AFRICANGLOBE – Yet we have another beating by a police officer of an unarmed, apparently non-resisting civilian. There’s yet another video that captures the assault it in all its graphic, violent and brutal detail. And yet, as is increasingly the case, the victim is a Black woman.
In this case, the victim was pummeled lying face up on the ground on the side of a Los Angeles freeway by a California Highway Patrol officer. CHP officials initially said and did nothing about the beating, even though it occurred in broad daylight and was witnessed by a countless number of motorists and an eyewitness in a neighboring building. It took the video going viral, and a call for a federal probe of the beating and the suspension of the officer caught hammering the woman to get the faint response from the CHP officials that they were “investigating.” This all too familiar pattern has become the template for these types of blatant abuses of police authority. There’s a beating, a videotape that exposes it, and then a terse statement from officials that it’s under investigation. Then weeks or months later, the case is quietly closed and no action is taken.
This, of course, doesn’t answer the larger and even more disturbing question and that is what, if any, role race and gender plays in these repeated assaults under the color of law. The CHP freeway beating that prompts this question was not an aberration. In recent months, videos have caught an Arizona State University police officer body-slamming a tenured and respected African-American female professor at the university to the ground as she crossed a street. Another video caught a Clayton County, Georgia off-duty officer spitting on and then punctuated that with an N-word verbal harangue of an African-American female motorist. The pattern was the same as with the CHP beating. Officials initially said and did nothing until the inevitable outcry after the video was shown forced them to take some action.
The horrid history of racial stereotyping, profiling if you will, that indelibly links crime and violence with African-Americans can’t be ignored in trying to answer the question about why now African-American women are fair game for physical abuse by police officers. The feminization of racial stereotyping has had a gripping effect. While Black men are frequently typed as violent, drug dealing “gangstas,” Black women are typed as sexually loose, conniving, and untrustworthy. The victim of the CHP brutal assault, for instance, reportedly was identified as a woman who had drug and mental challenges and lived in a group home. These characterizations of the female victims of police abuse reinforce the belief of many that Black women offenders are menaces to society too. Much of the public and many in law enforcement are deeply rapped in the damaging cycle of myths, misconceptions, crime, fear and hysteria about crime-on-the-loose women.
This also has cost lives. The victim of the CHP beating despite the abuse and battering is still alive. Others haven’t been so lucky. In the past few years, the number of Black women that have been slain by police in several cities has at times drawn headlines and protests. This is separate from the endless tales of Black women who have been beaten, tasered and threatened during routine stops or street searches by police officers often with no charges filed against them, or whatever charges were filed were soon dismissed.
The Black women, though, that have been killed by police had all seemed to have one thing in common. They were unarmed, and in nearly all the cases were not committing a crime. They also had one other thing in common: In each case, there were endless and predictable efforts to dig up any and every bit of damaging information about their history or lifestyle to in effect virtually blame them for their own unjustified murder.
This is a crass, cynical, and classic “blame-the-victim-for-their-own-demise” ploy. The sad thing is that it has worked. The public’s initial horror at the killing or beating quickly hardens into heaping negative aspersions on the victim. This insures that apart from whatever action if any authorities take against the abusive officer there will be minimal or no effort made to totally review and revamp training, policies and procedures by departments to reduce the use of excessive force by officers. A woman walking on a freeway in broad daylight desperately needs urgent care, treatment, and services to deal with the mental distress. A beating hardly fills that prescription.
The ball is now squarely in the California Highway Patrol’s court. It must take swift and firm action against the officer that used excessive force. This will send the message that at least this is one woman, a Black woman, who should never have had the ugly glare following her assault cast on her.
By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson