Monday, December 8, 2014

The Washington Post Let a Tiny Bit of Truth Slip Out Into the Approved Public Discourse: "Being a Cop Showed Me Just How Racist and Violent the Police Are."

I would like to thank the folks who have donated to our annual fundraising drive. We are in the second week of the fundraiser and are about 65 percent or so to the goal for the year. If you can and are able please do support We Are Respectable Negroes and by throwing some change into the virtual donation bucket. My kind requests--in what is a most gentle and soothing NPR-like fundraising voice--will cease once our goal is reached.
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?


Marley Jean said...

Until there is a true independent agency overseeing the police with real power there will be no change. Check this article on what has happened in Jamaica as a result of establishing an independent body to review police action.

Jamaica sees success in curbing killings by police

chauncey devega said...

I agree. The police have frighteningly little accountability. I also believe that they need to live in the areas they police, and must pay for personal liability insurance out of their own pockets. This would also be linked to the department "risk pool". Thus, if you are giving cover for irresponsible thugs on the force you will pay a price when they are outed.

Justin M. White said...

Of course the pushback from even the slightest amount of truth telling will be fierce. Look at the absurd reaction to Mayor Bill de Blasio talking about how he and his wife had to give their son the rundown on how to interact with police while Black. This is a conversation that happens every generation in Black homes all across the country. And yet the NYPD and its "Benevolent Associations" are surprised by this information? That Black teenagers are told shouldn't pull out a cell phone when they see a cop, just in case they get shot for carrying a "weapon"? That kind of ignorance among the police and their intimate supporters has to be feigned.

Mack Lyons said...

"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?"

Because the establishment understands that the longer stories like these stay in the media spotlight, the greater the possibility for groundbreaking change that would likely threaten the status quo and put the establishment itself in danger. At least that's what I posit.

chauncey devega said...

1. Good to hear from you as a fan of your work. 2. Can you clarify that comment a bit. Why would the establishment want these stories in the spotlight? Did I misread you?

chauncey devega said...

I love the childish reductionist b.s. in that story. So one can't tell the truth about what is empirically known about police brutality and then have bodyguards for one's family from the NYPD?

The more I read like comments the more I am convinced about the enduring power of authoritarian and simple minded Right-wing cognitive processes. Are they really that stupid--and thus even more dangerous?

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I would like to see more discussion of prison abolition. I think prisons are horrible places with zero redeeming qualities and serve as a kind of criminal justice trap for entire communities as well as the individuals who get caught in them.

Washington Post is playing it safe. Taking the race dialogue as well as supporting the cops. don't be surprised when they pull a 180 with "another perspective" without heeding this person's experiences and warnings.

Justin M. White said...

I started looking for responses to Redditt Hudson, because I suspected WaPo might have already had that 180 happen, but interestingly, I can hardly find any responses to Hudson's article at all.

Looks like the plan is to just ignore him so that more people don't go read his article when critics attempt to pounce on it.

Shady Grady said...

Well yes, yes they are. A lot of the masks have been dropped with regards to state killings or beatings of black people. Bresinski, Scarborough and Walters on MSNBC are not any different from their counterparts at FOX when it comes to black people.

I imagine it must be difficult to own "white privilege". So it's much easier to pretend that it doesn't exist and that the primary problem is uncivilized unintelligent Black people.

Wild Cat said...


Check out good ol' Angela Davis on the roots of the prison system and her quest to end them:

She's an amazing human.

I remember an even earlier Angela Davis guesting on Pacifica in the mid 1990s when she began her prison-reform movement. A young Amy Goodman and co-host He Who Shall Not Be Named were the "radicals" hosting the show. They were shocked by Ms. Davis' actual 1960s radicalism and Davis was shocked by how tame the Left had become..

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I am not sure why the WPost published it, but the site says "publish everything." I think there is merit in breaking down the blue wall of silence. We need white and black policemen who see injustice, who see racism within their departments, who see unnecessary police escalation of situations to speak out. We need to bring the police under community control and one aspect of that is hearing voices from inside this closed, cloistered subculture. You cannot have a dialogue with the police without them.

SW said...

