Why We Should Avoid Discussions of Race When It Comes to Police Abuse
It is a mistake to focus on “race” in the debate of police abuse as we’ve been seeing with the recent shooting of Walter Brown at the hands of a South Carolina police officer named Michael Slager as well as the countless other shootings within the past year.
As a black man who grew up in a housing project in Brooklyn, New York, I’m very much familiar with conflicts between the cops and the people, particularly the non-white people that they police in this city.
I don’t believe I’ve ever had contact with New York City police that I would characterize as lawful, peaceful, appropriate, or even safe, for the most part. My experience with police in this city, much of it documented onthis site, has been demeaning, destructive on multiple levels, generally terrorizing, and occasionally violent.
Yet not because I’m a threatening kind of guy, I’m actually a bit timid, and on the small end of the physical scale, nor is it because I’m a wanton criminal.
I believe that my experience with police in this city is due to how I’m perceived by police in terms of “race”, and socioeconomic class, which is more like cast, that I exist within. So, I don’t deny for a second that cops are motivated by a bias against some of the people they police.
However, are their motives an issue that we should spend any real energy addressing?
Do we gain anything in identifying the reasons why a cop abuses a person?
Does it really matter if the cop is motivated by a bias against the victim of the abuse, as opposed to abusing people because the cop finds it to be amusing, or simply for overtime, or any number of other reasons?
Abuse, especially when it’s a crime, does not require that the people admit a motive. Doing so, in fact, can and, has harmed efforts to obtain real solutions.
Let’s look at the “Black Lives Matter” movement, if it can be called that, and the killing of Eric Garner on Staten Island in specific. I think the Garner case is particularly interesting because, as I see it, just about everyone has gotten it wrong, focusing on everything except that which is most important.
According to the NYPD, Eric Garner was the loosie-man, the guy on the street who earned a buck selling loose cigarettes from a pack, and the whole pack if the buyer wanted an entire pack. The police claimed that people in the neighborhood had made calls to the city complaining about his activity. I have not looked into the accuracy of this account, but in my experience, that account isn’t entirely accurate in that it’s highly unlikely that the people of that neighborhood made any complaints about Mr. Garners activities.
Apparently he was well-known and liked by many. After all, he was the loosie-man.
It’s more likely that any complaints about Mr. Garner came from local businesses, and not because Mr. Garner was a nuisance, but because he posed competition to local shops that are prohibited from selling loose cigarettes. The market for loose cigarettes in NYC is a prominent one that goes back decades, and was once the exclusive market of local “legitimate” businesses until the city cracked down on it.
In fact, it struck me as a bit odd the emphasis placed on the assertion that the cigarettes that were allegedly being sold by Mr. Garner were “untaxed” cigarettes, as if the tax status made any difference to cops who make these kinds of arrest. This while the Civil Rights “Leaders”, and politicians of little to no integrity, were placing the emphasis on the police use of a banned choke-hold, and the issue of “race”.
Hence the never ending great debate to nowhere, the same discussion we’ve been having for decades; cop harms a person, the cop goes free and the city hands over chump-change, and all is forgotten until the inevitable next time. No solution, no growth, just pain.
I would suggest to you that the reason there has been no real solution is because of those who are the primary talking heads in the debate, those on both sides of the issue, but mainly those who we had believed to be on our side; the prominent black and brown (for the most part) political, social, and civil rights leadership.
They like to keep us focused on the issue of “race,” knowing that doing so would solve nothing. If you are fighting for the cure, the well runs dry after you’ve discovered the cure. It may help you to understand this point if you look at “racism” as if it were a cancer, and the “Black Leaders” as researchers in the field of cancer research searching for a cure.
The 300-pound gorilla in the room, if you will, is not “race”. It is Unconstitutional Policing (point to any case of police abuse in this country and you’ll discover unconstitutional policing). It may come as a shock to you to learn that the entire police initiative in the Garner incident was wholly unconstitutional, from start to finish. In other words: wholly unlawful.
Yes, I’m telling you that Eric Garner committed no crime, and did absolutely nothing to give those cop cause to lawfully arrest him. In the video, the first cop articulates his cause to engage Mr. Garner, saying that he had witnessed Mr. Garner sell one cigarette to someone who was no longer on the scene. This claim was likely a lie given the facts that we now know. But even if his claim were true, what in that gave rise to a lawful arrest? Eric Garner committed no more of a crime than a woman selling “untaxed” loose tampons outside of a night club.
The fact that the NYPD attempts to justify their actions by referencing a “tax law” that would not have applied to Mr. Garner in any way, just makes matters worse as it suggest that Mr. Garner died because he failed to pay the boss, the tax man. And it raises even more questions, such as: how often do those cops enforce tax codes?
How many “legitimate” businesses do the NYPD visit to enforce tax codes? Or, how many white people have the NYPD killed for tax evasion? The fact is that absent a warrant, the NYPD has no lawful authority to arrest anyone for a tax code violation.
“Our Leaders” have been doing very well for themselves; they are rewarded for keeping the hamsters on the wheel. Their job is to keep us misdirected, focused on that which really does not matter, and away from any real power to change our condition. How else do you explain these well schooled, highly intelligent, many with law degrees, leaders of our people not telling us some very fundamental things in our struggle against police oppression like:
- The police don’t take an oath to “Protect and Serve”, but an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution, and that binds each of them under the Constitution.
- The Constitution tells us there is no crime without an injured party.
- The Constitution tells us that cops can’t arrest people without a warrant unless the people commit a crime.
- Arresting a person for selling a cigarette is committing an act of war against the Constitution, which is treason.
- They all know this so why has none of our leaders mentioned this?
There is a solid solution in our fight against Abuse from Police, it’s not in identifying the “racist”, it’s in understanding our Constitution. Cops can do nothing that is not Constitutionally permissible, and as it stands, the majority of what they do is not permissible under the Constitution.
I personally do not care if a cop is the certified grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, I do care if that cop honors his oath of office.
I don’t care if he honors the commitments he made with his God, I care that he honors his oath of office.
I don’t care if he likes me or hates me, I care that he honors his oath of office.
Let’s be clear, The United States Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land, there is no state law, statute, rule, regulation, or code equal to, or supersedes the U.S. Constitution. There is no police officer nor police department that has any authority over the Constitution. The U.S. Constitution is a restraining, barbed, chain tightly placed on the throat of the police. We the People are obliged to pull that chain and restrain the police. We have not done that because our “leaders” would have us believe that it is only they who can do this.
Focusing on “race” in the matter is virtually pointless. It may feel as if we’re waging a real war, but if this were true, would the war not have ended years ago?
I would urge anyone who is sincere in wanting to beat down and eradicate police oppression, and repression, to use their energy wisely. Pick up a copy of the U.S. Constitution, read it, learn it, appreciate it.
Maybe then we can stop crying to the government that “Black Lives Matter!” and begin demanding them to “Honor Your Oath!”.