by Bryan K. Bullock
The spectacle of wanton police killings of Black people “is carried out in public space, with public dollars, much in the way lynchings were” – a state tactic designed to inflict terror on the targeted population. But the U.S. state is never charged with terrorism. It requires massive quantities of Black suffering to make the slightest impact on the white American mind. Consent decrees and meaningless “reforms” are written in Black blood.
Blacks Pay for Police “Reforms” With Their Lives
by Bryan K. Bullock
“Calling Micah Johnson a domestic terrorist lays bare the hypocrisy of the use of a term that has always been loaded with racism.”
The police murders of African Americans continue unabated. The murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling have brought national and international attention to this issue once again. According to Color Lines, 123 black people have been killed by the police this year – and it’s only July. As usual, black people are up in arms (only figuratively) and are posting their dissatisfaction on social media. The pastors and so-called “leaders” are playing their usual role by urging black people to respond peacefully to state murder, as if they are the ones who are perpetrating the violence and, more importantly, as if they have no right to self-defense. No such admonition is ever directed toward the police. The Obama Justice Department has launched an investigation into Mr. Sterling’s death, but one needn’t hope that anything will come of it.
Over 1200 investigations have been initiated into police killings and beatings and yet, not a single prosecution has been taken up and no police have been indicted by the feds. None. The murder of Laquan McDaniel prompted an investigation into Chicago’s notorious police force, and yet no indictments have come down from the federal government from that well documented, televised murder. There is no reason for anyone to believe that the latest executions will lead to anything other than a long report and a consent decree. In the interim, a sniper kills several policemen in Dallas and the President issues a stern statement calling the sniper(s) cowardly and vicious. This shows the material difference in the role of the police and the role of citizens, especially black citizens. In discussing the murders of the Castile and Sterling, the President’s tone was measured, academic, detached. But in commenting on the murders of the Dallas police, he used more impassioned words, such as “cowardly” or “despicable.” This passion is never exhibited by the president when discussing the killing of unarmed African Americans.
“There is no reason for anyone to believe that the latest executions will lead to anything other than a long report and a consent decree.”
Blacks are urged by the political and religious powers to be calm. The police that murder blacks are never labeled as cowardly or despicable for killing unarmed people. What is more cowardly than ganging up on Alton Sterling, throwing him to the ground, having two men pin this one man down and then shooting him multiple times as he lay on the ground unable to defend himself? We get this same treatment from the media, where talking heads proclaim people that they don’t even know to be heroes. In America, simply passing the civil service examination, without evidence of anything more, makes one a hero. This is the natural extension of the glorification of soldiers, which police are increasingly encouraged to view themselves as. Once again African Americans are forced to watch as the police are treated as heroes. Undoubtedly, an individual police officer can be hero if placed in a situation where heroism is warranted. But that is not the norm and there is no reason to propagandize the profession, especially given the reality of police brutality, police murders, police set-ups, infiltrations of benign organizations, etc.
The institution of policing has been placed on a pedestal. This serves to give them more authority, more discretion and more power. Conversely, the conditions of poor black people – in the richest country in the world – are routinely ignored. Even our status as a “protected minority” is cheapened in law. Case in point: in Louisiana, the state legislature added the killing of a police officer to its Hate Crime statute. Thus, the killing of a person who voluntarily chooses a dangerous occupation is placed in the same category as the killing of a person with an immutable characteristic such as their race, gender or sexual orientation. This waters down the effectiveness of Hate Crime legislation, serves as an example for other conservative legislatures and disrespects the terror that marginalized populations face in this country at the hands of vigilante groups, white supremacists and the police – which are, sometimes, one and the same.
“What is more cowardly than ganging up on Alton Sterling, throwing him to the ground, having two men pin this one man down and then shooting him multiple times as he lay on the ground unable to defend himself?”
