Police in riot gear watch protesters in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (via www.socialistworker.org)
WHY THE issue of police brutality?
Police violence against Black people is not new. In 1951, a multiracial contingent of activists in the Civil Rights Congress raised the slogan “We charge genocide” to characterize the depth and consequences of police murder and the silent complicity of the state. The preamble of their petition read, in part:
There was a time when racist violence had its center in the South…Once most of the violence against Negroes occurred in the countryside, but that was before the Negro emigrations of the twenties and thirties. Now there is not a great American city from New York to Cleveland or Detroit, from Washington, the nation’s capital, to Chicago, from Memphis to Atlanta or Birmingham, from New Orleans to Los Angeles, that is not disgraced by the wanton killing of innocent Negroes.
It is no longer a sectional phenomenon. Once the classic method of lynching was the rope. Now it is the policeman’s bullet. To many an American the police are the government, certainly its most visible representative. We submit that the evidence suggests that the killing of Negroes has become police policy in the United States and that police policy is the most practical expression of government policy.
Today, there is no shortage of issues that Black people in this country could mobilize around. But police brutality remains the catalyst for Black protest because it is the clearest example of the compromised citizenship of Black people. When the police can approach you, search you, arrest you and even kill you with impunity, it means you don’t have first-class citizenship–you have second-class citizenship.
This second-class citizenship, and its sharp conflict with what the United States says about itself, is what drives the radicalization of young Black people and others who know it to be true. In other words, we as a nation are always told that this is the greatest country on earth. We believe in “American exceptionalism” and the promises of unfettered opportunity for anyone willing to work for it. We believe in the American Dream.
Just a few weeks ago Obama traveled to Cuba, where he said, “I believe that every person should be equal under the law…Every child deserves the dignity that comes with education, and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads…American democracy has given our people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and enjoy a high standard of living.”
Obama likes to tout his own story and rise as a product of America’s greatness, but what on earth do these words mean to the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police within 1.6 seconds arriving on the scene. What does it mean when the cops who killed him will not face charges? Continue reading →