Perhaps WaPo is attempting to appear "Fair & Balanced", though very little effort is given in presenting this particular perspective. It can be likened to Fox's old Hannity & Colmes show where Colmes provided the "liberal" perspective, yet he was presented as physically less attractive, weak, and his position was always over-powered by Hannity's conservative opinion.

In this case, I don't think WaPo went out of its way to substantiate any of Hudson's assertions. It read to me like another black guy complaining about racism. If WaPo really wanted to explore Hudson's claims, its reporters could certainly have delved deeper into Hudson's experience, CopTalk, and overall police training in an effort to really add substance to the story.

Mack Lyons said...

I believe this nation is at a critical tipping point where if things continue on their present course, it could provoke monumental changes that wouldn't be favorable to the establishment. Someone I recently spoke to claimed we were already in a revolution - I don't know if I want to go that far, but we are on the horizon of something.

Running these stories in the establishment arena seems counterproductive, but it helps provoke the current Powers That Be™ into making slight concessions that satiate people momentarily. For instance, passing new laws that purportedly deals with police brutality, regardless of whether or not it has teeth. It's akin to releasing steam from a pressure cooker just before it explodes.

Giving these stories a brief spotlight in the establishment circles now means the spotlight fades shortly after the establishment "does something" about the problems spotlighted. Release the steam and you're back to the business of cooking the nation without worrying about the whole mess exploding in your face.

I hope that was made a bit clearer. And by the way, thanks :D

Gable1111 said...

Why? Sensationalism. They know its going to make a large portion of their readership angry. Take a look at the hateful idiocy permeating the comments section. They certainly didn't do it out of any affinity with the ideals for police reform.

Jim Wagner said...

"Release the steam and you're back to the business of cooking the nation without worrying about the whole mess exploding in your face."

Something like this has been my interpretation of the conservative reaction to the non-indictment in the Eric Garner case. It's an easy call to make, since it's the most obviously egregious case and we've got the video. And now Garner can stand in as their One (Dead) Black Friend. The next time Rand Paul and the like get accused of being nasty racists, they can turn around and say, "Nuh uh, remember when I stood up for Eric Garner?" (They'll leave out the part about how they could care less about police brutality or black people generally, this was just a good excuse to trot out some ridiculous complaint about "nanny state" laws.)

Jim Wagner said...

"I imagine it must be difficult to own 'white privilege.'"

Speaking as a privileged white boy, no, it's really not. Don't give these people any excuses.

OldPolarBear said...

Jumping in kind of late here, but I've been pondering this idea for a while now. It is not a suggestion for reforming the "justice" system, but an economic experiment that I think might have some interesting effects.

I would take the latest and confiscate 90% of the net worth of each one of them and distribute it equally among all Black and Native American people, man, woman, child and itty bitty babies, as reparations for what has been done.

The aggregate wealth of that list is $2.29 trillion with a T. The 2010 Census says there are something over 42 million African-Americans and 5.2 million Native Americans. That is a total of 47.5 million; I will round that up to 48 million for this. 90% of $2.29T is $2.061T, or 2061 followed by 9 zeroes. The arithmetic (division) problem looks like this:

2,061,000,000,000 / 48,000,000 = 42,937.5

That would be $42,935.50 for each and every black and Indian person. This would be irrespective or their own personal wealth situation. If anyone felt they didn't need or want their distribution, it would be put back into the pot for the others. Not much, but perhaps enough to do some good.

The richest person on the Forbes list would still have 8 billion with a B dollars; the "poorest," around 160 million.

I would continue this every year for 10 years or so, spreading the money around to the same or different people, but in subsequent years, it would go to the poorest, regardless of race. Further details can be worked out. This will start to change the Forbes list around quite a lot pretty soon, but that's OK. After 10 years, I think we might do some good, and we could evaluate the program further.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

You raise important questions. For one thing, it would be useful if Black police representatives, the equivalent of a union or association, spoke out to spare individual officers. The other way would be for them to post anonymous articles here or at some website dedicated to these hidden voices. Why not encourage that?

IrishUp said...

