We want to help, and not take people to jail. We are not out to get black people, harm them or harass them, but to help them.”

White, who still resides in Clover and helps coach the basketball team for Lake Wylie Christian Assembly, said in Tega Cay a lot of the residents are from up North and used to seeing black and non-white police officers.

Drugs and race

The passing of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine. Before it was passed, it was believed the sentencing for the two drugs for racially motivated. It was assumed that blacks were more likely to use crack, and whites are more likely to use cocaine.

“I can’t say if it’s a matter of how it affects you, or if it’s just racial,” White said.

While patrolling, White said he’d found just as much crack on whites as he did blacks.

White said his advice to kids wary of police is to introduce themselves and talk.

“I would say, ‘Hey man, you shouldn’t talk down to a police officer,’” White said. “Let us talk and explain each side. People want to be heard, but if they don’t talk, they can’t be heard. We hope we are breaking down perception of us here and nationwide.”

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