Tag Archives: Michael Brown

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Violent, Racist Cops Protect a Violent, Racist System

Racism is complicated. When America’s most brilliant thinkers set out to explain its nature in terms as clear as the English language allows, as Michael Eric Dyson did in his searing July 7th essay “Death in Black and White,” even the relatively sophisticated readers of the New York Times didn’t get it. Commenters didn’t understand that Dyson wasn’t criticizing every white person, but “white America” — shorthand for a dominant power structure that is fundamentally racist while (of course) not every white person is.

If anti-racist white people take writing as straightforward as Dyson’s personally, if they take offense at his passion and so miss his message, is there any hope of “black America” and “white America” just getting along?

It’s been a hell of a week. Two more black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were gunned down by the police under the usual incomprehensible circumstances — events the media, and thus the government, are paying attention to only because someone invented the smartphone. Then a 25-year-old sniper, a veteran of America’s brutal war against Afghanistan, shot 12 police officers at a march in Dallas protesting the deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana. Five died.

Needless to say, the Dallas cops didn’t have it coming. They didn’t have anything to do with what happened in entirely different states.

Well, it shouldn’t need to be said. But it does. Because, no matter how many times we hear public officials tell us that the police protect and serve us, it doesn’t ring true. Three out of four African-Americans tell pollsters they don’t think police are held accountable for their actions. So do 40% of whites.

The truth is, Americans don’t like cops.

Let’s be honest. If we think about them at all, we don’t mourn the slain Dallas police officers as deeply as we did the children who died in the day care center blown up in Oklahoma City, or the nightclubbers murdered in Orlando.

We need to talk about why that is.

We have been hearing more about racial profiling, how blacks are targeted by police officers more than whites, how they are physically assaulted more often, how they are charged with more serious crimes for the same offenses, how they get longer prison sentences and harsher fines. Good. This discussion is long overdue. Way too many people still don’t get it.

It is right and proper to focus on Black Lives Matter. To say it. To believe it. A retort that All Lives Matter is far worse than pabulum. Because it distracts from a point that still hasn’t received proper consideration in the media or in electoral politics, All Lives Matter is racist. Even the first black president has addressed the racism behind police violence only in “it sure is sad, we should do better” niceties rather than meaningful, sweeping policy changes. (He could start with blanket presidential pardons of black inmates serving ridiculously long prison sentences.)     Black Lives Matter. That’s what we need to talk about now. For a good long time, too.

One possible place to start is the reaction of many people to the Dallas sniper attack. Like 9/11, it was shocking. Like 9/11, it also wasn’t surprising. You can’t go on acting like a bully forever. The powers that be can’t pressure their victims forever. Eventually the prey strike back. No, it isn’t justified. Nor is it right. But it is chickens coming home to roost.

Like the Bush Administration after 9/11 (“Why? Why do they hate us?”), the police and the political elites the police actually protects and serves look silly when they pretend that they can’t possibly imagine why anyone might dislike them. “There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement,” President Obama said after Dallas. No justification? Sure.

No possible justification? Before they blew him up with a robot bomb in an extrajudicial assassination (there weren’t any hostages), suspect Micah Johnson told police negotiators that he was “upset about the recent police shootings…[that] he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” You’d have to be especially thick, or really really white, not to see why a black guy might snap after watching the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile snuff videos.

Obama continued: “Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.” Naturally, Obama was referring only to justice for the murdered police officers. There’s never any justice for those murdered by police officers (c.f., Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, etc.).

There’s a lot to worry about in all this. As for me, I’m concerned that the true nature of the police, the roots of its brutality in its role as the armed guards of the ruling classes, has been obscured by the racial divide. Racism is real. It’s complicated.

So is class warfare.

Even if you are privileged as I am – white, male, able-bodied, Ivy League-educated – odds are that your interactions, like mine, with the police are generally unpleasant. Mostly, I run into them when they pull me over to give me a ticket. If I’m lucky, they are merely rude, overbearing, aggressive and condescending. Once in a blue moon, a cop manages to be merely gruff. And I’m lucky. I’ve seen the way cops act in black neighborhoods. It’s much, much worse. They’re disgusting.

I had a bad experience with a Los Angeles police officer in 2001. He arrested me for jaywalking — falsely. He roughed me up and handcuffed me. This being America, I couldn’t help wonder whether he might have targeted me because he was black and I was white. But he never said anything that indicated that. Maybe he had a quota to fill.

Black or white, the police are paid to oppress, not protect. Black or white, citizens have good cause to be afraid of them. That’s the nature of the system. It’s another reason the system has got to go.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Baltimore Riots Were Caused by Capitalism and Cops, Not Poverty

https://baltimorepovertypolicy.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/baltimorepoverty.jpg

The race riots that followed the recent murders of unarmed black men by police in places like Ferguson and Baltimore have liberal commentators and politicians placing the blame on poverty, specifically among inner-city African-Americans. This is an American tradition: progressives wrote similar editorials calling for antipoverty programs, and politicians issued (empty) promises to enact them, after the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles provoked rioting in the South Central neighborhood in the early 1990s, and following the even bigger urban conflagrations of 1968 in Detroit, Newark and Watts.

