With the seemingly constant shooting of mostly young, black men by white police officers, with near-complete impunity, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has, of necessity, come to life. To date, charges against the police perpetrating these crimes are uncommon, and convictions, very rare. The current incident in South Carolina, where white police officer Michael Thomas Slager was videotaped shooting Walter Lamar Scott in the back, eight times, may be the anomaly; it’s difficult to imagine anything less than a conviction for first degree murder, but this is the United States we are talking about, where, in the eyes of the law, black lives don’t seem to matter.
It isn’t just black men, young and old, who are so victimized; black women, too, are shunted to the margins of society. The phenomenon that has become known as ‘White Women’s Syndrome’ is common. White women, according to this theory, who are reported missing, are widely publicized. Ask anyone if they can mention a woman who was reported missing in the last few years, and several names will probably come to mind: Lacey Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, Holly Bobo. All, of course, are white. And while any decent person mourns the deaths of Ms. Peterson and Ms. Bobo, and rejoices at the safe recovery of Ms. Smart, it is not only white women who are reported to the authorities as missing. Women of color also disappear, but are seldom announced on the evening news, and stories of searches by friends, websites established to assist in locating them, the investigation, etc. rarely make the news.
It has been said that racism is dead in the U.S.; after all, people who make this bizarre proclamation say, the country elected a black president. Simply because the nation achieved that particular milestone is no indication of the state of racism in the U.S.
The parents of black youth routinely advise their sons how to behave if confronted by a police officer. In December of 2014, New York City mayor Bill DiBlasio said this, referring to his biracial son: that “because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”
The old motto of the police, ‘to protect and serve’, no longer seems valid. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that “the police did not have a
constitutional duty to protect a person from harm”; this in the case of a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband. The man had kidnapped their three daughters from her home, and called his estranged wife to say they were all at an amusement park. Despite the fact that arrest was mandated if the man violated the court order, the police did not respond. The man then killed the three girls, and was eventually killed by the police.
So if your local police department isn’t there to ‘protect and serve’, what is its purpose? Many municipalities provide their police departments with military weaponry. Since the police are not responsible for national defense, one could reasonably ask who such weaponry might be expected to be used against.
What military weaponry is provided to the local police, and how do they get it? A federal program, called the “1033 program,” enables the Pentagon to send local police departments military weapons, at no charge. Equipment such as M-16s and armored personnel carriers like MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles) are now common in many cities. Why on earth would any local community require mine-resistant vehicles? In the last twenty years, $5.1 billion in such weaponry has been provided to U.S. police departments.
Additionally, it is helpful to look at the training that several police departments in the U.S. receive. Israel, which has institutional racism built into its laws, discriminating against Africans and Arabs, and has one of the most brutal military systems in the world, has trained numerous police departments in the United States.
As police departments become more and more militarized, the justice department seems to follow suit. Groucho Marx once said that “Military justice is to justice as military music is to music”. In the military, the justice system is a system apart from civilian justice. Now, it seems, the rules of justice for police officers is also a system apart.
Internationally, the U.S. continues to disgrace itself with racism. A year ago, three Israeli settlers went missing and were found dead. Even before their deaths were announced, Israel was raiding homes in the West Bank, arresting hundreds of people, and increasing the rate of terrorism it normally perpetrates. The U.S. financed and supported its every move, including the genocidal bombing of the Gaza Strip that followed. This year alone, dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israelis, either IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces; read: terrorists), or illegal settlers (also terrorists). The U.S. has not raised a word in objection. But it continues to bomb mainly Arab countries, calling its innocent victims terrorists.
So are the police and what passes for the justice system working together to assure a peaceful, repressed, white-majority rule in the U.S? War-mongering seems to work so well (although not with complete success) in keeping Third World countries from opposing their U.S.-backed dictators, so perhaps domestic fear-mongering will help to keep the poor from demanding basic rights. And what better way to instill and maintain that fear than arbitrarily shooting perceived members of the poor?
What must be done to change this dynamic? It won’t be done through the courts; the hens will get nothing by appealing to the foxes. Legislation will accomplish nothing; civil rights laws are on the books, but they are interpreted by the justice system. Continued, strong and sustained resistance, coupled with education, is the only possible answer. Sadly, more blood from the bullet-ridden bodies of people of color will be spilled, because of and during this resistance. Yet it appears increasingly that there is no other way.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).