by Steve Rohosky
From On High…
Are many cops racists or hold a great dislike for black people when they are hired? Most likely not.
But with time…
Police in many cities and states purposely target black and Latino neighborhoods. It’s called racial profiling. When you actively look for ONLY minorities committing crimes, then you will FIND only minority criminals. As per numerous studies and statistics, black and Latino men and women DO NOT commit the majority of crimes, they do NOT comprise the majority of illegal drug users. Yet today’s prisons and jails are overwhelmingly populated by black and brown men, women.
…having basically looked for only minority criminals, over many years, yes. Too many police officers come to loathe and detest minorities, principally young, black, men. No doubt about it. Which is, as one would expect, greatly disturbing to the black community and all who are concerned about injustice.
It is human nature to want to lash out, to strike back, at those considered responsible for dead black man, murdered at the hands of seemingly bad, poorly trained, overly ozealous and over reacting, possibly hateful cops. Officers who are measurably more suspicious, quantifiably more distrustful of black men than white. Yes, some within the black community want to strike back when it is perceived that the legal system has failed them. Especially when those cops responsible for dead black men time after time escape prosecution, pay no penalty other than resignation.
Now, let’s establish that NOT ALL POLICE OFFICERS ARE HATERS. Not all are bad cops. In point of fact, the overwhelming percentage of police are good, hard working men and women who care about those they are sworn to protect and serve. They are passionate about helping, about making a difference within their communities.
Only problem is: they all appear the same, the good as well as the bad. One simply cannot identify which cops are which just by looking at them, no more so than you could identify potential criminals from gazing at a large crowd of individuals.
More than half a century ago, Malcolm X said, “By any means necessary” as a counter to Dr Martin Luther King’s philosophy of Non-Violent Resistance for blacks to gain equality in America. It is questionable how much, if any, that philosophy which sanctioned violence assisted in the means to an end, helped achieve the measured progress of the nascent civil rights movement of the era.
There is NO doubt, though, that by attempting to adapt the “By Any Means Necessary” ideology to the 21st century, by using it as a rationale for the murder of five police officers in Dallas and other cops around the country, it only serves to create GREATER animosity, a DEEPER distrust, a more all consuming SUSPICION of the black community by local and state police forces.
Sure, those who advocate the “an eye for an eye” approach no doubt believe they are making a point, that they will not stand idly by while young men of color are wantonly murdered. Retaliatory strikes such as these make as much sense as when rioters in American city after city, from Newark to Detroit to Watts in LA, burned down their own homes to demonstrate their degree of rage as per the white controlled institutions and the biases long inherent to them, back in the mid to late 1960’s.
The fact of the matter remained that when the anger subsided, the smoke cleared, those residents were all homeless. The few shops and businesses available to them where groceries and essentials could be purchased–along with the non essentials, like the ubiquitous liquor stores, seemingly everywhere throughout each predominantly black neighborhood–were gone. The acts of defiance didn’t make the situation for the residents of those areas any better. It only served to make it worse–much, much worse.
The youth of each generation over the past six decades seems to be increasingly less willing to do the laborious and time consuming work required to bring about change. Instead, each in its own way has fantasized about “revolution,” sought to bring about quick change. Today is no different.
Look at the millions of Bernard Sanders supporters who ever so naively believed they could influence the capitalist economic system of this country just by stomping their feet. Still more threatened to hold their collective breath, having pledged to never, never, EVER support the eventual nominee of the Democratic Party.
Others fixed those filthy capitalists by making grandiose demands, each punctuated with reams of ineffectual whining, followed up by more $27 donations to their favorite grandfatherly candidate.
Young’uns (and oldsters who should’ve been smart enough to know better) who all practiced a sort of mass delusion, having conjured up a belief all this could somehow effect change. Or taking it a step further, bring down current systemically controlled institutions, thus eliminating the biases long inherent to them. Beliefs nothing more than the contemporary version of the burning of your own homes and businesses, the deluded so convinced such a differing demonstration of rage would force those holding the reigns of power to make changes. If only…
Real change DOES NOT work like that. There will be no more French Revolutions or another overthrow such as the Czar in Russia. Power in industrial nations is no longer concentrated in one person. It is spread, diversified, for a very good reason: helping insure the mutual survival of them that pull the strings.
And despite the romantic imagery of poets like Jim Morrison of The Doors who wrote, “They got the guns but, we got the numbers!” in the song Five To One, that kind of safety in numbers is fantastical, wishful thinking. Cause they got countless more bullets now than you got numbers, Jim. And too many have powerfully vested interests in seeing the economic and political structures standing, as they do today, remaining essentially intact.
Cause THEY are doing quite well, thank you.
Real change DOES NOT start at the bottom. It begins at the top, where rests the power. 1954 saw the US Supreme Court put an end to the myth long perpetuated of “Separate But Equal.” It took congress to pass the Civil Rights Acts, then the Voting Rights Act, fifty years ago. It took the Highest Court to determine women could decide for themselves if they wanted to legally and safely terminate a pregnancy, in 1972.
The SCOTUS also ruled against the Texas sodomy laws in 2003 by stating the government had no business intruding in bedrooms of the citizenry. One more time the SC handed down another monumental decision declaring the rights of LGBTQ people to be equally protected by the constitution, in 2015. Thus gay and transgender individuals could marry, then further enrich divorce lawyers, just like straight folks do.
