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.)



  • “Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.”

    Absolutely. Equal Justice Under the Law and all. In this case, ‘equal justice’ would mean that anyone involved would get paid leave while their homies pretended to investigate them until the public forgot all about it.

  • suetonius17
    July 8, 2016 5:45 PM

    What’s key is to remember that the job of the police is to oppress the downtrodden. They are the armed fist of the state. The only people they are supposed to protect and serve are the people who own the country. Blacks are bottom of the pile, but poor whites, and political activists, etc. suffer too. By the Guardians count the cops have killed 569 people so far this year, 136 of them black, Does anyone appreciate how nuts that is? Micah Johnson shooting 12 cops is murder, but it’s completely understandable. If a Jew shot SS officers in Nazi Germany, would everyone have run around talking about how there was “no possible justification for it?”

    • That’s exactly what the German government would have and did say.

      • suetonius17
        July 8, 2016 7:29 PM

        Of course. And that’s what our government says. It isn’t what people who call themselves leftists should say though.

  • I just read the column (and the comments). There are more than 2,000 comments, and I looked at the top rated comments, and I was surprised that many of the highest rated comments are NOT the ones Mr Rall saw. Many concur with the article.

    I also do not understand how Mr Rall can think the New York Times readers are “relatively sophisticated”. The New York Times magazine had an article that Seymour Hersh wrote articles that were internally and externally consistent, and so there was an infinitesimal chance that they might have some bits that were correct. Thousands of readers pointed out that, since the US is a Democracy, the US President (especially Obama) can NEVER lie, so it is irrefutably proven that Seymour Hersh is a liar, that every word he wrote was a lie, including the conjunctions and articles.

    The New York Times magazine also had an article that Obama hired a gifted creative writer to craft his press releases to ensure that they told the most advantageous story. Times readers almost all agreed that, just because all the Obama press releases were written by someone who graduated with a degree in creative writing does not make a single word of them false.

  • alex_the_tired
    July 8, 2016 10:13 PM

    I want to mention one thing:

    In every instance of these “existing while black” cases, the video stops before the crucial moment. I don’t mean that the video doesn’t exist of the crucial moment. I mean that the video stops before that moment because trigger warnings. Because it’s graphic. Because it’s upsetting. Because, because, because.

    I say run the whole damned thing. Let people see that this isn’t a scene from Law & Order where some director calls cut and everyone runs off to the craft services table while the next scene is set up. This is some guy dying. Because he was shot. Because he was scaryblackman.

    Way, way back, Robert B. Parker has a Spenser novel where a dead woman is found in an apartment. And Spenser doesn’t look away. And (as I recall) he’s asked how he’s able to handle looking at the body of someone who was tortured and murdered. And he says something like, “If she had to go through it, I can take looking at it.”

    This guy died. I can only imagine how absolutely fucking terrifying is must be to be shot at practically point blank range by a cop and then bleed out in a car that you KNOW isn’t going to go an inch closer to a hospital while you’re still breathing.

    And when the media cuts away at the tewwible part, it abets what was done to this man.

    • Yes.

      Put the day’s equivalent of Emmit Till photos on a billboard.

      Let the state’s forces of violence stand in their reverential salute poses next to the reality of their “accomplishments”.

  • This subject is a perfect example of how Americans have been polarized into two camps with no one having the ability to see two or more narratives at the same time.

    Yes, the police can be awful, basically bullies and murderers protected by a state-sanctioned uniform.
    But lets look at some other factors at play in this current racial divide:

    Police shoot white people more often than blacks but the news media does not play it up. When a black man is killed by the police the media makes it front page news and assumes from the start that the black man was innocent and the cop in the wrong. Sometimes this is the case but often when the facts come out it turns out that the cop had reason to fear for his life and was justified in the shooting. The media downplays this. The media ignores the long rap sheet that most of these black victims have. Just as the media does everything to make us sympathetic to the victim. Remember the initial photos of Trayvon Martin that came out as an angelic little 12 year old? Turns out later he wasn’t 12, and he wasn’t small, and he wasn’t angelic. No one knows for sure what happened in that case but the news media did not show impartiality by their false depiction of Trayvon Martin, anymore than they show impartiality in their depictions of racial crime. Black on white crime is ignored, white on black crime is front page news. A cop kills a white man and no one cares, a cop kills a black man and automatically the protesters hit the street and the politically correct get on their bandwagon to cry “racism”.

    Imagine you are a cop. Most violent crime is committed by black men, in numbers far past their percentage in society. It is perfectly reasonable to be more fearful of a young black man than a young white man. Fear makes us more liable to react in a violent way. The real surprise is that they have been so restrained in their treatment of blacks (only 25% of people shot by the police are black).

    As far as racism is concerned, I hear that word all the time but it has lost all meaning. Is profiling racism or is it just smart judgement? This mania for being non-judgemental is just plain stupid. Survival requires you to be judgemental. Would you get in a car driven by someone who is drunk or would that be judgemental to decline?

    Over the past 40 years we have given blacks every advantage – affirmative action, dumbed down tests so they can go to college and pass, developed meaningless college majors like Black Studies to make them happy, we overlook their poor job performance because to complain would make us “racist”, we overlook their propensity for criminality, we ignore their racist comments about killing white people, we ignore the attacks on free speech that “Black Lives Matter” activists partake in, we pretend they are sacred beings that cannot be criticized for fear of not being politically correct.

    What do they want? Seriously, what do blacks want? Do they want cops to stop the shootings black neighborhoods? If so, then why do they not cooperate with police? Why do they complain about police in their neighborhoods? Do they want only black cops in their neighborhoods? Tell us. Do they want no cops in their neighborhoods so they can kill each other more than they do now?

