Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Freddie Gray; these are a few of the names of the hundreds of African descendants that have lost their lives as a result of encounters with police officers throughout the United States over the years. The names are important because they are human beings with loved ones.
Yet the occurrences are so predictable and systemic that we must not allow the names, the gender, the ages, or the horrific circumstance of each death to distract from the true culprit — the system that so devalues the lives of Black folk that no matter how outrageous each killing, including the shooting of fleeing Walter Scott in the back, they continue to occur anyway.
The individual officers kill because they are confident that the system will find them blameless and exonerate them. The system has never failed them.
Given a choice between the lives of Black folk and the officers who police them –keeping the “natives” at bay– the system will always side with the officers no matter how guilty they are.
The system’s attitude is: the police are the ones who separate us from barbarians. The capitalist power structure in these United States needs to rest assured that, every day and night, the police forces will always maintain “law and order.” Translation: prevent the “natives” in check so much so that they will never rise up against the many grievances: income and wealth inequality; unequal access to jobs and loans to finance businesses; abysmal public schools that don’t educate; and, the sum total leading to increased unemployment and poverty and more people on the pipeline to prison. Black folk are only 14% of the U.S. population but nearly [35%] of the more than 2 million people in prisons.
The system hypes racial fears to convince even poor and working class Whites that Black folk are the enemy; witness the rise of Donald Trump.
So in order for the system to operate “efficiently” the police forces are granted license to enforce the “peace” however they choose to do.
Everything else is regarded as minor detail by the system — whether it’s executing unarmed Michael Brown or little Tamir Rice, or hanging Eric Garner for allegedly selling a loose cigarette.
These are real lives of African descendants but to the system they are expendable.
When the district attorneys, the first line of defense in the system deal with each case they don’t say — “how awful,” shooting a little kid like Tamir, or executing Michael Brown in broad daylight, or jumping on Eric’s back and choking him until he is dead even though he kept yelling “I can’t breathe” eight times.
No the DAs say: how can I make sure it doesn’t get to a jury? The first utterances are from the leaders of the police benevolent associations who invariably say the officer “acted lawfully.
This is where the media and police start working together. The police chief, as was the case in Ferguson said “he stole cigars!” A New York Times article said “he smoked pot” and he was “no angel.” In these instances media’s role, historically, have been to invoke the “Black Peril.”
Easy now for the DA not to secure an indictment. To the system, six bullets for Michael Brown sounds just about right for the cigars and weed transgressions.
The police departments are so confident in their ability to manipulate media and feed misleading stories that the initial New York Times story about Eric Garner’s killing didn’t even mention the chokehold; the emphasis was on his weight to make it appear as if that’s why he died while being arrested. The story was attributed to the police.
So while the names of the victims going forward will vary –and yes there are many more people who will be killed by police until the system itself is challenged– the pattern will remain:
First an outrageous killing; a public outcry and some protests and candle light vigils; a call by the mayor and other elected officials for the masses to remain calm until all investigations are completed –they know the masses’ anger dissipates by then; and, a vow by the police commander to work to restore “confidence” with the communities as if, given the origin of the role of police forces in Black communities there once was any.
Then there is either no indictment and even if there is there are acquittals as we saw in the Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell cases and, as we are currently witnessing in the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore.
In some cases a few millions of dollars are paid to the families of the victims. These are miniscule amounts relative to maintaining “law and order” for the overall benefit of the economic system and power structure of these United States.
Then there is calm. Until the next killing. That’s how the system works.
So while we mourn individual cases and call for the heads of specific cops remember it’s the system that must be fought. To attack the systemic killings and exonerations of the killers: media must not allow the PBAs’ outrageous statements to go unchallenged; media must stop disseminating police department spins and allowing them to establish the false narratives, instead of conducting actual reporting from the scene; media must stop producing stories that are meant to convict the victims pre-trial (what relevance does it bear on his execution that Michael Brown smoked pot? Even if he’d smoked a trailer load of weed so what? He deserved to be shot six times?); police departments must be purged of K.K.K. members through constant background checks; drug testing of officers immediately after each incident; and, as is increasingly being done, jurisdiction must be removed from local district attorneys and handed to state or federal prosecutors.
These are small but important measures — to make it harder for DAs, PBAs, Police Departments, media and judges to manufacture the exoneration of officers who kill. In terms of ending the systemic killings themselves that is the subject of another commentary.
Suffice to say it won’t happen without tackling the system whereby the haves increasingly have it all; and have-less increasingly have less.
Otherwise we could also just sit back until multiple executions by police on one single day –and at the current rate that day will come — finally sets off that Big Fire and convince the world that there is a state of emergency in Black America.
By: Milton G. Allimadi
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