Police Brutality

3 Benefits of a National Conversation about Black Males and Police Power

Police Abuse of Power

(Photo Credit: Ripp Dem Up)

Too many Black male lives are being lost at the hands of White police officers abusing their power.  The lives of Black boys and men matter.  Their lives matter enough to have a serious national discourse about how their lives are increasingly threatened by abused police power.  Democrats, Republicans and Independents must genuinely participate in this national conversation.  Police officers are charged with the noble responsibility of protecting and serving the American people—not doing unlawful harm to them.  Black boys and men are Americans and deserve the same equal and quality protection and service that every American has a right to enjoy.  Many White police officers, however, haven’t gotten the memo about their responsibility to apply justice equally and fairly among all Americans, including Black boys and men.  Clear thinking Americans must call for a national discourse to take place about abused police power and its impact on Black boys and men.  What follows is a list of three of many benefits of having a national discourse about the problems with many police officers abusing their power when interacting with Black boys and men.

1. Increase Confidence in Police Officers in Minority Communities

If more confidence in police officers is to emerge from minority communities across the nation, then an authentic national discourse about police abuse of power must take place.  Many racial and ethnic minorities want the nation to hear their voices about how they lack faith in numerous White police officers’ willingness to serve and protect them.  Many minorities posit that police officers are out for their destruction.  This hostility that exists between many in minority communities and the police can only be positively addressed by having a genuine national discourse about it, and then implementing policies at the local, state, and federal levels to respond to credible problems.

2. Dramatically Reduce the Number of Senseless Police Killings of Black Males

Again, the lives of Black boys and men matter.  Too many Black boys and men are being murdered by police officers because they’re being unfairly targeted by many White police officers.  If America doesn’t get serious about police officers’ unjustified killings of Black males, then this country is headed down a terrible and bloody road to race wars between Whites and Blacks, leading to unnecessary losses of precious lives.  A national discourse about these senseless murders of Black boys and men can lead to important solutions about how better to prevent and fight against these injustices.

3. Help to Improve Racial Divides between Blacks and Whites Caused by Police

Unfortunately, unnecessary walls are erected between numerous Blacks and Whites because of intentionally nefarious actions of White police officers against Black boys and men.  We shouldn’t allow the racism of many police officers to divide those of us who aren’t racists.  A national conversation about police abuse of power engenders an opportunity to separate the racists from the non-racists.

Conclusion

In America, we continue to avoid having the important discourses we need to have as a nation.  It seems that vital conversations needing to take place at the local, state, and federal levels aren’t happening because countless individuals lack the courage to engage in these difficult conversations.  The American people will grow more divided by avoiding essential race matters.  We don’t magically become more united by abandoning discussions about race—we continue to grow farther apart by neglecting frank discourses about race.

Let’s have an honest national conversation about police abuse of power when interacting with Black boys and men.  Our country will be better for having this conversation.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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No Country for Black Men: Oscar Grant’s Murder and Unjust Court Verdict

On January 1, 2009, Oscar Grant was murdered by an Oakland police officer Johnnes Mehserle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BART_Police_shooting_of_Oscar_Grant). Mehserle murdered an unarmed and handcuffed man on the ground. While he argues that Oscar Grant, a Black man, was resisting arrest and that he thought he was going for a gun in his pocket while on the ground, the murder of Oscar Grant is inexcusable. Mehserle claims that he was attempting to draw his Taser on Oscar Grant, but ended up “accidentally” pulling out his pistol and firing it and “accidentally” murdering Oscar Grant.  On July 8, 2010, the jury found Mehserle to be not guilty of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Are you kidding me? Mehserle’s sentencing date is scheduled for August 6, 2010.

Mehserle murdered Oscar Grant and the jury wants to say that it is involuntary manslaughter.  When is a Black man going to be considered a human being in a court of law? When will Black men be able to positively benefit from justice in a court of law? I am really not feeling too optimistic at this point. Not too long ago, a court of law sentenced former Atlanta Falcons quarterback and current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for 3 years for participating in dogfighting. Well, dang, dogs are receiving more justice in court than Black men. What’s wrong with these cops and their attacks on Black people? One would have thought that the beating that Rodney King suffered in the 1990s in Los Angeles would have resolved police brutality and abuse of power, but it seems that nothing has changed whatsoever.

Now, the White authorities in Oakland are seriously concerned about the significant number of Black people who are organizing to protest this verdict. Hmmm…so the White authorities are unsettled now? Well, Black people are really just exhausted with the history of mistreatment that they have been victimized by and they are simply preparing to retaliate against the power structure that enabled this verdict to be rendered in the first place: white supremacy. I fully support the protesters engaging in violent and revolutionary tactics to make their voices heard. A clear and strong message needs to be communicated that Black people are not going to allow their people to be constantly beaten and killed by police officers, predominately White police officers.

