Monday, May 11, 2015

We shouldn't forget the cesspool of racism from which "bad" cops arrise

I happened to encounter a “secret history” of the Ku Klux Klan on television this past weekend. What surprised me more than anything is not that the modern Klan has morphed into offshoots like the so-called “Patriot,” “Minuteman” and various “militia” movements, but the fact that their spokespersons try to make their message of hate sound “reasonable.” They are just speaking up for the “rights” of white people. It was like something I heard said by a white male while I was in the Army; there was something on the radio about Black History Month, and he wanted to know why there wasn’t a “White History” month. I was the only one in area to hear it (the coward), but I chose to respond to it: “Because every other month is ‘White History’ month."

I am tired of being asked to consider things like this to be “isolated” cases, not indicative of the attitude of the dominant society as a whole. An investigation by a U.S. Attorney in California charged some San Francisco police officers with racial bias, calling into questions the motivations behind 100,000 arrests for largely petty crimes and likely fabricated evidence. Texts between the officers—particularly from an officer named Ian Furminger, who looks like a Nazi—painted an ugly picture: 

“We got two blacks at my boys [sic] school and they are brother and sister! There cause dad works for the school district and I am watching them like hawks.” "Do you celebrate quanza at your school? Yeah we burn the cross on the field! Then we celebrate Whitemas." "Those guys (black cops) are pretty stupid! Ask some dumb ass questions you would expect from a black rookie! Sorry if they are your buddies!" "The buffalo soldier was asked why the Indians Wouldnt  shoot the niggers that found for the confederate They thought they were sacred buffalo and not human." "I am leaving it like it is, painting KKK on the sides and calling it a day!" "Cross burning lowers blood pressure! I did the test myself!" "All niggers must fucking hang. Ask my 6 year old what he thinks about Obama." "I hate to tell you this but my wife friend is over with their kids and her husband is black! If [sic] is an Attorney but should I be worried?...Get ur pocket gun. Keep it available in case the monkey returns to his roots. Its not against the law to put an animal down…Well said!"

Besides seeing how a six-year-old learns how to be a racist, this kind of talk obviously isn’t “shocking” in light of recent instances of police use of force abuses; but it would be wrong to isolate the attitude of (some) police from the wider cesspool from which many of them  emerged. After all, they have to “deal” personally with “those people”—if they are actually “people” in their minds—that their bigoted family and friends hope to avoid being “forced” to encounter whenever they step outside their “safe” homes and neighborhoods. These are the people who do double-takes when they see you walking nearby, wondering if their remembered to lock their car doors, or the ones who act as if you are invisible, or the ones who give you the evil eye. One can ask if many police officers are racist to begin with, why did they join the force knowing they would have to “deal” with minorities? The answer, obviously, is no different from white supremacists training for the next “race war.” 

While the white media focuses on the abuses of individual police--that is, when they are not acting as if in that relatively rare instance when a police officer is shot you'd think the president was assassinated--they don’t talk about the wider society from which they sprung. Whenever there is an attack by a Muslim in this country, there is the search for “links” with other groups. When a right-wing extremist commits a domestic terrorist act, it’s always the “lone nut” theory; nobody examines the ideology from which the act sprung, or the level of “secret” support it received. Remember that massacre of 69 Norwegians attending a liberal party youth camp in 2011? Are we really supposed to believe that the far-right extremist killer was only acting for himself? He certainly didn’t believe so; Anders Behring Breivik claimed that he acted out of “necessity,” and he was sentenced to only 21 years in prison. The police were also accused of being “tardy” in their response to the massacre while it was in progress.

What about the Oklahoma City bombing? Timothy McVeigh, wanting to seen as a “martyr” to the “cause,” named no names and sought to be executed immediately. But as his first attorney said, the FBI in its initial investigation apparently followed orders to limit its scope. “I think he clearly aggrandized his role, enlarged it, to cover for others who were involved,” said Steve Jones. Those others” obviously included McVeigh’s friends in the anti-government/white supremacist compound of Elohim City.

In fact, the Associated Press reported that “hotel receipts, a speeding ticket, prisoner interviews, informant reports and phone records” indicated that "members of Elohim City are involved either directly or indirectly through conspiracy...that members who were present when McVeigh called were familiar with explosives and had made a videotape three months before McVeigh struck vowing a war against the federal government and promising a ‘courthouse massacre’”…that members of Elohim City were “discussing bombing a federal building in Oklahoma.” An informant reported from that members discussed inventing alibis for themselves for the day of the bombing.

That no attempt was made to bring this extremist group preparing for “war” to account is yet another mystery of the allegedly “liberal” Clinton administration—you know, the one that made the disastrous decision to allow the Glass-Steagall Act to lapse, leading to the worst economic crisis this country has faced since the Great Depression, and “worked” with a Republican Congress to fill the nation’s prisons with non-violent offenders, and destroying lives in the process. 

But that begs the question of why we should be “surprised” by any of this. Sure, most people just want to get by without anyone getting in the way. But it is also true that bigots and racists prefer others to “dirty” their hands in protecting what is theirs by “privilege.” Police don’t act in a social “vacuum”; we have seen too many unjustified shootings declared to be “justified” when all-white inquest and grand juries get ahold those cases. 62 percent of whites voted for Mitt Romney in this past presidential election; a similar percentage voted for Klansman/neo-Nazi David Duke for governor of Louisiana 25 year ago. What were the people who voted for him thinking? They were “normal” people, right? I would like such people to “explain” themselves. Although I’ll give racist white women “credit” for being less likely to conceal their hate (as putrid and unadulterated by reason as it is) through silence, for the rest, I would ask what are you thinking, for example, when you give me the “evil eye”?

The answer, of course, would only reveal their ignorance. But then again, what chance do people like me have against the ignorance of 99 percent of all the people we encounter every day?

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