The worst hate group in the United States is not the Ku Klux Klan or any self-proclaimed alt-right group. The most racist, vicious, and deadly menace to black people in this country is law enforcement. The police, courts and prisons exist primarily to keep as many black people under control as possible. All other claims of usefulness are phony and cover up the racist cruelties inherent to their existence.
Every day one can be see videos of black people being humiliated, arrested, shot and beaten for minor infractions or for none at all. They may be driving, walking, eating, or shopping while black. They may be men, women, or children. The system is made to put as many victims through its maw as possible and all the photographic evidence in the world won’t stop it unless inconvenient truths are told. One of the worst is the reliance on the collaboration of black people who help keep the police state running.
The presence of black cops and elected officials doesn’t stem the tide of state sponsored terror. They are in fact put into these positions to defend the onslaught and to silence protest. The black chief of police in Philadelphia defended the now infamous arrest of two black men in a Starbucks café. Richard Ross initially said, “These officers did absolutely nothing wrong.” Ross was forced to back down and apologize for his Uncle Tomfoolery only after the Starbucks corporation did so as part of its damage control strategy.
Ross isn’t alone in showing subservience to modern day slave patrolling. A black teen in Warsaw, North Carolina, was beaten and choked by police at a Waffle House restaurant and that assault was also caught on camera. Mayor A.J. Connors went out of his way to defend the brutality. He created a video for the sole purpose of saying that the white police officer “Did what he had to do.” Most black officials aren’t stupid enough to express support for white supremacy out loud and in public but they may as well when they do nothing to help their people.
The black misleaders in city councils, Congress and state legislatures rarely assert any politics which are specific to black people. The one institution which impacts our lives the most, the carceral state, is treated as a sacred cow that they dare not touch. Their silence and inaction are tacit admissions that they know the danger to themselves and to the rest of us.
Even when there are positive developments such as the effort to end cash bail, the most important points are missed. It is good that attention is called to this pernicious practice of profiting off of black people’s bodies. But the protest should be against the police state itself that turns minor infractions into felonies and locks up people who should be free. Even those who are able to pay bail and attorneys fees end up devastated. A criminal record determines where or if a person can be employed or even where they are allowed to live.
Obviously, black officials know that speaking out against the police state jeopardizes their political careers and they know that the system expects to continue its assault on black people. And so they choose to acquiesce and condemn us all to constant danger.
If having black faces in high and not so high places doesn’t save our lives why should we support them at all? The rot runs deep and goes from Warsaw, North Carolina, to Capitol Hill. Most members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for the Trump administration’s $80 billion increase to the defense budget. Yet they simultaneously claim to be concerned about cuts to the safety net that are an inevitable consequence of what they supported. Most of them also supported maintaining the infamous 1033 defense program that provides military equipment to local police departments.
There is an even larger question here about the usefulness of the electoral process itself and the way black people function in it. Elected and appointed offices for black people are paths to permanent employment and lucrative opportunity. They make a deal to get as much as they can for themselves and the rest of us are on our own.
Beware the black person with a big job. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice made the case for killing over one million Iraqis. Police chiefs and mayors give police brutality the green light. They are as guilty as the killers they defend. It is up to us to call them all to account. Condemnation of the quislings is an absolute imperative.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.