The Logic of Police Brutality and its Connection to Income and Wealth Gap: A Socioeconomic Analysis
Regardless of what you may think of police brutality and killings that are being discussed nationally after the recent murders of unarmed black men in the hands of the police and the protests raging as a result, there are a few points that we must all understand, if we want to reach a correct understanding of it.
Every organization and institution within a society gets formed for a particular purpose and gets tasked with performing a particular function within the society. That includes, of course, the courts, the military, the Congress and the police, among others. While that goes without saying, what isn’t so easy to see is what exactly is the function of such governmental organizations in a capitalist society. I say “capitalist society” for a reason: the function of government agencies and organs in a society is tied directly to and answerable to the socioeconomic system in place within the society. In fact, not only individual institutions, but the government as a whole is a product of and subservient to the socioeconomic system that’s imposed on the society.
This is true on a smaller scale as well. If you join an organization of investors, for example, that’s focused on maximizing the wealth of its members, you get very different rules, codes of conduct, values and priorities than if you join a society committed to eliminating hunger or homelessness. You can see such differentiation and contrast even among fraternities and sororities of college campuses. Their values and priorities depend on their mission and objectives.
Speaking of missions, you might have seen mission statements framed and posted prominently in the lobby of most corporations listing general and empty phrases like “commitment to excellence”, “pursuit of perfection”, “integrity”, etc. These are all, of course, a bunch of baloney that only the most gullible among us would believe. Corporations only have one mission and that’s to maximize profits for their already wealthy owners, or as they’re known in corporate world, shareholders. This discrepancy between what’s advertised and the reality and the need to twist the fact about their real mission is a microcosm of and permeates through the entire capitalist system and the reason is obvious: just like individual corporations that don’t like to say openly that all they’re about is making profits, so too the capitalist system as a whole that’s nothing but a collective or cartel made up of and organized for and around the constituent corporations that make up the system, can’t openly admit to the population that all it cares about and all it’s focused on is the collective of the corporations and their profitability, rather than people’s needs or well being or the environment. This is the first lie the government of the corporations has to tell, and as they say, you can never tell just one lie. The second is that people have the power to elect the government of their choosing, which is part of the bigger lie about “democracy”. I’ve written extensively why democracy and capitalism are incompatible in other articles, so I won’t get into it here.
What we must understand is that the government can’t be both focused on maximizing profits for corporations that are the driving force of the system and at the same time be focused on meeting people’s needs. These two things are contradictory and irreconcilable. A system cannot do both at the same time. All the talk of inclusion, democracy, compassion and care for the poor and disenfranchised is just like corporate mission statements: a bunch of nicely wrapped thick boloney. And this is why I believe Democrats are a bigger barrier for achieving real and fundamental change than Republicans. The latter are more open and forthcoming about their objectives.
If maximizing profits for corporations is the main focus of the government which is their enabler and facilitator, then it follows that the function of just about all governmental organs and organizations must also be for and ultimately in the service of meeting that objective, either directly, as in the case of police, military and Congress or indirectly, as in the case of others like Environmental Protection Agency or Social Security Administration: to create and maintain conditions in society that are conducive to and useful for the smooth and uninterrupted running of the collective of the corporations and removing and blocking any social or economic threat to that order.
The “order” that the government of the corporations is after is not for all people, but for corporations and the protection the police provides is not intended for people, not certainly the poor and the minorities, but for corporations and their private property. What the police is really tasked with is to protect the interests and property of the corporations, not the lives of the people and to serve the wealthy not ordinary people. The latter not only isn’t their priority, they’re not even at the bottom of their priority list. The idea that the police is there to protect people is one of the biggest misunderstandings among the white liberals. Actually, those liberals are partly right: the more privileged a group, the more protection they receive from the police. That same protection that the privileged get turns into repression when it comes to the poor and the minorities living in the ghettos. There, the police is a bonafide occupation army tasked with suppressing and repressing the population.
What most blacks have realized, on their skin and flash, no less, is that the police isn’t there to protect them, but to control and crush them, just as the military does to people it occupies. The similarity between the police and the military is much more than most realize, not just in what they’re designed and charged to do, but who their targets are. When the military occupies a country or when it overthrows a foreign government, often police officers from major US cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and others are dispatched to train the local police to crush resistance. Likewise, when the police can’t keep the order in an American city, the military comes to its help, as we’ve been seeing in Baltimore. Despite all the jingoism propagated on corporate TV, corporations are anything but patriotic or even nationalistic. They have no favorites and make no distinction among the working classes of different countries, including their own. All the talk of patriotism is just for convincing the poor who have no stake in them to go fight the wars that are waged by and for the wealthy and kill people just like themselves.
The police and the military in the US have become even more indistinguishable in recent decades as the former’s militarization has accelerated with police departments acquiring millions of dollars of military equipment every year. Their tactics and mentality also closely resembles the military now. Their similarity also extends into the very purpose of their existence: they both are tasked with protecting the interests and properties of the rich, both here and abroad. They both have the function of confronting and removing all points of vulnerability or threats to the corporate collective. Whom would the police consider a threat to the functioning and profitability of the corporations? The poorest and the most disenfranchised, of course, those who have the least to lose and the most to gain from bringing down the system, those at the very bottom stratum, those who “have nothing to lose but their chains” (Karl Marx, “Communist Manifesto”, 1848).
The problem for capitalism is that it has nothing to offer to those at the lowest stratum; that’s why it’s all stick and no carrot when it comes to dealing with the poorest of the poor. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the most heavily policed areas are the inner cities where the poor and especially African Americans live. That’s the group that gets frisked the most, beaten the most, arrested the most and gets incarcerated the most with longest sentences. The Guardian reported today that a juvenile, who participated in the riots in Baltimore on Monday and vandalized a police car and then, at the pressure of his step father, turned himself in, was slapped with eight counts of felony charges and half a million dollar bail, just for damaging a police car! Since his family can’t afford the bail or to hire a lawyer, the juvenile is looking to spend most of his life in prison. This is what the system does and this is how it treats the poor. But, this is logical: those who have nothing are considered a bigger threat than those with privilege. That’s why the latter aren’t frisked, their vehicles aren’t searched and their homes aren’t raided. If they were, they’d probably be caught with more guns and drugs than blacks, but that’s not the point.
Many among the whites, including many liberals, or maybe I should say especially among liberals, posit that the reason for higher arrest and incarceration rates among blacks is that they commit more crimes. That’s quite an interesting argument because targeted, oppressive and aggressive policing and racial profiling, even without planting of evidence on the “suspects”, which is common, sends a large percentage of black men to prison and then that very discriminatory practice and injustice is used as “statistics” to justify the discrimination! Quite an interesting logic!
Police brutality, like many other phenomena, stems from and is tied to the very logic and needs and requirements of the same economic system that prioritizes profits over people’s needs and results in the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, and then, as the gap between the two classes increases, it moves to fortify its power snd defend its interests against those it considers a threat, by any means necessary, including beatings, killings and mass incarceration. So, you see, the problem isn’t about lack of sufficient training or the need for body or dash cams. The problem is systemic and socioeconomic and tied directly to the income and wealth gap. That’s why the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 must be revived and join the anti police brutality protests since their issues are one and the same.