04 May 2015

Police, and Politics

When I was young, long and long ago, police were in the business of enforcing laws. If, I was taught, one behaved one's self, obeyed the laws, and participated in the process of creating laws, we had nothing to fear. I now know, albeit I did not in the late 40's and early 50's, that black children did not hear that. They were told, especially in the South, but all across America, that police represent an enforcement arm of a white political power structure. In some sense, both views were and remain true.

What has changed is the level of irrational fear expressed in the way we instruct and arm police: the content of the power structure's instructions. None of the changes look all that good of a morning.

From Florida to Missouri, to Maryland, the last two years have shown us that for a great many people, black lives do not matter. In New York and Missouri, dead black men do not even generate court cases, even in the face of damning video evidence. In New York, killers, if they are cops, are defended by other cops. In Baltimore, the union has been franticly trying to keep possible killers out of court. We have some real, major issues.

Yes I am aware that Mr. Obama is black. I also knew that in the midst of Jim Crow laws, de jure segregation, and a white population capable of calling someone, "a credit to their race," America found it possible to celebrate Ralph Metcalfe and Jessie Owens' achievements at the 1932 Olympics. We seem quite capable of having the singular black American success. while maintaining the oppression of the community.

We need several things.

We need to ask ourselves how in the world we reached a point where the weapons systems in places like Ferguson have become not the necessary tools of law enforcement, but rather the military weapons of combat and repression. Legitimate police functions do not require combat vehicles armed with .50cal machine guns. The program under which the Pentagon sells off combat equipment to police departments should be the first casualty of reform.

We need to finally begin to reverse the incredibly draconian drug laws that make such very small violations a big deal. The single most odious of these may be the law that treats Crack as somehow different. At the time that provision slithered into the US Criminal Code, and today, the simple fact that Whites generally do not use Crack, while it is the Cocaine form of choice in Black communities was either ignored, or by some racists, celebrated. It is time to fix this.

My view is that if you have a war, you need to keep track of who is winning. In the war on drugs, there are winners: prison construction and staffing companies, and their employe's unions, are winners. Makers of certain weapons are winners, either because police want them, fearful citizens want them, or because they have., "street cred." Foreign cartels in Central and Southern America have been short-term beneficiaries. I think this comes under the heading of, special interest constituencies. The losers, the one-third of black men who experience prison growing up, the communities whose farm economies are devastated by the cultivation of drugs. Mexico in particular, is a loser. Americans do not note the reverse smuggling of weapons into Mexico and the violence that results. Mexican police find it hard to take seriously the idea that American cops are at risk. Which lead to other losers, as our police are indeed at risk.

WE know it does not have to be this way. We can move from penal to treatment responses to drugs. We have examples in Switzerland, England, and Belguim. We know this idiot war is not necessary.

We need to stop blaming Black families for the social ills repression and poverty visit on Black families. When dad was a young boy, during the Great Depression, his dad left the family. We have never to this day, heard from him or of his fate. The depression put huge economic strains on families, and some buckled. Decades later, I have encountered family members, who should know better, who blame black family issues on black families but my grandfather's conduct on poverty.

Here is a simple truth: the economy is a mess that only benefits rich people. Somehow, using a mix of fundamentalism and fear, the super rich, or at least some of them (cf. Koch Brothers) have co-opted enough of the voters to sell the laughable were it not tragic idea that poor people choose to be poor. The idiot idea that blacks who cannot get jobs choose to sell drugs not because there is nothing else, but because they "do not want to work."

It is time, and past time, to put the blame where it belongs. Yes some black men break laws, and yes most police are good people doing a tough job. But we have over-loaded the cops with a population that feels oppressed precisely because it is. When that population blows up, as it inevitably does, the reaction of the power elite (especially the Republican power elite) is to want more weapons of repression, more repression, and less freedom, all paid for from reduced, "failed programs."

The system is broken. We need to fix it. And we need to do that so that all of us, yes even those in prison, have both a voice and a stake. Otherwise, Ferguson and Baltimore are coming to a city near you -- soon.

No comments:

St Laika's

Click to view my Personality Profile page