Domestic, Opinion — August 11, 2012 at 10:56 am

As Dangerous as Crime Itself

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From Wikimedia Commons

Growing up, I had never seriously thought about police or their role in society. I grew up in a suburb of Boston with minimal police presence; mostly I didn’t think about the police. When I did, I believed the TVs, newspapers, and schools: police are the “finest,” the “bravest,” there “to protect and serve” us.

In the past year, many who previously thought the police were on our side have begun to question what they’ve been told because they experienced or saw brutal police repression of the Occupy movement.

But, while many were shocked at the brazen brutality, police violence in the United States is a daily experience for both people of color and the poor.

In New York City, this is partially accomplished through Stop-and-Frisk. One of the common justifications for the disproportionate percentage of stops of black and Latino New Yorkers is that this merely reflects the concentration of Stop-and-Frisks in high-crime precincts that are majority black and Latino. However, the East Side of Manhattan and Greenwich Village are both just 8 percent black and Latino, yet over 71 percent of stops in both neighborhoods were of blacks and Latinos. The same is true of four other precincts as well.  I believe the term for that is “racial profiling.”

Defenders of police might say, “Police are just doing their job.” And they are, but their job isn’t to protect us, it’s to protect the state and themselves. That explains the bare-faced retaliation that activist Jazz Hayden is suffering at the hands of the NYPD. Another article I wrote goes into detail, so I’ll give you the short version here. Hayden has been videotaping police conduct in Harlem for 4 years — a right that Attorney General Eric Holder recently reaffirmed. Last year, two cops whom he’d previously videotaped stopped him, remarked, “We know you,” and illegally searched his car. They charged him with felony possession of two dangerous weapon, which carry potentially 2 to 7 years in prison, each. The weapons? A penknife and a commemorative mini-replica baseball bat. These cops are trying to silence Hayden, pure and simple.

But, while the state will lock up and brutalize activists as they become a bigger threat, the state constantly locks up, brutalizes, and even murders people of color and the poor, whether or not they are actively fighting for their rights. Michelle Alexander recently broadcast this truth in her secular bible for the movement, The New Jim Crow. Two and a half million people in cages and 5 million on leashes, and most of them are people of color, disproportionately for drug offenses — this despite the heavily documented fact that drug use and selling are practiced at similar rates among whites. Clearly this isn’t about protecting regular people, this is the state preemptively demobilizing any movement for racial or economic justice, maintaining the permanent underclass of poor and under and unemployed people of color and dividing the working class. Like every war, the “War on Drugs” is really a “War on People.”

This War on People doesn’t just lead to incarcerations that cripple families and incomes, it also leads to murders. In just the first six months of 2012, every 36 hours police, security guards or vigilantes killed a black man, woman, or child.

Almost all of these murderers never even face charges, let alone any meaningful punishment. Only sustained protest results in justice. The most famous case this year, George Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon Martin, took four months of mass mobilizations and international media for charges to even be filed.

It’s even harder to win justice against the police because it exposes the state’s hypocrisy. It takes immeasurable courage and tireless organizing, and right now we have living examples of this just 45 minutes from Columbia in Constance Malcolm and Franclot Graham, parents of Ramarley Graham, an 18 year-old murdered by police in his own bathroom. Just getting one officer indicted took months of weekly vigils, press conferences, legal pressure, and he was only charged with manslaughter.

I went to the indictment. There were more than 60 police spending their day off at court to support Haste. They laughed, joked and applauded as Richard Haste walked out. Applause. For a man who clearly wrongfully murdered an 18 year-old boy.

No matter what NYPD commissioner Kelly and Bloomberg say, they do not care about violence in black communities – if they did they would pursue real crime-prevention policies, like creating jobs, not cutting and gutting public-sector jobs which are disproportionately held by blacks and women, and opening more schools instead of closing them.

But it’s clear our leaders don’t and won’t do what it takes to end this violence, so like the Ramarley Graham’s parents, we have to take our own action. Everyone who wants a more just and less violent world must organize to fight against police violence, against state racism, and for the real changes that will end violence—jobs, housing, education, and more. We have to mobilize for protests like the Graham’s vigils, Jazz’s court rallies, against school closings and budget cuts that destroy necessary public services and public-sector jobs. We must organize in our neighborhoods, in our unions, and in our schools to put an end to this daily brutal violence and to replace it with a community that cares for one another.

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3 Comments

  1. “..if they did they would pursue real crime-prevention policies, like creating jobs, not cutting and gutting public-sector jobs which are disproportionately held by blacks and women…”
    Lets put out some real world experience for you.
    What is most troubling for me, and for others, is that blacks, and particularly black women, who are so often under-skilled, over-weight, and lazy, that they exhibit substandard performance at what they do. For example, go, as a white person (or any person for that matter, but I am only relating what has been my real experience) to any of our local/federal agencies, and try to get assistance from one of these delightfully employed women of color. First of all, she is most likely twittering/texting when you step up to her window, or gossiping with one of her idle coworkers. Second, she speaks in a tone of voice which conveys her complete disinterest to your needs. Third, she will try to push you off to somebody else. Fourth, if she has to actually assist you, and can actually assist you, as there is nobody else to send you to, or it is specifically her job to perform, she will drag her over-sized bottom off her stool and meander over to the file cabinet, begrudgingly retrieve the form you need, push it to you and do her best to get you out of her window as soon as possible.
    Do you think I will voluntarily subject myself to such treatment, attitude, and incompetence? Absolutely not. I will wait in line to talk to a white person rather than even seek assistance from one of these women.
    Now do they treat their ‘own people’ with courtesy, respect, consideration, competence, and conscience? It is hard to tell, as I am not black, nor am I willing to put on ‘black face’ in order to test the waters. They will definitely be more polite, but then they will relate to their coworkers the difficulty presented by said applicant.
    AndI will say this, from my experience of living in Harlem for 5 years- they treat their own like manure. Now when I say ‘their own’ I refer to their children, at whom they curse regularly while walking down the street. “Get your ass over here before I smack you!” “You put that down or you’re gonna get it” or this- “Shut the Eff up!” (expletives deleted)
    These people are by nature savages, and society reinforces their beliefs and attitudes. Yes, there are very conscientious, polite, and intelligent people of color, I’m not going to discount every member of a community or race in such a fashion, that is being blatantly ignorant. There are good people of all races (and I will say this even- many black people are much more polite and of better personality than their white counterparts) Black people can be and are good decent humans. They are not however, equally endowed intellectually. Do not expect them to perform at the same level as an average white person, on tests or job assignments. They don’t really care, especially if the customer/client/guest is a white person. This I see every day in my own job.
    The EEOC has lowered the standards for job performance.
    Come down from your lofty Columbia perch and mingle in Harlem. I will meet you any day. We can go for a walk and discuss your premise, and do field experiments to prove or disprove your theories. I welcome the challenge, and it may even assist you in formulating your own arguments.
    Paul

  2. Yoni Golijov’s awakening to the reality of the role of the police in the state, as enforcers of the interest of the elite, was beautiful to read about. There are so many that are being oppressed that are not aware they are being oppressed because they have been brainwashed into thinking that the “police” care about them. We have to wake them up! They have to have that same “aha!” moment that Yoni had.

  3. I am really happy to glance at this web site posts which consists of lots of helpful information, thanks for providing such data.

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