The State and the Police: Understanding Police Brutality
What we’re witnessing these days is that due to many recent police killings of innocent black men, which seem to occur almost every few days and which unlike in the past are now being taped and seen widely, many people are understandably outraged and are demanding justice and an end to such senseless killings. Even many white folks who used to appreciate and give credit to the police for “keeping the peace” and putting away criminals and keeping the streets safe for them, are slowly opening their eyes to the reality and extent of police brutality and repressive racial profiling against blacks.
During every such social grievance, the anger rightly prompts direct public action on the streets, such as militant protests, which can include legitimate and understandable acts of civil disobedience, as well as what are constituted as violent acts of protest, such as breaking windows of businesses and looting or burning buildings and vehicles. Such mass protests contain within them the seeds of a movement, which can form and rise after decades of injustice and brutality, which we have been witnessing. We can say the nation is slowly beginning to be somewhat enlightened about this issue. That understanding, and the desire for real substantive change is, of course, as contingent upon race as it is on class. Most whites still don’t think there is a race issue, simply because they’re not the ones on the receiving end of the brutality. Unarmed black men with their hands up get gunned down, while heavily armed white people on Bundy Ranch are left alone. Can you imagine how the government would react if a group of heavily armed blacks confronted the police and refused to back down? I think that’s when the state will bring in tanks and fighter jets and level the entire section of the town like they did in Gaza, with a name like “operation Restore Peace” or if they wanted to be more honest: “Operation White On Black”.
White people’s attitude that there is no race problem is nothing new, either. Polls taken right before the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act of 1960’s show that even then most and by that I mean close to 90% of whites didn’t think there was a racial issue in this country. Class also is a factor. Although, even a millionaire black (though there are relatively few of them around) may still be subjected to unfair stop and frisk or even police violence, their attitude and desire for change will be moderated by their class interests and won’t be the same as that of blacks living in ghettos since they do have a vested interests in and don’t want a change in the status quo.
But for the rest of us, what needs to happen before any transformation can take place that would stop this trend and make real change, is the understanding of two things:
1) the police is not an entity or institution separate from the rest of the state (AKA government) and that in fact, it is a part and parcel of the repressive state apparatus, which needs to keep those sectors of the society that are considered restive, volatile, potentially explosive and susceptible to rising up, under tight control. Let’s not forget – and certainly, the state agents don’t forget – that the closest any movement came to changing the socioeconomic system in this country to make it more equitable, more fair and more responsive to the needs of the poor was in fact the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s under MLK leadership. The anti Vietnam war movement’s main concern was not economic justice and the more recent Occupy Wall Street movement did not have the necessary leadership or enough of working class participation to make it succeed; although, even that was cause for alarm for policy makers of the state who quickly passed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), which Obama signed on December 31, 2011.
2) the other point that must be understood before a change can be achieved is that it matters not whether the police chief or the mayor or the President or even the cop who does the killing is black or white. What matters is that the entire police institution is a tool in the hands of the corporate ruling class, which incidentally – rather than necessarily – happens to be also white supremacist. The latter quality isn’t necessarily demanded by the workings or the logic of the economic system, but rather a product of historical realities unique to this nation. In other words, the defining characteristic of the ruling class is that it’s capitalistic and imperialistic, which also happens to be white supremacist. But, there is nothing that would stop this ruling class from using black police chiefs, black mayors and even a black president in order to quell and calm dissatisfaction among minorities. On the contrary, Obama has proven to be a best choice for the state and the ruling corporate oligarchy, which has made the best use of him and has gotten back every dime they contributed to his two campaigns and more. Even this isn’t that new. Even during slavery, slave owners usually had a slave who was used to keep other slaves in line for the white master.
In short, in order to institute real change, what we need is a grassroots movement and for that to happen there has to be the understanding that the police is part of the state apparatus, as a whole, serving the corporate bosses and defending their interests, and that the color of the agents and functionaries of this repressive state makes no difference. They’re all serving the same criminal oligarchy, which has unleashed the violent police and other state organs on the poor and people of color. If every time this happens we protest a few days and leave it to the “criminal justice system” and go home, and wait until another such killing takes place, nothing will change. What’s needed is a massive campaign of sustained and protracted resistance on the streets in multiple cities, giving rise to a strong nationwide movement to remove the corporate oligarchy from power.