I grew up poor, and I have struggled financially. I hate poverty; I’m all for any government program that tries to mitigate the pain of not knowing whether one will be able eat, keep the electricity on, or avoid homelessness. Still, the poverty-causes-race-riots tautology is weird. What about the cops?

Baltimore was in trouble long before six police officers arrested Freddie Gray without cause, snapped his spine, gave him a so-called “rough ride” (handcuffed, unbuckled, driven wildly in order to bang you around) in a paddy wagon, and refused his repeated entreaties for medical attention. Too many of its citizens were dark-skinned, impoverished, underemployed, disenfranchised and victimized by gangs and drug dealers.

But it wasn’t a spontaneous outburst of class warfare that caused the riots — it was Gray’s murder by the police, and the authorities’ non-response. Ditto for Ferguson: no killing of Michael Brown by a cop, no riot.

Not that the liberals aren’t onto something: the police in Beverly Hills don’t shoot that many unarmed guys in the back, as they’re running away. Cops in the Hamptons don’t choke fat dudes, who aren’t going anywhere fast, to death on sidewalks in broad daylight. Police don’t mess with you if you’re rich and therefore powerful.

Cops in Baltimore kill unarmed non-suspects because they think they can get away with it. They think they can get away with it because they always have. They always have because unarmed non-suspects in Baltimore are poor.

The victims are poor because they’re black.

Pundits get it wrong when they try to explain the roots of poverty. “The real barriers to social mobility,” writes moderate Republican columnist David Brooks in The New York Times, “are matters of social psychology, the quality of relationships in a home that either encourage or discourage responsibility, future-oriented thinking, and practical ambition.”

In the same newspaper on the same day, Johns Hopkins history professor N.D.B. Connolly gets closer to the truth, pointing to structural racism with its roots in slavery. “The problem rests on the continued profitability of racism. Freddie Gray’s exposure to lead paint as a child, his suspected participation in the drug trade, and the relative confinement of black unrest to black communities during this week’s riot are all features of a city and a country that still segregate people along racial lines, to the financial enrichment of landlords, corner store merchants and other vendors selling second-rate goods.”

But Connolly falls short with his proposed solution when he calls for a “state of emergency” on “the problem of residential discrimination, by devising a fairer tax structure, by investing in public space, community policing, tenants’ rights and a government jobs program.” These would all be moves in the right direction, and I support them, but to pronounce window-dressing reforms “solutions” is ridiculous.

Yesterday, the day Baltimore’s dynamic young black district attorney filed charges including murder against her city’s six killer cops, was May 1st: International Workers Day. Which ought to have reminded editors at places like the Times ­— which has employed numerous far-right opinion columnists, but never a leftist — that poverty is caused by capitalism.

Liberals believe capitalism is a good system prone to excesses, which they propose to mitigate via reform and regulation: poverty, income inequality and racism associated with class are flaws in an otherwise laudable economic model.

But that’s not true. Poverty, and the racism that goes with it, are features, not bugs. The ruling classes require a permanent underclass to exploit directly, and serve as a warning to workers not to ask for big raises, shorter hours or other improvements in workplace conditions — be quiet, lest you wind up like them.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Wimpy Cops and Scared Soldiers: Why Are Americans Such Cowards?

America has a problem that afflicts both her foreign policy and domestic affairs: cowardice.A nation of wusses. That’s us.

That’s not how we see ourselves, of course. Whatever our flaws – impetuousness, naïveté, our sense of exceptionalism – few Americans count pusillanimity among them. For conservatives bravery as a national trait is a given; if anything, progressives wish we’d walk it back a bit, toning down the testosterone in favor of a little humility.

From the outside, however, we look like a nation happy to inflict all manner of mayhem on people all over the world, yet unwilling to put our own precious skins in the game.

Drones are the ultimate manifestation of America’s newfound risk aversion. After more than 12 years of remote-controlled aerial killer robot warfare, the statistics are undeniable: unmanned aerial vehicles are a ridiculously sloppy assassination method that kills anywhere from 28 to 49 times more innocent civilians than targeted alleged terrorists. With the myth of accuracy thoroughly debunked, drones remain popular with the public for one reason: they don’t expose American soldiers to return fire.

What we see as an advantage, however, sparks contempt among foreigners that our adversaries in this war for hearts and minds exploit in their recruitment and fundraising efforts. You see it in the faces of the Afghans and Pakistanis I have interviewed: if the United States military had any honor, they say, it would come and face our warriors man to man, on the battlefield, rather than pushing a button thousands of miles away. Every “terrorist” we blow up makes us look worse.

Moreover, cowardice is unproductive on a psychological level.