    • > because to complain would make us “racist”,

      No, complaining doesn’t make you racist. It only makes it obvious to all that you are, indeed, a racist.

      Glad I could clear that up for you.

      • Zing!

      • How does that show that I am a racist? Because I expect black employees to be held to the same standards as white? Because I expect black students to be held to the same standards as white?

        Why is it the ONLY response you PC people have to to cry “racism”? Can you make an argument using facts and logic and not use the word “racism”?

      • The interesting question is how you can possibly believe you aren’t racist.

        You’re cherry picking, tarring with the same brush, and flat out misrepresenting the facts. Using irrelevant details and implications to disparage a murdered teenager. You assume that race is a valid determinant of an individual’s criminal tendencies.

        But the biggest tell: you’re a member of a privileged majority whining about how unfair it is that society is picking on poor, little, you.

        Any objective review of the facts will show that society is overwhelmingly biased in your favor and against blacks. The fact that you believe differently tells us all we need to know.

        In short: if you don’t want to be called a racist, don’t be a racist..

        … duh?

    • suetonius17
      July 9, 2016 8:52 AM

      Oh my, where to begin. First, it’s true that “only” 25% of people shot by police are black, but of course blacks are 12% of the population. The notion that black men are more dangerous than white men is simply disgusting. A simple example of just how ridiculous the statistics are would be to cite how many more black men are in prison for drug offenses, when all the research clearly indicates blacks do drugs no more than whites. I’m just going to ignore all the “judgement” stuff, it’s stupid beyond belief. As for what blacks want, from the people I know, they just want to be treated the same as everyone else. They know full well that the police in their neighborhoods are not there to help them. The Black Panthers, in the ’60s, were an attempt to self police black neighborhoods and keep them safe, from and for everybody. The Panthers were brutally suppressed by the state. I should of course just ignore this racist troll, but my head was close to exploding when I read this in my email.

      • Troll or not, the racist disinformation must be countered. I just didn’t have the stomach for a line-by-line rebuttal this morning.

        The interesting breakdown for crime statistics isn’t race: it’s income level. Poor, white, neighborhoods just as high a crime rate as poor, black neighborhoods. It’s just that proportionately more blacks are poor than whites, so it skews the stats.

        Care to guess which poor neighborhoods have the least crime? Hispanic. Isn’t that interesting?

      • suetonius17
        July 9, 2016 9:11 AM

        Oh yes, Crazy H, exactly right, it’s all about class. As for the Hispanic issue, my guess is that it’s that Hispanic neighborhoods are filled with recent immigrants. Immigrant neighborhoods are always safer. I lived for 11 years in a working class poor Hispanic neighborhood in NYC (no longer, it’s now hipster heaven, and 1 bedrooms are a million bucks). People who weren’t from the hood thought it was dangerous, but it wasn’t not really. I remember walking home past the Section 8 housing one day not long after my dog had died. A bunch of the teenagers hanging out, who would have scared the hell out of most people, asked me where my dog was. So I told them. They came up to me, started patting my shoulder, saying how sorry they were, what a great dog she was, for like 5 minutes. I was literally crying.

    • jazzage,

      That was a very thoughtful, cogent comment. Unfortunately, this is not the place for honest discussion particularly regarding race. This is a den of dogma and ideology. There’s no room for truth-seeking. Therefore, agree with the narrative, you racist.

      Take heart. The slur indeed only has power if you believe it does. Its overuse is leading to its utter uselessness.

      You mentioned obvious systematic privileges blacks enjoy and your opponents retort you don’t understand because of *your* privilege. Orwellian rhetoric at its finest to be sure.

      You’re not allowed to talk about the epidemic level of black on white violence.

      In my town, I have to deal with blacks that think I, as a white, owe them not equal respect but deference, and if they don’t get it, they have a right to get belligerent. Naturally these are the blacks that have their food and housing paid for by whites. The only oppressive thing here is the irony.

      Thomas Sowell has demonstrated for decades that minimum wage laws, welfare, and affirmative action HARM the black community. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your attackers here care about the black community. What matters to them is APPEARING to help. If they really wanted to help, their time would be much better spent trying to stop blacks from massacring each other.

      • Yeah, I thought “Jizzage” sounded just a whole lot like Jack. A rote recitation of racist talking points that would be right at home on The Grand Dragon’s Facebook page.

        “Oh, boo hoo hoo, I have it so hard because I’m a poor little white boy.”

        Okay, poor little white boy – pick *one* of your laundry list above and try to defend it. I’ll be more than happy to tell you where you’re wrong.

  • >Commenters didn’t understand that Dyson wasn’t criticizing every white person, but “white America”<

    If I'm racist for critizing black America, why isn't he racist for criticizing white America? Rhetorical.

    • :: eh-hem ::

      “Because you’re a member of the privileged majority whining about how society is biased against you.”

      Maybe you should write that down.

      • You’re treating me differently based upon race. There’s a name for that.

      • No, I”m treating you differently because you’re a member of the privileged majority whining about how society is biased against you.

        Maybe you should write that down.

      • I am part of a vanishing world minority and a soon-to-be national minority. When that day comes what will your argument be then? Likely the same since women have always been the majority but the Left calls them a minority.

        Write that down.

      • > When that day comes what will your argument be then?

        Then you will be part of the privileged plurality whining about how society is biased against you.

        The operative term is “privileged” …duh?

        On the day when you earn less money, have fewer opportunities for advancement, and get shot more often by cops, THEN you will have a legitimate complaint.

        Until then you are a discredit to your race; an embarrassment to your people, and too clueless to realize what a fool you are making of yourself.