When things got crazy in Ferguson, MO, the Justice Department investigated the police department and found such widespread racism and corruption, the whole PD was dissolved and a new one put into its place. Killing random cops in retaliation for the murders of black men didn’t do that. The change came from on high.
The videos taken by citizens which have shown to the world black men being murdered by police demonstrates the symptom of a disease. The disease being there are entirely too many badly trained, under prepared and at times psychologically handicapped cops carrying guns and badges. Many of whom simply shouldn’t even be police officers. Too many of which when facing a black man–who correctly informs the officer he is carrying a gun–too frequently the cop immediately expects the worst, anticipates resistance, grossly overreacts in a situation where his life IS NOT threatened and shoots anyway.
The tragic result being the life of Philando Castile ebbed slowly away, the aftermath of his shooting streamed live onto Facebook for all to watch. To see how his blood covered more and more of his white shirt, his eyes soon closed and he was dead. While the cop, so much adrenaline coursing through him the arms still holding his aimed gun spasmed and shook, as he stammered excuses for discharging the weapon.
Or a bunch of cops initiate a power struggle with a man reportedly carrying a gun. A potentially life or death struggle begins which quickly devolves into a shoot first ask questions later mindset. This is what left Alton Sterling dead in Baton Rouge, LA.
Would those same officers have reacted in an identical manner had there been young white men involved? Who knows. Yet the same sort of thing keeps happening almost ridiculously too often to far, far too many black men: Eric Garner murdered on the street in Staten Island, NY, while trying to tell the officer choking him to death, “I can’t breathe.”
Walter Scott, shot in the back while attempting to get away from an officer in South Carolina. An officer unbeknownst to him recorded on a citizens cell phone, the video capturing him calmly walking over to the dying Scott and dropping his taser near him, to make it look like Scott removed it during their struggle, inferring Scott had intended to use it as a weapon against the officer.
12 year old Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun in a park. Cops roll up and in less than three seconds the boy was dead. They shot first, didn’t give a damn about questions. Freddie Gray was brutally beaten and dragged by Baltimore police, before being taken for a “rough ride” in a paddy wagon, a punishment doled out by cops who thought someone being taken into custody had given them a hard time. Gray died after his neck snapped. And on and on it goes.
One facet of this can begin to change by budgeting more money to be spent in every PD across the land. NOT for increasingly sophisticated weaponry and former military vehicles. A police department enforces the law, it must not wage war with the very people it is sworn to protect and serve. ALL THE PEOPLE.
With increased funding, psychological testing must be done every couple of years to ferret out potential problems within a department. And why not? The FBI and CIA randomly administer state of the art lie detector tests to all agents. They also undergo periodic psych testing, too. If it’s good enough to discover agents who have gone rogue or are no longer effective and/or compromised, it damn sure should be good enough to protect citizens from bad cops and ultimately the good police from bad citizens looking to make a statement.
More and differing sensitivity training should be implemented, also. And on top of it all, civilian review boards are needed for every PD above a certain size. Boards comprised by local persons: business professionals, doctors, lawyers, teachers, blue collar workers, homemakers, college students, a real cross section of the community. Review boards with the power to investigate officers against whom habitual complaints are lodged pertaining to brutality and excessive use of force. Ones given the power to refer results to the local DA or higher still, should local DA’s take a cavalier attitude towards those findings.
Not to be excluded, but newer and more creative ideas and programs are in dire need to bridge the ocean separating too many black residents in too many communities and their local police departments. This “us versus them” mindset which lingers almost a fifth of the way through the 21st century, must end.
The overzealous, distrustful and poorly prepared policing practices which are leading to the deaths of young black men must change. It has created a deteriorating situation, one which seems to be crumbling before our eyes. Responding to another black man dead at the hands of a cop by making police officers targets, then murdering THEM randomly in retaliation, only fuels an already bad situation by helping launch another which could become exponentially worse.
Again, change simply doesn’t come from the bottom. Marching and protesting in the streets won’t lead to any permutations. Days later it’s all forgotten, including any and all pledges and promises made to momentarily assuage crowds. The best place ordinary citizens CAN make their voices heard is at the ballot box on Election Day. Find out where your elected representative stands on the issues concerning effective policing, police oversight by the community, review boards if none exist, common sense gun control, preventing those on the No Fly lists from buying a gun–with an appeal process designed to ensure jus’ folks aren’t confused with potential terrorists.
And question representatives about their willingness to institute laws so as to keep weaponry designed for the military OUT of the hands of non military personnel. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to own A gun, not ANY gun.
Then GET OUT AND VOTE. Too many eligible voters stay home, never bothering to cast a ballot, complaining how their singular vote doesn’t make any difference. Yet they are frequently the ones bellowing the loudest about the inequities of “the system.” If you don’t vote, SHUT UP!! You have no right to complain. If you do vote, great. Work to install local representatives who respond to you and your concerns. If they don’t, toss them out, too. But make your voice heard at the top, so real change, beneficial change, can take place.
Back in the Sixties, a phrase was used frequently, one which still holds true, even this many years later: You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
BE the solution, NOT the problem.
Find a way.