Some people are saying that during the sentencing stage Mehserle can be sentenced for about 10-12 years because of gun enhancements law that can be taken into account. Well, I certainly hope he does have to serve for 10-12 years, but what is unfair is Oscar Grant was murdered and will never be able to take another breath again. Mehserle, unfortunately, is able to breathe and will continue to have life. Involuntary manslaughter traditionally carries a 2 – 4 year sentence in prison. Unacceptable! Mehserle deserves the death penalty. If police officers, especially White ones, continue to unjustly murder Black people, then this is going to create an unnecessary Black national revolution; that is, a revolution where Black people are going to begin to murder White people, especially those in positions of power (See Frantz’s Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and A Dying Colonialism). Unfortunately, innocent Black and White people will be killed during this revolution. I never want to see a day when this happens. This is, therefore, why we have to do something as a nation to remedy this mistreatment of Black people by police officers, especially White police officers.

While I am very much pro-police officers and believe that most of them are very decent and hardworking people, there has to be federal legislation passed to severely punish police officers who abuse their power and who resort to brutality. Some White police officers across that nation are engaged in a war to terrorize Black people, which is something that is not new to Black people because we experienced this during the epoch of Jim Crow. One would think with a Black man as the President of the United States of America he would speak out against these too frequent injustices, but he has not done it (even during the Skip Gates incident he backed away from his comments against the White cop).

All I want my readers to know is Black men are human beings too. The life of a Black man is just as valuable as any other person living. I am tremendously angry about the murder of Oscar Grant, and we need serious reform when it comes to police discretion. All Americans should be outraged at this miscarriage of justice. To my readers who will not like some of the strong words I have penned in this article, I love you all but this is what Revolutionary Paideia is all about: to unsettle, unnerve, and unhouse!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

White Seattle Cop Viciously Punches Black Woman in the Face

Police Brutality

For those who know me truly well, they know that I am not a person who “plays the race card” or who simply sides with racial and ethnic minorities because I am African-American. In fact, on many issues, I have been and am at odds with what many of my fellow African-Americans believe. Although I had originally planned to post an article that I have been working on for some time now (on a less serious topic), the White male cop in Seattle who viciously punched a 19 year old African-American female in the face compelled me to offer an immediate response.

I am quite unsettled by the reality that a White Seattle cop used a vicious punch to the face of a 19 year old African-American female simply because she lightly put her hands on his hands to step between the argument between him and the other 17 year old African-American female. Both of the females were jaywalking and the cop was trying to give them both tickets. While I think that the cop was well within in his right to give both of the females tickets for jaywalking, I contend that he unnecessarily employed excessive force. Neither of the African-American females posed an imminent threat to him. From my perspective, he simply did not like what the females were saying to him and did not like the fact that the 19 year old Black female lightly touched him.

The Black female never should have lightly put her hands on his hands, but this light placement of her hands on his hands did not warrant the use of excessive force. He could have removed her hands without using such great force. As a Criminal Justice minor during my undergraduate studies, I gained a firm understanding of criminal law, especially concerning policing. I have, therefore, a serious understanding about the fact that police officers have discretion (what is called “police discretion”). Police discretion does not allow a police officer to resort to an abuse of his power. An example of an abuse of police power is an unnecessary use of force. The police officer launched himself to ensure that he was punching the young lady with all of his power. All of this force for an unarmed 19 year old Black female? Really? On a street named after Martin Luther King, Jr.? Are you kidding me?

A Seattle police spokesman stated that the police officer acted within his discretion and disclosed that it’s up to an individual officer when to use excessive force. The police department has not punished the officer in any way at this moment. The department has required the officer to review training guidelines to see if improvement can be made. I’m certainly glad to see that the police department is having him to review training guidelines to see if he could improve his performance, but this is simply not all that the department needs to do to address this police officer. The department needs to fire this man for his unprofessional behavior and abuse of power. This is not the first time that Seattle police officers have unnecessarily brutalized a Black woman. They have brutalized Black women and men in the past.  A pattern has conspicuously evolved.

This evolution of police brutality causes me to think that racism was an important factor in how the White police officer handled himself. A Seattle police spokesman claims that the officer became increasingly fearful of his safety as he was handling this issue on his own and there was a crowd of people around. The officer claims that this could have been a tragedy. The spokesman is right about one thing: this was a tragedy. What is tragic about this event is an unarmed Black female was viciously punched by a White police officer. How’s that for tragedy? The only thing that I can see that motivated this cop to react in the way he did is a deep gut bucket Mississippi Jim Crowism mentality. As I watched his face and his delivery of the punch, the punish itself seemed to communicate one word for me: Nigger! Let me be clear—I never heard him say that word, but his actions communicated that he was calling her that name.

Black women are twice a minority: Black and female. Sexism played a significant role in this matter because it seemed to me that he wanted to put her in a woman’s place, a Black woman’s place (in his mind): on her back. This punch evinced a true disregard for the Black woman’s body. When looking at this punch from a gender perspective, I also see that the punched communicated this message to the woman: filthy Black whore. This could explain why he did not want her touching him—no matter how light of a touching it was.

I urge the Seattle police department to fire this White police officer, Ian Walsh, and to develop a comprehensive plan to significantly diminish the chances of an incident like this from occurring again. Moreover, I urge all people who have been unsettled and unnerved by this incident to make sure that justice is served in this case. We have to remember what justice really is. Justice is what love looks like in public.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison