I posted this in a response to a comment on Facebook, but it's probably worth repeating here.
I've never been arrested, or even ticketed. My interactions with the police have never been negative in any way. But I've been wrongly accused of things a couple times, and in school I was sometimes punished wrongly, or excessively. I was once punched in the face by another kid in junior high (he mistakenly thought I'd stolen something from him). The principal insisted on punishing us both, though I'd done nothing wrong.... Things like that.
On another occasion, I experienced a severe invasion of my privacy at the hands of college officials.
These things don't still sting. They still burn. I still feel, not just sad, nostalgic frustration, but a bitter, furious, acid outrage, when I think about them. I feel quivering anger from my head to my toes about them. I feel it difficult to even discuss some of them with loved ones.
I can only imagine how vastly more outraged I would be if I were wrongly arrested, if my home were unjustifiably searched, or if the government did to me what the college did to me. It would likely infuriate me so intensely that I would hate for the rest of my life the people and institutions responsible for making them happen, and it would be a very long time and take a hell of a lot of work to persuade me to forgive them or to believe that such things would not happen again. And it would likely be impossible to persuade me that I need not fear and distrust anyone in a position to do something similar to me. In short, it would almost certainly make me view society as them versus me in the same way that I still, decades later, think about the school authorities and peers who treated me as I've mentioned.
Irrational? Perhaps. I don't think so, but does it matter? And if that is how I'd react to a single wrongful arrest, I cannot possibly imagine the rage and indignation that I would feel if I were regularly accosted by the police, questioned, detained, searched, arrested, or even just heckled. Or even just ignored when I needed help. I would feel not like a citizen but like a subject. Not like a fellow American, but like a detained, suspected, alien.
Jefferson said that he thought this the strongest government on earth, "the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern." If many black and Hispanic Americans, and the residents of our inner cities, do not feel this way--especially after four decades of an unconstitutional, unwinnable, immoral war on drugs--well, I find it hard to blame them.