Police Brutality, Racism and State Power
While the systemic and nationwide police brutality that’s especially directed against African Americans is nothing new and has not been lost on the communities that have historically been its victims, its wider revelation among the larger population is rather new. Despite continued efforts to whitewash these incidents in corporate media and attribute them to “a few bad apples”, we finally seem to be getting past the lies that characterize such brutality as isolated incidents perpetrated by some individual rogue cops who don’t follow their training and code of conduct. An alternative explanation – or rather justification – being propagated by the media, tries to attribute these cases to “overworked” and “stressed” officers, who let their “anger” and “emotions” get the better of them, Nevertheless, despite such lies, many are finally waking up to the fact that this is endemic and systemic and has gone on for far too long. That’s the good news and it is improvement. But, our understanding won’t be complete without connecting this issue to the larger picture of state and corporate power.
Although such systemic and nationwide brutality can rightly be attributed to racism that’s rampant in police departments throughout the nation, it’s not the whole story. Nor obviously is lack of training the problem. But, racism, though very much real and a big part of the problem, is mostly a tool towards larger socioeconomic aims. During every colonial or imperial war of conquest on foreign countries, soldiers are indoctrinated with hatred towards the people they’re sent to fight and kill. And what better way of accomplishing such hatred than through racism which reduces the enemy to sub or non-humans and monsters whose lives don’t matter?
Racism strikes its victims twice: once by denying them social and economic opportunities, keeping them in poverty, and then hits them hard again with heavy-handed and brutal policing because they’re poor and live in ghettos. But, even understanding this isn’t enough. What we must also understand is that the corporate state – also known as the government – uses racism against its domestic enemies as it does against its foreign ones: to make it easier for its troops to kill those it considers its enemy. Since it considers the poor and the disenfranchised racial minorities a threat to its power, it directs its firepower – in this case, its police – against them. It was revealed in 1994 by San Jose Mercury investigative reporter Gary Webb that in early 1980’s, the CIA helped distribute cheap crack cocaine among African Americans in Los Angeles, at a time when the “war on drugs” was being waged relentlessly – a war which should have been called: “the war on African Americans” – resulting in mass incarceration of young blacks, especially men that continues unabated.
The heavy-handed and aggressive policing in black communities is done deliberately to neutralize, disempower, break and diminish people’s ability to organize and fight back. Policy makers know that the bottom layers of the society, those who suffer the most during every economic crisis and who have nothing to lose, will be crucial in bringing down the government of white supremacist parasites and big thieves.
Finally, we must understand that every black or poor person who’s shot dead on the streets by the police, is one of us in the war by the state against us. And, every person who’s unjustly arrested and taken to jail for a minor violation or as is often the case for unfounded or fabricated allegations and slapped with a heavy bail which can’t be paid and which, along with inadequate defense, ends up sending him or her to prison for years, as happened to young Kalief Browder who committed suicide the other day after spending 3 years in prison for something he didn’t do, is an affront and an attack on all of us. We must understand that this is a “war” – just as they call it – by the state against the poor and minorities. The sooner we understand and accept this fact, the sooner we can organize and fight back.