Racism and Police Brutality: The Real Tragedy

December 3rd, 2014 is a day that will go down in history as one of the most enlightening days ever because that’s when someone finally had the guts and vision to call out America as the brutally racist nation that it is. In his post, “The American Justice System Is Not Broken,”  blogger Albert Burneko claimed that the disgusting police brutality that we’ve seen across the country from Ferguson to Staten Island (to Baltimore to McKinney, Texas) isn’t a flaw in the American system, it is a feature. He says, “That is what America does. It is not broken. That is exactly what is wrong with it.”

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Actually, that date will not go down in history, because Burneko’s ideology isn’t new and it isn’t enlightening. It’s just a rehashing of Howard Zinn’s flawed and selective history of America espousing that old white boogiemen get their kicks from terrorizing brown people. And this America Equals Racism narrative takes away from the real problem of the loss of the true American ideal of liberty and self-governance.

Racism in America

First, let me stipulate that there is a racism problem in America—it’s not just the invention of privileged white-guilty bloggers. And by most accounts, there is a racism problem specifically with American police. The fact that there are numerous high-profile cases that involve white cops unjustly killing black men is no coincidence.

But there is also a substantial piece missing in the Zinn-Burneko narrative: racism is not restricted to white on black bigotry. Something Zinn conveniently forgot to mention and thus something Burneko probably has no idea about is the racism directed toward white Irish throughout American history. In many cases, white Irish were treated worse than black Africans in early America:

I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw [in Ireland] . . . I don’t believe they are our fault. . . . But to see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black, one would not feel it so much. . . .” (Charles Kingsley in a letter to his wife, quoted in L.P. Curtis, Anglo-Saxons and Celts, p.84).

And, as Dinesh D’Souza explained in his documentary, America, there was plenty of black-on-black racism in America too as the cases of black slave-owners revealed.

Another form of racism that is off limits for the mainstream media and the Howard Zinn fan club is black-on-white racism. Growing up in the city and attending majority black schools, I encountered racism constantly as a minority but no one acknowledges that and they try their best to change the subject when conversation turns to a pack of rabid Ferguson protesters yelling “Kill all the white people” and terrifyingly going on to attempt just that.

The Real American Crisis

Of course, this universal racism doesn’t fit the Zinn narrative, so it is omitted from his history. But besides shabby history, Burneko’s post and the broader mainstream message surrounding the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases ignores the real issue at stake: we have an out of control police force and we are losing the essence of the American experiment.

People like Howard Zinn want you to believe that racism is woven into the fabric of American society—that it defines American society. But racism isn’t particular to America—it has existed throughout history across the globe. The only way one can say that racism is an integral part of America is because America is made up of human beings, who universally have the unfortunate side effect of being racist. This tendency is magnified in a pluralist, heterogeneous society like the United States. It’s easy to overlook racism in places like Japan or Sweden of Ghana where everyone looks alike, but it’s much more difficult in the melting pot of the world.

The real quality that distinguishes America is the principle of Natural Rights and the before unheard of concept of self-governance. America didn’t invent slavery, for instance, but it was the first nation built on the principle that people can govern themselves. The last 240 years have been a struggle to prove that that’s not an oxy moron.

Slowly, but surely, we’re losing that struggle. The Federal Reserve controls the economy; the military-industrial complex controls foreign interaction; and the nannies in federal bureaucracies want to control every other aspect of our lives. More and more, our freedoms are slipping away into the tyranny of a democratically-elected despotism and that fact is never more evident than in the growing police state.

A little bonus history for the Zinnians in my audience: America’s Founding Fathers expressly forbade the idea of the police state. In fact, the Declaration of Independence cites this as one of the crimes of King George III:

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction  foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states

And now, the police have become exactly what the Founding Fathers warned us about. Author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop” Radly Balko wrote in a Washington Post piece:

Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment — from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers — American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 anti-terrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop — armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.

meme-policestateSeemingly all of the sudden it’s okay that local police forces own and use war machines to intimidate citizens. People shrug at countless stories of no-knock raids in which DEA agents destroy property, kill dogs, and arrest people—often the wrong people. And, more and more, videos have come to light showing police officers overstepping their authority, harassing innocent people, and sometimes killing them for no legitimate reason. And the worst part about it is that there is absolutely no accountability as the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases as well as countless others demonstrate. It’s absolutely sickening.

Burneko is right that something is very wrong, but it’s not just racism. The Eric Garner video isn’t the only one showing police brutality. There is evidence of out-of-control police harming or killing people of all races for no legitimate reason. According the the Bureau of Justice Statistics, whites are about twice as likely to be killed by police per violent crime than blacks. Racism is a problem, but it’s not the problem. The incessant infringement of our Natural Rights by the presumed authority of the government is. It’s this infringement that has chipped away from the true American ideal and the Zinn narrative is just a smoke screen that has confused the issue and perhaps perpetuated the problem. Racism, after all, wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the police didn’t have the presumed authority to kill people for not following their irrational orders. There is a real crisis in American jurisprudence but simply calling it racism and collectively throwing our hands in the air just makes it worse.