Saturday, December 06, 2014

On Racism and Police Violence

I have to believe there are good people in the police profession. I have to believe that the profession does not deliberately weed out good people who actually believe the job is to Protect and Serve. I have to believe this because the alternative is a terrifying police state.
One could successfully argue that a great majority of police officer are themselves good people. That said, the profession is attractive to psychopaths. You get to bully people, abuse them, even kill people, secure in the knowledge that district attorneys, juries, and your brother officers will defend you even if they secretly know you are a sick SOB who shouldn't be anywhere near a gun let alone a badge.

Most white Americans believe that young black men are animalistic thugs. You can easily find articles offering "scientific" proof of that belief (I refuse to link to them, look for yourself). This is an old belief deeply ingrained in white American culture.
This fear of black thuggery has spawned two centuries of abuse, suppression, and murder by white Americans. White police officers are a product of their culture. That is why when a Cleveland police officer pulled up to a black preteen sitting alone in a park the officer stepped out of his car imagining he was facing a gang of deadly thugs and fired his weapon at the first movement. Or, when another officer stopped a black man with a pill bottle the officer imagined he saw a gun.

The election of Barack Obama once seemed like the beginning of a new era in America's race culture. Sadly, it probably marked the high water mark of race relations. Conservatives across the country are seeking, and often succeeding, in turning back two generations of advances in racial equality. In many states poll taxes, in the form of Voter ID laws, have been enacted. These laws require proof of citizenship documents that can be expensive and difficult to acquire.
Voting line in a majority black Detroit location.
Another tactic in voting is restricting polling access in minority areas while there are a surfeit of voting opportunities in white suburban areas. You will never see lines like this in rich Bloomfield Hills, MI.

Conservatives have begun to long for a return to other elements of Jim Crow. Recently, a Florida Republican urged turning fire hoses on black demonstrators as did a CNN anchor.
This was a common tactic used by white police forces to breakup peaceful civil rights demonstrations in the 1960's. FOX News commentators have urged literacy tests to weed out undesirable voters. The 1965 Voting Rights Act specifically outlaws such tests but with the Supreme Court's gutting of that act in 2014 it is only a matter of time before some southern state reinstitutes such tests. School segregation is rapidly returning.

I'd like to believe there are good police officers. But as long as the good officers defend and protect the "bad apples" who do the majority of the harassing, bullying, and shooting of African Americans then the entire profession of American policing must be considered rotten to its core.

I'd like to believe that America is not a racist society. But I'd have to be blind, deaf, and stupid to believe that. I also believe that with Republicans in control of Congress things will get a lot worse in the next two years. And if Republicans gain the White House and a stranglehold on the judiciary in the future (more judges like Scalia and Alito) then America's future is bleak.

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