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The protests against police thuggery against people of color continue across the United States. There have also been marches in other countries decrying the murder of Eric Garner and how black men are killed by police at least once every 28 hours in the United States.
White on black and brown police brutality are national embarrassments. One of the little known secrets of the Civil Rights Movement was how the political context of the Cold War moved white opinion leaders to reign in Jim and Jane Crow and to evolve American Apartheid into a "colorblind" system of white racial hierarchy. I wonder, where are the Right-wing American Exceptionalism fcuk yeah! types during this moment of international shaming in the aftermath of the killing of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and so many other black people?
One would think that the elite members of the American nationalism crowd would want to reform America's police departments not out of a sense of linked fate and human dignity with black and brown citizens, but rather because of crude self-interest...but then again maybe the American plutocrats' self-interest is actually more served by a carceral society where they profit off of imprisoning up non-whites?
As we continue discussing police brutality as a matter of public policy (and it is not an aberration or deviation, the national habit that is white on black police violence is a decision by policy makers and elites), there will be moments when a tiny bit of truth sneaks out of the shadows and into the narrow confines of the approved public discourse.
Today, The Washington Post was a site for one of those instances with its story by Redditt Hudson in which he shared his experiences as a former St. Louis area police officer, and the endemic, systematic white supremacy he witnessed first hand while a constable on patrol.
Hudson shares how:
As a kid, I got used to being stopped by the police. I grew up in an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis. It was the kind of place where officers routinely roughed up my friends and family for no good reason.
I hated the way cops treated me.
But I knew police weren’t all bad. One of my father’s closest friends was a cop. He became a mentor to me and encouraged me to join the force. He told me that I could use the police’s power and resources to help my community.
So in 1994, I joined the St. Louis Police Department. I quickly realized how naive I’d been. I was floored by the dysfunctional culture I encountered.
I won’t say all, but many of my peers were deeply racist.
One example: A couple of officers ran a Web site called St. Louis Coptalk, where officers could post about their experience and opinions. At some point during my career, it became so full of racist rants that the site administrator temporarily shut it down. Cops routinely called anyone of color a “thug,” whether they were the victim or just a bystander.
This attitude corrodes the way policing is done.He continues:
Unfortunately, I don’t think better training alone will reduce police brutality. My fellow officers and I took plenty of classes on racial sensitivity and on limiting the use of force.
The problem is that cops aren’t held accountable for their actions, and they know it. These officers violate rights with impunity. They know there’s a different criminal justice system for civilians and police.
Even when officers get caught, they know they’ll be investigated by their friends, and put on paid leave. My colleagues would laughingly refer to this as a free vacation. It isn’t a punishment. And excessive force is almost always deemed acceptable in our courts and among our grand juries. Prosecutors are tight with law enforcement, and share the same values and ideas.
We could start to change that by mandating that a special prosecutor be appointed to try excessive force cases. And we need more independent oversight, with teeth. I have little confidence in internal investigations.The police are a closed society and social institution, one with their own norms, rites, rituals, and beliefs. America is a country organized around the maintenance, expansion, and protection of white supremacy and the material, economic, and psychological advantages and resources that come with being categorized as "white".
As a social institution, America's police reflect those norms and act upon them. Their behavior is filtered through the culture of American policing. As Hudson hints at, American police are racist because America is a racist society.
Thus, there are two challenges. America's racial unequal and discriminatory culture must be evolved forward; American police culture must be reformed if it wanton brutality against people of color is to cease.
Commentary and truth-telling are essential to our struggle against social injustice and inequality across the colorline. But, what of deliverables and policies? What concrete changes to policing and the police as a social institution would you like to see? Would they be effective?
And are there any other moments when some truth-telling about police brutality and racism (or other matters) slipped out into the approved American public discourse in recent weeks that you would like to share?
A final question: Why do you think The Washington Post ran Redditt Hudson's story given the newspaper's inside the beltway Washington D.C. establishment conservatism?