Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The UK's Guardian Exposes the Shame of a Nation; A Shorter Washington Post Oped: If 'Peevish' Cops Can't Kick Your Black Butt and Break the Law They Won't Do Their Jobs

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Politics and social change involves both "push" and "pull" factors. The reaction may not be simultaneous. It may not be proportionate. But, as Brother Malcolm was quoted as saying, "power concedes nothing without a demand". Power also concedes little without resistance. As I discuss with Henry Giroux on this week's edition of The Chauncey DeVega Show, one should also realize that they can't fight strength with strength as they will lose almost every time.

Political jujitsu and aikido are skill sets that must be learned and used if we are to create real and substantive change for the Common Good in an era of human disposability, austerity, and cruelty.

Police thuggery is one of the most important issues of public concern in the United States (and the world). There are two recent news items on the topic that should be receiving much more attention by the mainstream news media. As is my habit, it is important to "connect the dots".

The long Black Freedom Struggle was able to bring down Jim and Jane Crow because the broader context of the Cold War provided a means to shame American elites into creating change along the colorline. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the other titans of the movement--both those widely known and publicly praised, as well as those lost to history--were operating as much for an American audience as they were a global and international one. The colorline is global. America's shame on matters of race and justice was and is international.

The necropolis of bodies broken, battered, and killed by America's police does not even have an accurate accounting the people in its well. America's "desaparecidos" have been intentionally "lost" by the bureaucratic state.

Those abroad can see the truth even while America's corporate news media chooses to turn away.

The United Kingdom's Guardian has a new feature project on America's police thuggery and racism.

Some of their findings include:

Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people, according to a Guardian investigation which found 102 of 464 people killed so far this year in incidents with law enforcement officers were not carrying weapons. 
An analysis of public records, local news reports and Guardian reporting found that 32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed. 
The findings emerged from a database filled by a five-month study of police fatalities in the US, which calculated that local and state police and federal law enforcement agencies are killing people at twice the rate calculated by the US government’s official public record of police homicides. The database names five people whose names have not been publicly released.

The Guardian’s statistics include deaths after the police use of a Taser, deaths caused by police vehicles and deaths following altercations in police custody, as well as those killed when officers open fire. They reveal that 29% of those killed by police, or 135 people, were black. Sixty-seven, or 14%, were Hispanic/Latino, and 234, or 50%, were white. In total, 102 people who died during encounters with law enforcement in 2015 were unarmed.

The figures illustrate how disproportionately black Americans, who make up just 13% of the country’s total population according to census data, are killed by police. Of the 464 people counted by the Guardian, an overwhelming majority – 95% – were male, with just 5% female.

Steven Hawkins, the executive director Amnesty International USA, described the racial imbalance as “startling”. Hawkins said: “The disparity speaks to something that needs to be examined, to get to the bottom of why you’re twice as likely to be shot if you’re an unarmed black male.”
For the white racial paranoiac gaze, "black" skin is apparently sufficient provocation for murder by cop.

Part of America's slide towards authoritarianism is a mindless embrace of a cultural myth wherein police are always "heroes" who have a "dangerous" job and as such are above the law and must always be given "the benefit of the doubt" in how they exercise force. Of course, this latitude of judgement is much broader when the police are killing or otherwise abusing black and brown people, the poor, the mentally ill, or people with disabilities.

In a democracy, the press is supposed to fulfill a watchdog function. Unfortunately, in America's current media environment, the press are instead lapdogs for Power and other elite interests.

The Washington Post is now parroting the authoritarian Right-wing logic that police are somehow victims and that black communities who oppose police brutality are somehow responsible for their own misery.

In the provocatively titled "Baltimore's Descent into Carnage", its editorial board wrote:
As Baltimore’s streets succumb to the wave of carnage, the police have simply withdrawn, by many accounts. Harassed, hooted at and openly hated in the wake of the arrest of Freddie Gray, whose death in custody triggered the rioting in April, uniformed officers seem to have decided not to do their jobs. 
Arrests, already down from 2014 levels before the rioting, have plummeted by more than 50 percent since then. Community leaders in Sandtown — the area where Mr. Gray was arrested — say there is a deliberate effort on the police department’s part to vacate the streets and see how the community likes it.

