The Racist Roots of Campus Policing

by BENJAMIN WOODS

“Overseer, Overseer, Overseer, Overseer
Officer, Officer, Officer, Officer!
Yeah, officer from overseer
You need a little clarity?
Check the similarity!”

-KRS One, “Sound of Da Police”

On Sept. 16, the Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI) held a rally at the flagpole on The Yard in support of Troy Davis, inviting community members and the media to protest the injustice of the impending execution. Not only was the media barred from campus, but HUPD stated that because the protest was not authorized by the university, the rally could not take place.

When the point was raised that fraternal organizations did not need authorization to do stepping routines on the yard, SAMI was told “that’s a tradition.” Well, in the militant tradition of Howard student takeovers in 1925, 1968, and 1989 SAMI preceded with the rally, consequences be damned.

Why did the campus police attempt to stop the rally? In an article entitled “The Modern Campus Police” John Sloan shows that contemporary campus police are a response to the student rebellions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Think about it, Black students all over the country were taking over administration buildings and the anti-war movement was in full swing.

Since campus security could not put down these rebellions, the National Guard often had to be called in. At places like Jackson State, South Carolina State, and Kent State some students were even killed in campus rebellions. Therefore, the campus police did their historical and assigned role: putting down any and all potential radical student activity.

Thus, the campus police and the American police force appear to have similar origins and purposes, maintaining “order” and squashing any potential acts of rebellion. Several scholars and commentators have traced the origin of American policing to the slave patrols in the American south. Slave patrols were composed primarily of lower class whites who put down insurrections of enslaved Africans and caught those who attempted to escape enslavement.

Armed with this information, no Black person should be shocked by the over-policing in our communities or by that campus police officer who flies on his Segway to the scene of a student protest, but is mysteriously missing when you need an escort.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense stated that the role of the police in Black communities is similar to that of an occupying army. The primary purpose of police is to protect property: Howard University, its image, reputation (oh yeah, and you, the student [intellectual property],too). Whether on campus or in the community, understanding that the purpose of the police is primarily one of social control can only serve to enlighten and enhance our inevitable interactions with them as Black youth.

This does not mean that individual Black policeman are our inherent enemies, but the police are an institution. Although individual Black policeman are our potential working class allies, unfortunately, that is not usually the case at Howard, or in the world.

As students, acknowledging and challenging the racial roots and consequences of policing—in all its forms–is an important step towards stopping the trend of criminal injustice in our communities.

Benjamin Woods is working on his Ph D at Howard University. He can be reached through his website: www.free-the-land.blogspot.com

This article originally appeared in the Howard University student newspaper the Hilltop

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism