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I recently watched the Netflix series Seberg, which profiles the Hollywood actress Jean Seberg and the U.S. government’s intentional and secret destruction of her.
Why did the federal government, specifically the federal government’s national police force, the FBI, decide to destroy Seberg? Among other reasons, it was because back in the late 1960s and 1970s Seberg befriended an organization called the Black Panthers, which was committed to ending police abuse of blacks during those decades.
Yes, American blacks were complaining of police brutality more than 50 years ago, just as they are doing today.
But judging from reactions from the American Right to the massive protests that have enveloped many American cities in the past several months, the deep anger felt by blacks is just totally unjustified. According to conservatives, blacks should be grateful for all the things that America has given them, including economic prosperity, government welfare, and the right to vote.
Anyway, as American right-wingers claim, there isn’t any “institutional racism” anymore in America. The police brutality against which blacks are protesting — and have been protesting for decades — is all just normal police brutality that takes place regardless of people’s race or color. Any racial bigotry among cops and the brutality that comes with it are just a figment of people’s imagination.
After all, America elected a black as president, as the Right never ceases to remind us. And look at all the government jobs — including jobs as police officers — that have been given to blacks. What better proof is there that there isn’t any “institutional racism” in America than that? right-wingers ask, as if the tyrannical nature of a law turns on the race of the person who is enforcing it.
According to American conservatives, black protesters should just go back home and work hard to achieve the American dream. For decades, right-wingers say, the cops have been their best friend, out there just serving and protecting them.
And yet, there is Tulia, Texas, a town of around 5,000 people, where a decorated white police officer made drug busts of 46 people, 40 of whom were black. Yes, I know what American conservatives would say: “Jacob, you see, the fact that six of the victims were white shows that there wasn’t any racism there!” That’s ridiculous. The fact that 40 of them were black shows that the busts revolved around race.
The defendants claimed they were innocent, but as any respectable right-winger would say, “Who you gonna believe — a respectable white law-enforcement officer who was awarded ‘Lawman of the Year’ by the Texas Department of Public Safety or a black defendant who is obviously lying about his drug distribution?”
Many of the blacks received long jail sentences, which motivated others to plead guilty in plea bargains that gave them comparatively light jail sentences.
There was one big problem, however. They were all innocent — every single one of them. That nice, respectable “Lawman of the Year” had just made it all up. According to the ACLU, the officer, a man named Tom Coleman, “has a checkered past and a fondness for racial epithets.” The judge who ended up freeing the victims called Coleman “the most devious, non-responsive law enforcement witness this Court has witnessed in 25 years on the bench in Texas.”
Hey, no racism there, right? Just as there was no racism in the arrests or killings of Eric Garner, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and around 1,600 other blacks from 2014 to 2019. According to an article at aljazeera.com entitled “Mapping US Police Killings of Black Americans” (https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2020/05/mapping-police-killings-black-americans-200531105741757.html), “Despite only making up 13 percent of the U.S. population, Black Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police.”
Also, see the “Race and the Drug War” section of the Drug Policy Alliance website, which states in part, “The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug-war misery suffered by communities of color” (https://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/race-and-drug-war).
I’m not saying, of course, that all police officers are racial bigots, any more than I’m saying that all judges are racial bigots. But I am saying that some of them are. The notion that racial bigotry has been wiped out in America is ridiculous, no matter how many blacks are elected or appointed to public office or how well blacks generally do economically. There will always be racial bigots in society.
The problem is that some of those bigots are as attracted to law enforcement as iron filings are to a magnet. There is one big reason for that: the drug war. The drug war provides the opportunity for racial bigots to exercise their bigotry to their heart’s content — and even get praised, adulated, congratulated, and awarded for their efforts to “win” the war on drugs.
Now, I’m not saying that the drug war has been waged exclusively against blacks. That would be patently nonsensical. This horrific government program has adversely affected people of all races, colors, and creeds. It is one of most tyrannical and oppressive programs in U.S. history.
In fact, often the Right uses what drug-enforcement agents have done to whites as a way to say, “See, the drug war isn’t bigoted. It hits everyone.”
What right-wingers fail to realize, however, is that it’s possible to have a racially bigoted component to a tyrannical government program. That’s precisely what has happened with the drug war. The drug war certainly does target people of all races, colors, and creeds but within the program are racially bigoted cops and judges who use the program as a way to specifically slam blacks. Thus, the adverse effects of this horrible program have historically fallen disproportionately on blacks.
Consider a cop who sees a white couple walking down the street. There is no reason to stop them, interrogate them, and frisk them, even if they might have some marijuana in their pockets. But then consider a racially bigoted cop who sees a black couple walking down the street. His bigotry gets the best of him and he stops the couple for no other reason than that they are black. He subjects them to interrogation on matters that are none of his business and when they don’t answer in a respectful way, he slams them against their car and handcuffs and arrests them for “resisting arrest.” That’s if they are lucky. The unlucky ones get subjected to a chokehold or get shot.
It is the racial bigotry that is part and parcel of the drug war that right-wingers cannot bring them-selves to recognize. They either deny that there are bigoted cops or they say that the bigoted cops don’t really bring their bigotry into the enforcement of the drug war. There is a simple reason for this denial of reality: Right-wingers love the war on drugs. They always have and they always will love and support this crooked, corrupt, evil, and immoral program.
One of the most revealing aspects of the police-abuse controversy is the right-wing reaction to the property destruction and looting that has taken place during the recent protests. Notice what happens with the right-wingers: Their attention focuses exclusively on the rioters and looters. Suddenly we hear nothing but paeans to the sanctity of private property and the need to maintain “law and order” in society.
It’s the same thing that right-wingers do with respect to the left-wing philosophy of protesters and demonstrators. In the right-wing commentaries, all we hear about is that the protesters and demonstrators are Marxists, members of Antifa, or left-wing extremists who are hell-bent on the destruction of America. It’s a throwback to when protesters against police abuse in the 1960s and 1970s were labeled communists and a spearhead of the supposed worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the United States.
What difference does the philosophy of the protesters and demonstrators make? Like everyone else, they have the right to be free of police abuse regardless of their particular philosophical beliefs and positions.
Recall the recent massive protests in Hong Kong. They too were accompanied by rioting and looting by a small percentage of the demonstrators. Did you see the American Right focusing its attention on the rioters and looters in that situation? Not on your life! The Right continued to focus their attention on the reason the protesters and demonstrators were so angry, i.e., the tyranny on the part of the Chinese communist regime.
Here at home, the intent of the Right, over the decades, has been — and continues to be — to drown out the real reason for the protests and demonstrations — police abuse of blacks. To avoid the calumny being heaped on them by the Right, blacks are expected to return home, be loyal Americans, and continue permitting themselves to be abused by the cops. Thus, the cycle of police abuse of blacks has continued through the decades. And the anger and rage have now obviously reached a boiling point.
Never mind that the rioters and looters form only a small percentage of the overall crowd. Never mind that there are often people in society who will take advantage of a massive protest to wreak damage or destruction. Never mind the possibility that the U.S government itself is fomenting the chaos, as it secretly did, for example, in the early 1970s in Chile in order to set the stage for a coup, in the name of “national security.” All that matters, according to conservatives, is that the state maintain “law and order,” even if that means tear-gassing or otherwise suppressing protests by blacks against ongoing police abuse.
This article was originally published in the November 2020 edition of Future of Freedom.