In order to understand police violence, we need to realize who the cops and justice system really work for
There was a time when people arrested in the United States were presumed innocent until proven guilty. Well, some people were presumed innocent… as long as they were light-skinned, dressed appropriately and had money in their wallets.
There’s always been something of a white supremacist aspect to the inappropriately named judicial system of the U.S. (I’ve often wondered how we’ve allowed such a disconnect between the terms judicial and justice to come about).
After all, the country was founded on genocide, nurtured on slavery and grown fat on a smorgasbord of oppression. Immigrants are conditioned to obey the doctrine of the dominant culture in order to be conveniently fit into the machinery of an economic system directed toward a modern version of feudalism.
The recent media coverage of black men being murdered by police around the country has placed the brutality of this institutionalized racism under a microscope. Some believe it is a new phenomenon. It most certainly is not. What is relatively new is the appallingly hateful disdain for civil rights of corporate media hacks explaining it away as if it’s somehow acceptable.
This, of course, is part of the aforementioned conditioning process. It’s difficult to track trends in the number of murders of innocent people by police in most U.S. cities. Statistics on it are, at best, sketchy. That’s one of the problems with allowing the police to police themselves. Illegal tactics are ignored while heroic deeds are given as much media coverage as possible. Civilian oversight is necessary, but has always been fought tooth and nail by police departments and the security-obsessed politicians they are able to purchase.
In 1992, New York City Mayor David Dinkins made plans to put in place a Civilian Complaint Review Board in an attempt to curtail the rampant abuse by police. Naturally, NYPD wasn’t happy despite the fact that police personnel would be appointed to three of the seven positions on the board.
They showed their vehement opposition to the proposal by demonstrating in front of city hall. The protest got out of hand with officers drinking alcohol and directing racial epithets at New York City’s first African-American mayor. Traffic was blocked at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge and police broke through barricades like drunken teenagers at a rock concert.
To make things worse, mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani joined the protest to curry favor with the white, pro law enforcement base of the Republican Party. America’s Fascist Mayor not only supported the police, Giuliani later accused Mayor Dinkins of using “desperate and offensive” language. It was a blatant attempt to polarize the city and capitalize on white fear of rising crime rates.
When he became mayor a year later, he initiated a local war on drugs that targeted minority neighborhoods. All it accomplished was to increase city revenue at the expense of people who couldn’t afford it, put more non-violent “offenders” in jail and create an atmosphere of constant tension between police and the people they were hired to protect.
Meanwhile, the review board they were so adamantly opposed to was not given any enforcement power. They were only sanctioned to make recommendations to the police department on which complaints were valid. Today, it is nothing more than a large bureaucracy that serves as public relations for the police.
This is typical of our approach to problems in society. We don’t solve problems, we figure out a way to profit from them. Our societal system is simply an economic system. All else is secondary. Our idea of progress has been transformed from one of improving our lives to one of mindlessly competing for wealth.
The U.S. government can be seen as a board of directors. Elections are now selections. Policing is geared toward protecting property instead of protecting people which makes human rights subservient to commerce. And, what’s happening in our streets is merely a reflection of what is happening in our courts. Police brutality is an inevitable extension of judicial brutality.
This is because we live in a world in which the judicial system has been corporatized. Like everything else in a capitalist society, freedom has become a commodity. Legislation is designed with an eye on the bottom line. Privatization has swept all pretense of democracy under the rug and we’re left with a system that sells civil rights like junk bonds and credit default swaps. Stock market futures take precedence over people’s futures.
Judges may as well be stock brokers. Defense attorneys and prosecutors are like greedy shareholders fighting over stock options and dividends. And, people are merely components of the product being sold.
Like all successful industries, marketing is key. We hear about crime rates, corrupt politicians and police brutality quite often in the media. These issues sell very well by keeping millions of eyes glued to television and computer screens every day.
The ruling class, experts at designing a dysfunctional society that’s easily manipulated, happily approve of these types of stories. They spread fear and anger which contribute to dividing society into easily digestible pieces. This, in turn, keeps us misdirected from seeing the root of the problems and convinces people to buy more guns, security systems, insurance policies and locks. And to keep watching entertainment disguised as news.
If we’re fighting over imagined problems fed to us by corporate media, we’ll never come up with valid solutions to our real problems – an economy at the mercy of predators and a judicial system that profits from poverty. Until then, corruption and systemic racism will corrode our perceived democracy. Our criminal justice system will continue to be more of a criminal system than a justice system. And, we’ll continue to have more of our young black men graduate from prison rather than from college.