First, I would like to thank the kind folks who donated to our annual fundraising drive. I am still writing my "thank you" emails. I very much appreciate the generosity and positive energy that the donors to WARN have shown me.
There are two more weeks remaining in the fundraising drive. I am about 60 percent to the goal which I have set for 2014. If you can, are willing, and are able, please do throw some monies into the virtual donation bucket if you find my work here of value.
As an update, my podcast conversation with journalist Nick Chiles--who is a guest on C-SPAN 2 this weekend--about his book Justice While Black will be up on Tuesday. I did not post it last Thursday because of the Eric Garner decision.
On Thursday, two days after I share the great conversation I had with Mr. Chiles, my talk with professional skeptic, Jason Colavito, about ancient, aliens, white supremacists, and Afrocentric dreamers will be posted as well. Two great shows in one week.
Recording and editing the podcast series is very time consuming. Two shows in one week requires between 8 to 10 hours of labor. Your support during the fundraiser provides some support for that work.
Yesterday, I was taking my daily constitutional in downtown Chicago. I noticed large numbers of regular and plain clothes police officers at strategic locations around the city. They were equipped with the "long beating people upside the head" riot control sticks. I then remembered that there were marches scheduled in response to the murders by cop of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
As I walked along State Street several hours later I mingled with the protesters and participated in their march in a style akin to that of Robert Freeman's work as a civil rights era freedom rider in the Boondocks cartoon series. I felt so young and invigorated.
[Have any of you participated in the marches or sit-ins related to the Eric Garner and Michael Brown tragedies? If so, what were your experiences like? Should the protesters be leery of marching with their faces uncovered because it is a near certainty that the folks who publicly rally against police brutality will end up in local, national, and state "anti-terrorism" databases?]
When the decision was made by a Staten Island grand jury to not indict the cop who murdered Eric Garner in plain sight (and was subsequently vindicated by white racial paranoiac thinking), President Obama and New York Mayor de Blasio issued public statements about that miscarriage of justice--and the broader national "crisis" wherein the police kill at least one black person every 28 hours in the United States.
Obama's and de Blasio's usual detractors complained. Their supporters were pleased. The Right-wing sewers overflowed with political feces. On cue, the Right-wing yellow journalism "newspaper" The New York Post, threw a public fit that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio would dare to mention that his son is black in the context of a public statement about police brutality.
The racial optics of two national leaders discussing the killing of Eric Garner are important--but not in the way that the racial histrionics of The New York Post would suggest.
The comments by Obama and de Blasio about police violence against black and brown people were from two men who have a familial, love, and personal investment in stopping anti-black racial violence by cop in the United States. For them, black people or "African-Americans", are not just a constituency group, nebulous Other, thing to be fascinated by but also loathed, cultural object to be consumed, or an imagined people with which they have no direct, personal interactions.
Obama can look at his wife and children and see blackness as human and familiar. He can also look in the mirror and see a black person staring back at him.
Bill de Blasio is a white man. His wife is a black woman. Deblasio's children are black Americans. De blasio and his wife Chirlane are to be applauded: rather than succumb to the post racial foolishness that are the efforts to create a class of "elevated" blacks, "mulattoes", and colonial administrator middle men, so identified because one of their parents is "white", Bill de Blasio and Chirlane have raised their children to be unapologetically "black".
Obama's and de Blasio's intimacy with blackness poses two challenges/possibilities.
One, can they channel their understanding that yes, "black lives matter", into the force of will necessary to combat police brutality?
Two, does their personal proximity and intimacy both to and with black people make them hypocrites because Mayor de Blasio and President Obama are executives in a system that routinely discriminates, punished, kills, imprisons, harasses, and limits the life chances of black Americans?
This hints at the over-arching problem with looking to Obama, as President of the United States, and de Blasio, as Mayor of New York, for "progressive" or "radical" action on the police policies that led to the killing of Eric Garner (and so many other black men in the United States).
Obama and de Blasio are representatives of power and the powerful. By definition and obligation, they care more about stability and serving elite interests than in responding to the demands for justice being voiced by those who are disgusted by the killings of Garner and Brown. As the United States' first black president, this is especially true for Obama, as on matters of race, justice, and civil liberties, he is maneuvering in a very tight space.
Obama's statements on the Eric Garner and Michael Brown murders are clear reflections of his relationship to institutional power. After the Ferguson decision, Obama told people to not use violence, to obey the rule of law, and to trust the system. In response to the Garner decision, Obama said the following:
"And I say that as somebody who believes that law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job; that every man or woman in uniform are putting their lives at risk to protect us; that they have the right to come home, just like we do from our jobs; that there’s real crime out there that they’ve got to tackle day in and day out -- but that they’re only going to be able to do their job effectively if everybody has confidence in the system.
"And right now, unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. And in some cases, those may be misperceptions; but in some cases, that’s a reality. And it is incumbent upon all of us, as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is an American problem, and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem.These comments are products of the same political imagination that produced his troubling 2008 "A More Perfect Union" speech on race relations in the United States, a speech where he pandered to white racial resentment and grievance mongering by reducing black justice claims to being somehow on the same moral plain as white hostility towards them.
As a representative of Power, Obama cannot tell the truth: the police must earn the respect of the communities they patrol; police violence and brutality are inexcusable under any circumstance and should not be framed as some gap in communications and understanding between the cops and "urban" residents.
Obama, like so many other politicians, opinion leaders, journalists, and other "respected" voices, leads with the default statement of permission for bad behavior by the police instead of empathy for their victims, that "law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job".
Obama can and will not ask the essential question, "why trust a system that has shown no respect for you?"
Likewise, while summoning his love for his son as a way of showing concern about the Eric Garner decision, in the service of Power as Mayor of New York, de Blasio told a lie about a basic fact:
And that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first, that our police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and at the same time, there's a history we have to overcome, because for so many of our young people, there's a fear. And for so many of our families, there's a fear.
So I've had to worry over the years. Chirlane's had to worry. Is Dante safe each night? There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night. Is my child safe? And not just from some of the painful realities—crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods—but is safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors.Police in the United States have their origins in the slave patrols and paramilitary anti-black forces of the American South. The police also protect the interests of the propertied classes. They continue to function as the front line of American Apartheid and the racial state in the post civil rights era. The American legal system is the New Jim Crow. Contrary to de Blasio's unqualified assumptions, the police do not exist to protect black and brown people. Nor, do they serve as the protectors of black and brown communities. The police exist to "police" communities of color; they do not serve and protect them. The subtle distinction is very important: white supremacy works through the carceral society.
Obama and de Blasio made very basic and conservative statements about police brutality and violence against people of color. They are operating from a concern about social stability, and how events such as Ferguson are international embarrassments that undermine American credibility on issues related to human rights and democracy.
The New York Post and other Right-wing elements in the United States are aroused to anger by Obama's and de Blasio's basic statements about police violence because of their moral deficits and anti-black sentiments. In all, white supremacy as a habit and lifestyle is aroused by the mere thought that black and brown people will be treated as full citizens and do their human full human rights without qualification or exception.
The possessive investment in Whiteness does not allow such empathy, nor does it demand a high level of morality or civic virtue from the white folks who are still signatories to the birthright contract that are white privilege and white supremacy.
Ultimately, the American legal system is racist because White America wants it to be.
As is our habit and tradition, do you have any news items or other matters of public or private concern to share? What are your thoughts about police policy in the aftermath of the Eric Garner murder? What would you change?