Understanding Racism and Police Violence in the U.S.

You may have noticed by reading or watching the videos when they’re released that almost in all cases when a black individual gets arrested, no matter how minor and insignificant the infraction they’re accused of and even at times when there is nothing to charge them with, there is invariably a charge of “resisting arrest” and sometimes even “obstruction of or interference with police work” tacked onto any other possible charges, if there is any. 

There are a few things that must be understood about this: 1. whites aren’t stopped, questioned, searched or arrested without a reason as frequently as blacks; 2. Whites aren’t charged with resisting arrest as commonly as blacks when they question the arrest; 3. Whites trust the system and the arresting officers much more than do blacks – with good reason, since they’re not beaten while in police custody as often as blacks are.

And lastly, and most importantly, due to a persistent racism within the police departments, questioning by blacks as to why and for what probable cause or suspicion they’re being questioned or arrested is interpreted as a challenge to the authority of a white superior by someone who has no right to challenge that authority. That same challenge when made by a white subject doesn’t seem as outrageous to the officer and doesn’t invoke the same kind of anger, as does when made by blacks. With the latter group, even the questioning of the reason for stopping and interrogating seems like an outrageous act of stepping over the boundaries of their rights, which in the eyes of white officers are practically nonexistent. Since they feel entitled to their unquestionable authority, any challenge of that authority is outrageous to them and an encroachment of their own rights as superiors, not only as officers with power backed with their gun and the judicial system, but also as white individual whose superiority is being challenged by someone who should never do the challenging.

There is a parallel to such racism with the entitlement that comes with it and the anger it invokes when that authority and supremacy is challenged and “attacked” and that is in sexism. What happened to Sandra Bland, when she was stopped for changing lanes without signaling and was ordered to put out her cigarette, was the confluence of both racism and sexism added to the sense of entitlement in the officer, stemming from his given power as a police officer. There is reason to believe that had she been white, she probably wouldn’t have been stopped and even if she were, she’d probably be let go with a simple warning or at most a ticket. 

When he told her that she seemed “irritated”, to which she replied “yes I am irritated” (and who wouldn’t be?), what he meant was that she had no right to be irritated. It’s the mentality left over from slavery. If a slave questioned an order by the master or even an adolescent offspring of the master, no matter how unfair or outrageous that order, the slave wasn’t supposed to show irritation because irritation means displeasure which means you have something to say about what you’re being told. It means you want to protest and that can’t be tolerated because you have no right to talk back, question or to protest. It’s this that most whites, including many progressives don’t understand. Slavery is no more, but the mindset persists. What Sandra Bland was trying to do was to not act like a slave anymore and to teach the officer that she was an equal human being (although I’d have to disagree that the officer was equally human).

But, is there a connection between this racist and bloated sense of power and entitlement among police officers and the socioeconomic system? Yes, there is. Although the economic system of capitalism recognizes blacks as free and equal individuals and gives them the legal right to own property and business and to accumulate wealth when possible within the system, the ruling class is nevertheless weary of them as a social grouping and community. Part of the reason for it is historical and goes back to black radicalism of the past, which has roots in the slavery and part of it is socioeconomic and stems from the fact that blacks are mostly poor and the ruling class is always weary of the poor. The biggest threat to the power of the racist white ruling class of 1960’s was realized when Martin Luther King began speaking out for unity between Blacks and white poor, which sounded the alarms and prompted the FBI to move into action.

The ruling class has an interest in keeping blacks suppressed, intimidated and beaten down to break them and prevent their empowerment. This interest coincides with and further feeds into already existing racial prejudices among the police who are ultimately tasked with keeping the “order” for the system and its beneficiaries. As Malcolm X said when speaking about the treachery of white liberals, “they want order more than they want justice”. I’d say: they want order without justice. An economic system that’s by nature unjust, cannot have order with Justice. To keep the order in an unjust system, you have to commit even more injustice. 


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