On 4th March, the US Department of Justice released a scathing report on the practices of the Ferguson, Missouri PD, citing multiple examples of incidents that add up to a rampant and regular pattern of racial discrimination and abuse against people of color. This is a situation that much of the white public call a shocking epiphany, and most of the black and brown public call “Wednesday”.
The nationwide statistics point to exactly this. There aren’t more black people in prison because black people are more prone to crime. There are more black people in prison because black people are assumed suspect first. This has been the case for years. Even the birth of our narcotics laws was cocooned in racism. If you were to believe what is depicted in public, you would think that the 12% of the population has a bind of terror over the entire nation. A small percent of the population DOES control the nation, but their weapon of choice isn’t melanin; it’s money.
This is what all the protests 2014 were about. Though some like to depict them as people hating the police, it was all about wanting to be treated fairly and (clutch your pearls!) like people. The problem is that even in a country that values and encourages “free speech and expression”, that speech and expression is encouraged until you criticize something about the reigning authority. Then that speech is depicted as an attack. No one likes to hear that there is something wrong with themselves. The problem is that when speaking truth to power, and that power has a gun, it gets dangerous.
When Bill de Blasio said that he had to have “the talk” with him about how to handle police stops, he said nothing wrong, but some in the police union took it as him attacking police, so much so that they blamed him and protesters for the murder of two patrolmen by a deranged lunatic who co-opted the #BlackLivesMatter protests, and they literally turned their back on him at those patrolmen’s funerals. First, the man who killed Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu was no more part of the police brutality protests than 50 Shades of Grey is part of a lexicon of quality fetish literature. Just because someone co-opts the thin surface of a movement does not mean he is part of it. Secondly, since de Blasio is mayor of New York City, that means the police are under his employ. Can you imagine disrespecting your boss, talking trash about him and turning your back on him during a board meeting, just because he said that you used too many commas in your white paper? You would be fired.
This report regarding Ferguson is just a sampling of the greater United States, and it is not a matter of rogue police. It is a matter of an entire penal system that is geared toward generating revenue, and phenotype is an easy target. We can look at any area in the country and see similar statistics, except for the few places where police commissioners recognized the problem and tried to fix it. Black people have been targeted for demonization and revenue since they were shipped here hundreds of years ago. Back then, it was overt and totally legal. Nowadays, we claim it isn’t but it happens all the time. Irish, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, and many others have had their time in the “ostracize and monetize” spotlight in this country, but it seems that people of African descent are a mainstay target that will endure the test of time, though brown people from Central & South America and Southwest Asia will likely be a close second.
The problems is that we WANT to trust the police forces in this country. We all know good cops who we trust. We know that there are a large number of very good police men and women who are good at their jobs who care about the community that they are committed to protect. We hope that they are calling out their less reputable colleagues when they are doing something that would tarnish their departments’ reputations. We should not worry that we may be arrested. or if we’re lucky, just roughed up a little bit, when we are encountered while driving or walking or sitting in our houses. Thinking that this one report about one area resolves the issue is as wrong-headed as thinking that racism was over when Barack Obama was elected...twice. This report is showing to the landlord that there is a crack in the ceiling that has been leaking since we signed the lease. Whether the landlord actually does something about it is a whole other issue. Let’s hope something happens.