During the early years of the American occupation of Iraq, British forces (who patrolled the region around Basra) suffered lower casualty rates in the zones under their control than their American counterparts. One reason, according to military psychologists, is that British troops presented themselves as more willing to expose themselves to the Iraqi public and less afraid of being hurt or killed. Whereas US forces wore wrap-around sunglasses and set up checkpoints behind sandbags and blast walls, sometimes identifying themselves only by shooting at approaching cars – which caused confused Iraqis to floor the gas, prompting US forces to kill them – the Brits acted more relaxed, like traffic agents standing right out on the road. Americans covered themselves with Kevlar and automatic rifles; the British wore formfitting uniforms, eschewed helmets and satisfied themselves with sidearms. Sunglasses were banned. The American approach seemed safer, but the opposite was true. It’s easier to shoot at something – the Americans looked like fascist robots – than someone.

For a country that used to pride itself on a certain stoicism, the United States has become a land of whiny little boys and girls.

Oh, how we cried after 9/11. 3000 dead! Those “Wounded Warrior” TV ads asking for donations to support Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans – excuse me, but why am I spending 54% of my federal tax dollars on defense if I also have to donate to a sketchy charity? – use the same melancholy tone and weepy delivery as Sally Struthers’ classic “save the children” messages. Obviously, it sucks to lose your arms and legs, but let’s grow a pair. Fewer than 7,000 Americans got killed invading two countries they had no business in in the first place.

Let’s put those numbers into proper perspective, shall we? The Soviet Union lost 20 million people fighting the Nazis (who invaded them, by the way). France lost 11% of its population during World War I — the equivalent for us would be 34 million Americans. But the Russians or French don’t bitch and moan as much as us.

Speaking of which, Americans have a lot of balls calling Frenchman “surrender monkeys” considering that nearly twice as many French soldiers were killed in in the 1940 Battle of France over six weeks as the United States lost in Vietnam over the course of a decade. Meanwhile, we’re still whining about the 58,000 we lost in – no, invading – Vietnam.

Here at home, we’re infested with wimp cops.

In recent weeks, we have been treated to grand jury testimony in the shootings of two black men, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.

Both killer cops are bruisers — big, muscular guys. Most of all, they are cops. Cops have partners. They have the backing of the state. They carry tasers. They have nightsticks. They go to the police academy, where they train long hours in the art of subduing human beings. And as we well know, they have access to military style hardware and defensive gear.

As these two sniveling wimps tell the tales, however, they were in desperate fear of their lives.

From two guys, both now dead, who were morbidly obese.

Not to mention unarmed.

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (6’4″ 210) claimed that Brown (6’4″ 292) terrorized him. “I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he testified. Brown “had the most intense aggressive face,” he said. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

The NYPD’s Daniel Pantaleo told a grand jury that, after he got his arm around Garner, he was terrified that the two of them would crash through the thick glass window of a storefront they were leaning against.

Both grand juries declined to indict the cops.

Sure, these were the testimonies of two heavily lawyered defendants following a script that has gotten countless white policeman off the hook for killing unarmed black men in the past. But you still have to ask: aren’t those big “brave” policemen ashamed of themselves? I’m not sure which is worse, pretending to be afraid of an unarmed civilian – in the New York case, the guy wasn’t even resisting arrest – or the possibility that they actually were scared.

There’s nothing wrong with being scared in the face of danger. Bravery, after all, is the act of keeping cool in the face of danger.

In the United States in recent years, however, bravery has been in short supply – even in the face of very little danger at all.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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The System Works

In both the cases of the police officer who shot unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the one who strangled Eric Garner to death in Staten Island, New York, grand juries and prosecutors bent over backward to consider evidence that they might be guilty. What if the system treated blacks suspected of killing white cops with the same deference?

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The 7% Solution

From the New York Times, August 19, 2014: “Encouraging more participation in the democratic process in a community that feels alienated from political power – hence the demonstrations – seems like an obviously good idea; and one that’s particularly compelling because it’s so simple. Voting is an alternative to protesting in the streets.” The establishment, especially Democrats, are starting voter registration drives and using Ferguson as a rallying cry in black communities. According to the statistics, blacks are 7% short of no longer falling prey to trigger-happy white cops.

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Back to Normal

Pundits and politicians are looking forward to the “recovery” following race riots in Ferguson, Missouri. What will “back to normal” look like? Police randomly stopping young black men in the streets just because, checkpoints by heavily armed uniformed goons, police shootings of unarmed men, high unemployment and underemployment.

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Scramble the Jets! A Young Black Man is in Trouble!

President Obama suggested that My Brother’s Keeper, a broad coalition of backers of local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media that meets periodically at fancy resort hotels to discuss the challenges facing boys and young men of color, might have saved Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, from being shot to death by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.

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Obama Says His Silly NGO Would Have Saved Michael Brown

This is an early release due to the timely nature of this cartoon:

President Obama suggested that My Brother’s Keeper, a broad coalition of backers of local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media that meets periodically at fancy resort hotels to discuss the challenges facing boys and young men of color, might have saved Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, from being shot to death by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.

My Brother's Keeper Scrambles Into Action

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