Twenty-four percent of African Americans also reported unfair treatment at a store, while 16 percent reported mistreatment in a restaurant, bar, theater, or other entertainment place within the last 30 days.
Police targeting of young black men has drawn new attention with the acquittal of George Zimmerman, but it is not a new phenomenon. Reports of police mistreatment of African Americans reached their peak in 2004, when 25 percent of all blacks surveyed by Gallup reported police mistreatment within a one-month period. In 2011, the New York Police Department made more stops of young black men than the number of young black men in all of New York City. Personal experiences have prompted even some of the most prominent and powerful African Americans to advise their sons on avoiding mistreatment by police, including former Reading Rainbow host Levar Burton, and Attorney General Eric Holder. After a jury found Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman not guilty, MSNBC Host Melissa Harris Perry said she was relieved when her ultrasound revealed that she was pregnant with a girl because of the adversity she feared a boy would face. “I will never forget the relief I felt — I’m a sexual assault survivor — and yet the relief I felt at my 20-week ultrasound when they told me it was a girl,” she said. “And last night I thought, I live in a country that makes me wish my sons away, makes me wish that they don’t exist because it’s not safe.”
What is most remarkable about the Gallup poll is that it captures only unfair treatment by police within a random 30-day time period — a duration during which most Americans probably have no interaction at all with police.