On Fox News, one officer, his face and voice obscured, explained the cops’ “reasoning.” “After the protests, it seems like the citizens would appreciate a lack of police presence, and that’s exactly what they’re getting,” he said. He went on to blame the city’s leadership for not having officers’ backs and prosecutors for indicting the six police officers in whose custody Mr. Gray was fatally injured. 
If the police are determined to degrade their already poisonous relations with the city’s mainly African American communities, they have hit upon an effective strategy. Peevishness seems to have supplanted all sense of duty.
"Harassed, hooted at and openly hated". What a surprise that a police department which routinely abuses, violates the civil rights of those it is supposed to protect, and engages in street thuggery and piracy would be greeted with a few mean words instead of roses, hugs, and applause from those it oppresses.

Narratives of police victimhood are a charade; that The Washington Post would give it any cover is loathsome and disgusting. This is Vaudeville Politics where the abuser cries that their hands hurt from striking the victim about the face and body.

Apparently, America's impudent and childish police are upset that if they can't kick your ass and break the law they will refuse to do their jobs of properly enforcing the law. Thus, a conundrum--perhaps abusing and violating the rights of black people in cities like Baltimore is the unstated job and real vocation for those who choose to join America' racist and authoritarian police departments?

Again where are the oft discussed (and I would suggest phantom) legions of "good cops", those who are embarrassed by their childish and "peevish" peers who refuse to do their jobs while taking the public's money and pensions?


Gable1111 said...

Indeed, where are those paladins of virtue, the "good cops" we're always reminded of that supposedly make up the majority of cops? Why don't they speak up? And if these "good cops" had any integrity about them, they would not stand for cops basically stealing taxpayers money and breaking the law themselves.

Nick Johnson said...

Chauncey, love the stuff you post on here, and I am no fan of WaPo, but I'm a little confused as to why you went after this particular Post editorial. It seems as though the board was arguing that the police should do their jobs, and provided ample evidence (in the form of statements from police officers themselves) that they weren't doing their jobs because of the (quite justified) uprisings that took place after Freddie Gray was shot. I didn't get the impression that the board agreed with the stance of the police; indeed, the last line of the editorial seems to advocate for more responsible actions from those in power: "Just as the city deserves responsible, proactive policing, it deserves
strategic, forward-thinking governance from city and state leaders."

chauncey devega said...

I hear you. The last 'graph would seem to be a bit of a critique. I felt like they could have gone harder, called out the police more, and not done the balancing act. Style question? I mulled that point over quite a bit. But I feel you.

The WaPo is an organ of power. Thus, they have limits. What if they really went all in?

chauncey devega said...

Paladins? In the D and D sense? Cops? Highly unlikely :)

Those damn "good cops". Where are they hiding?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

They're hugging black children for photo ops while their other brothers destroy video evidence of police brutality.

Jim Wagner said...

I could almost laugh at the ridiculously twisted, ass-backward "logic" of these cops if only their tortured games of self-justification weren't resulting in ever more black and brown bodies piling up in the streets of Baltimore.

This situation is a perfect encapsulation of the top two complaints that you hear over and over again from minority residents living in American ghettos: 1) too many police; 2) not enough police. That's a paradox only for those who willfully keep their heads in the sand (or wherever else they may prefer to stick them). The dynamic these barbaric** cops would like to insist on seems to be: either we overrun your neighborhood and beat, jail, or summarily kill anyone we feel like with barely the pretense of an offense having been committed, or we disappear entirely and allow other groups of violent criminals to do the same job. At no point do the notions of "protect" or "serve" even enter these peoples' minds.

** I've recently taken to using the phrase "police barbarity" to describe the heinous acts committed by law enforcement in this country. "Police brutality" has come to feel almost like a euphemism. Brutality is occasionally justified. The truth can be brutal. These cops are simply violent and cruel, and have consistently failed to conduct themselves in a manner befitting public servants in a supposedly civilized country. Chauncey, I invite you to adopt this phrasing as well if you feel the same way.

chauncey devega said...

I will meditate on that language. Very, very, important corrective.