Police Brutality

Ever since Derek Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for upwards of eight minutes, there have been non-stop demonstrations in protest. Yes, there were indeed violence and property damage the first two nights, but the overwhelming majority of the millions who have come out all over the world and in cities and large and small town across the USA are simply fed up with the unjust status quo and determined to make a change. True to form, lovers of the way things are now are attempting to smear the ninety-nine percent who are exercising their legitimate right to protest. Remember that pesky old First Amendment? There’s a reason it comes before the Second, and it isn’t numerical.

Will these mighty demonstrations work? They might not if our “Law and Order” president has his way and deploys more of his HHS goons to other cities.

But this isn’t the first time the problem has surfaced. In 1946, Karl Gunnar Myrdal, a European scholar and Nobel Prize winner, concluded in his classic, multi-volume study of racism in America, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy:

“A more serious matter is the treatment of Negroes. More likely than whites to be arrested under any suspicious circumstances, accorded discourteous and brutal treatment, the killing of Negroes by police is high in many Northern cities, particularly Detroit. Negroes have a seriously high criminal record and the average white policeman in inclined to increase it even more in his imagination.” (emphasis added)

In February 1968,  the Kerner Commission warned that blacks “firmly believe that police brutality and harassment occur repeatedly in Negro neighborhoods. This belief is unquestionably one of the major reasons for intense Negro resentment against the police.” The commission was authorized after riots in more than 100 US cities in 1997. The Commission reached another fundamental conclusion: “Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. What white Americans have never understood –but the Negro can never forget–is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

An outside body, the UN The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, reporting on its January 2016 visit to the United States, viewed the problem from an outsider’s perspective, expressing “deep concerned at the  alarming  levels of police brutality and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement officials, committed with impunity against people of African descent in the United States.”

Finally, in its June 2020 issue, Time magazine observed: “the slightest and smallest level of alleged misconduct or suspicious behavior is suitable to justify the police killer’s unreasonable fear.” Often, killing unarmed blacks is justified by describing their past misconduct. Many believe that victims of summary execution somehow deserve their fate. Policing is a dangerous and often thankless profession, but police must be held accountable when their actions result in unjustified homicide. According to Mapping Police Violence, ninety-nine percent of police-involved in fatal shootings did not face charges.

While each individual incident may not convince some that there is indeed a problem, the consistent addition of individual cases makes it crystal clear that we are dealing with a problem of colossal proportions. This may have gone on for a very long time, but it cannot continue indefinitely. Biased policing is a problem that is damaging the soul of America and racist policing is even more pronounced against Native Americans.

Appendix Five of my new book, African Americans in American History, explores this problem in depth. It is not pleasant reading, but I will post some parts separately.

LeBron James’ call to vote: your life depends on it!

Gene Betit

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