author – activist – faculty – mom
When I was a kid, my mom worked as a civil rights attorney who took mostly police abuse and discrimination cases. I grew up hearing about police brutality around the dinner table. My mom also worked, on a few occasions, with black police officers who were brave and broke the code of silence to blow the whistle on other cops. I grew up understanding that cops are people and vary, but the police as an institution are a source of violence and terror to many people of color.
Ferguson, MO is a suburb of St. Louis and the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown there is just the latest tragedy and outrage in the devastatingly regular murder of young black men by police (or people self-appointed as such). Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Rodney King…the list goes on and on, and includes women and other people of color, but primarily young black men.
The mainstream has always attempted to paint the victims as dangerous in order to justify police violence against them. But since the videotaped beating of Rodney King in the early 90s, and the advent of camera phones, that argument is harder to support.
The next defense is to paint the officers as the isolated, inevitable bad apples in the overall good bunch. But this is an institutional problem, national in scope, that is an inherent part if our criminal legal system.
What we see in Ferguson is cops doing their job, and their job is maintaining order. Not maintaining peace, but maintaining the social order. When we see cops moving in to quiet, residential streets, and dropping tear gas on residents’ front lawns, we see them maintaining the social order. These are the tools of crushing dissent. This is a massive retaliation against a community that dared to demand an explanation and show its rage. Oppressed people in our society are not allowed to show our rage against the persons or property of the wealthy without massive retaliation. The imbalance in Ferguson shows whose interests the police are protecting, and at whose expense.
to be continued…