8. Black communities, both because of race and class inequalities, suffer under aggressive and hostile police tactics. The militarization of the United States’ police departments is a national problem. This dynamic is amplified in Black communities, where for decades, American police departments have viewed them as territories to be “conquered” and its citizens as “enemy insurgents” or “combatants”. Because police see Black communities—and their residents—as threats, they are much more likely to use violence and draconian tactics against them.
9. Recent work by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a think tank and social justice research and advocacy organization, reveals how police, street vigilantes, or security guards have killed one Black person every 28 hours.
A common scenario involves the police shooting and killing unarmed Black people who are holding harmless objects in their hands—with the former claiming that they thought that a wallet, house keys, or even a telephone were “guns” or other “dangerous” objects.
Psychologists have conducted research which suggests that implicit racial bias influences how White people (and others) may actually “see” non-Whites in a negative manner. Thus, the subconscious thinking processes of White people may actually be transforming Black people into threats where none actually exist.
Other research complements this disturbing finding: researchers at the University of Chicago and elsewhere have reported that White police officers (and others) are influenced by racial bias in their decision-making processes regarding when and if to shoot (unarmed) Black people. The research on implicit bias and racial attitudes indicates that White racial animus and subconscious racism influences how police interact with Black people—often with deadly results.
10. As Assistant Professor Vesla Weaver of Yale University deftly argued in an excellent piece for the Boston Review, Black Americans who live in low income and working class communities are denied the full rights of citizenship by an expansive, punitive, and intrusive state bureaucracy and legal system. Consequently, police are much more likely to come in contact with innocent Black people than they are Whites who are involved in criminal behavior.
As a result, White criminals are more likely to be ignored by police; innocent Black people are harassed and often arrested by the police.
Blackness is judged by the White Gaze as de facto criminality. Whiteness is judged by the White Gaze as innocent and harmless.
This racist logic creates a type of path dependency that justifies the disproportionate incarceration, harassment, and killing of Black people by the police. In a perverse twist, the over-policing of innocent Black people also offers protection for the White criminals who prey on the White community. The police reportedly have a saying that, “I’d rather be judged by 12, than carried by 6”. The governing logic is simple: if in doubt, shoot and kill someone because you would rather be alive and put on trial, than be dead and in the ground. That logic is increasingly applied in an unrestrained manner by police who see the Black body as a primordial and imminent threat, and consequently do not hesitate to use lethal, and very often, unjustified force against it.
The police channeled this racism to kill Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
The killing of unarmed Black people by American police is a human rights issue. It should also be a concern for all people, on all sides of the color line, who care about civil liberties, rights, and freedom. Why? The terrorizing of Black communities is a preview of what a militarized and fully unleashed police department, enlisted in the service of the surveillance society and a culture of cruelty, can (and will) do to White Americans in the future.
By: Chauncey DeVega
Mr. DeVega is the editor and founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes