The Origins of Black AND White Mistrust of Authority in America
11 min readOct 11, 2019

Different Authorities, Different Reasons, Same History

It is commonly understood by both black and white America that African-American communities have significant trust issues with the police. It manifests as an unwillingness to cooperate with investigations, cynicism towards the justice system, and an overall disdain towards anyone perceived to be trying to establish law and order in our communities. From the African-American perspective this distrust is fully warranted due to issues of racism, police brutality, and other discrimination against African-Americans being intertwined with the history of law enforcement in America.

From the perspective of anyone not living in African-American communities it is one more way in which we tend not to fully participate in, or appreciate the efforts of, broader America to improve our condition. While it leads to exasperation and confusion amongst well-meaning liberals, it is also fodder for more malignant racist narratives regarding some inherent connection between African-Americans and crime. For too many white Americans African-American distrust of the police is one more piece of evidence suggesting that we neither understand, nor want to be associated with, what they understand to be America.

But what is often overlooked is the deep and long-standing distrust of authority that white conservative America holds as well. It does not manifest in the same palpable and direct disdain towards the officer on the corner that exists within the African-American community. Instead it is a much broader fear and distrust of government authority as a whole. Many see themselves as the direct descendants of the country’s Founders who above all else saw government as a source of threat to individual liberty. Their cynicism and distrust manifests itself in a variety of different narratives from “their coming to take our guns” to resistance to paying taxes, from a belief that government works against “the people” for special interests to the broad indictment of all politicians as corrupt.

Conservative white America’s distrust of government is as critical a component to understanding the development of America as black America’s distrust of police is for development of African-American neighborhoods. Both psychologies…