“The police do locally what the military does internationally.” – Malcolm X
The killing of the police in Dallas is portrayed as an attack on the country, or at a minimum, the state where they are employed. At least one media outlet has already labeled the event in Dallas as an act of “domestic terrorism,” a designation that is never placed on the perpetrators of violence against African Americans. This is a critical turning point in this country on several levels. Calling Micah Johnson a domestic terrorist lays bare the hypocrisy of the use of a term that has always been loaded with racism. The Ku Klux Klan, Dylan Roof, George Zimmerman, the police, none are ever called terrorists no matter how heinous or racist the attack. Additionally, using the term terrorist against Johnson allows the state to deploy its full arsenal of surveillance, military equipment, lawful use of force and the full apparatus of the state (police, prosecutors, judiciary and political system) on the black community throughout the country.
The use of an armed robot to kill Johnson also signals an important escalation in the terrorism against black people as the military hardware used in foreign countries against America’s “enemies” is now being used against African America. Is this a coincidence, or are we, too, America’s enemies? Third, it is yet another innovation in police tactics against the black community. From the creation of S.W.A.T. teams to kill the Black Panthers, to the infiltration of black organizations, no matter how peaceful, to the full spectrum surveillance, blackmail, assassinations and intimidation of the Cointelpro program, the federal and state governments experimented with newer and more repressive forms of power against the rising black population from the 50’s to the late 70’s, essentially killing off the civil rights/black power movement. The news accounts of how “the world” is in mourning over the killing of Dallas police cements the reality that the cops are simply the armed wing of the U.S. racial order. They are agents of the state and therefore are entitled to the sympathy of other states and foreign governments. The victims of state violence, whether it is of Blacks in America or people in Palestine, Iraq or Syria, are never worthy of the sympathy of “the world.”
“The cops are simply the armed wing of the U.S. racial order.”
“Anyone who can pass the civil service examination today can kill me tomorrow. Anyone who passed the civil service examination yesterday can kill me today with complete immunity.” – George Jackson
The intimidation, physical beatings and murders of black people by the police are clearly designed to keep the black population in line. It is intentional even if not consciously articulated, that it is acceptable in this country to beat and kill black people. It is a constant, violent, message to the black community that you are vulnerable, at risk, expendable. This spectacle is carried out in public space, with public dollars, much in the way lynchings were. The difference now is that black people are able to turn the message of leaving broken black bodies on the street on its head by broadcasting the executions and physical abuse to the world. Much in the way that television revealed to people who didn’t live in the South, and to the world, the water hoses, dogs and billy clubs being used against peaceful black protestors, black youth are using social media platforms to reveal the ugly, brutal state violence used against them that otherwise would have remained known only to them. Despite the fact that the world can view black assassinations and beatings online, the U.S. racial order continues, uninterrupted. There is no lull in deaths and beatings by the police and the black community remains traumatized and vulnerable. The killing of African Americans by the police is treated in the U.S. media establishment as either, at best, an unfortunate consequence of policing or, at worst, as an example of what happens to blacks because of their own inherent lawlessness or cultural flaws.
The cycle repeats itself again and again. Blacks have to pay for “reforms” with their lives. The body cameras that fortuitously fell off as the police killed Alton Sterling, we paid for with the blood of other black victims of police murders nationwide. The various consent decrees entered into in cities like Cleveland, were signed with the ink of our blood. The media’s attention to the issue of police murder of black people, required the execution of two black men and the use of social media to broadcast the horror. And in order to get the President to comment on our historical and current day pain, it took two unnecessary deaths of young men. This too is nothing new. African Americans have always had to fight, bleed and die in this country for our own freedom. It’s time to revisit that process; our death, their reforms. It’s not working. Undoubtedly we need loud, boisterous, bold public protests. But we also need loud, sustained, mobilized actions. For example, adding police as a protected category in Louisiana’s Hate Crime statute should have been stopped dead in its tracks, but there was no political mobilization around it. That is to say, the thousands marching in the street in Baton Rogue now, should have been fighting against that bill then. We can’t continue to pay for what they determine is progress with our lives.
Attorney Bryan K. Bullock practices law in Merrillville, Indiana.