No, they are not hyperbole. Google what actually happened to Frank Serpico (his "partners" did not call in for help when he was shot in the face. In fact the whole shooting may well have been a set-up). Or what has happened with Adrian Schoolcraft, an NYPD officer who was blowing the whistle on Stop and Frisk, as well as serious stat-juking. And they are both white!

I am not sure that we do need a "dialogue" with The Police as an institution. I am dubious that there is a legit role for what civilian (at least theoretically, we know they are increasingly para-military) police forces look like here in America 2.0. I worry that anyone who functions successfully as an Officer of the Peace *cough* now, would have a worldview completely incompatible with re-imagining or reinventing a police force that truly protects and serves everyone equally.

The cynic in me suspects that WaPo ran the story for the sensationalism, but knowing full well that Hudson's account will be discredited by your standard White conservative because he is black. As in ::dog whistle:: whaddya *expect* someone like *him* would say?

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

Look, I am a former intelligence analyst. If you want to know what is going on inside a closed or cloistered group you need credible, reliable sources inside that group to provide information. That information will help win the larger societal debate. That information may not be decisive in the debate, but it will help inform your own side of the debate. Of course, if you don't want to know anything about or from potential insiders providing valuable information, then by all means remain ignorant and uninformed. Pardon me for believing that in societal debates that people at WARN might actually trying to be successful.

IrishUp said...

I understand your expertise, and agree with your points regarding how one gets information (hence my, you know, linking to examples of credible
whistleblowers. Who were/are subjects of campaigns to discredit them, natch).

What I mean is, there is already sufficient evidence on what is going on - stat juking, racial profiling, preferential enforcement and sentencing, abuse of power, & etc. I personally do not believe that anyone is unconvinced about how unfairly and dangerously our civilian police function, due to lack of information.

Or to be more precise, I do not believe the problem lies in the strength,
quantity, or dissemination of information regarding police and
institutionalized racism. The WP I know understand perfectly well what is going on, and they are largely for or against police/justice reform to the degree they are marginalized or benefit from the status quo.

What experience and experimental data show is that the greater tendency is for people to interpret information based on their already held beliefs. Perhaps I am being too pessimistic, but it's hard to picture that people who are invested in privilege denial are likely to be swayed by MORE information showing them that they are even MORE complicit in MORE atrocities, than they have been
heretofore rationalizing or denying. (There is behavioral sci data suggesting the more irrational a belief, the more likely many people are to "double down" when given hard evidence that contradicts said belief.)

I believe the problem is not that people *don't know*, but that they DO. Further the people who are currently in power, like Sinclair noted, have an incentive to NOT understand and thus discredit or dismiss such information. "Fact finding" here, seems likely to equal more stalling and to play into the hands of those who the current system is designed to benefit, on the one hand, and amount to preaching to the choir on the other. (But to the extent that insider information helps motivate people to demand change, I am ALL for it.)

Further, I am dubious as to whether this actually needs "debate". Where is the evidence that racism is due to the fact that WP don't have all the
information they need? Where is the evidence that some sort of rational
discourse persuades people to grant equal civil liberties to those they
exploit? USian history suggests that it is not broad societal debate that
creates social progress - rather that enforcing equality has the effect of
creating progressive change in social mores (see the evolution of legalization of gay marriage vs. public opinion pols, as a very recent example).

Justin M. White said...

Good plan, but you're going after individuals, which makes the plan easier to dismiss, as they are considered "uninvolved" in the destruction of Black and Brown wealth. Also, individuals are small fry. Instead, target every bank that has existed since before 1865 as complicit in profiting from slavery, and force them to pay reparations. It's what we would do to "people" after all.

IrishUp said...

Mea culpa! This is in reply to James Estrada-Scaminaci III below. I am not sure how my reply went here instead.

Lemaricus_Davidson said...

The police can't afford to treat nggers with kid gloves or they will be the ones in the hospital or in the grave.

Lemaricus_Davidson said...

I say move police out of these infested sht holes and let the apes handle it themselves.

Icestorm said...

Respectable Negro? Just another fallacy, these things don't exist except in the minds of feral simians.

Shontiqua said...

This is nothing more than thugs in the black community looking for more excuses to break laws,