Posted in the SF Bay View on June 7, 2010
by Anthony Robinson Jr.
Black and Brown communities are terrorized by police on a daily basis on a physical and emotional level. We are all too familiar with the physical terrorism: bodies being slammed on pavement with knees penetrating necks, batons beating against skulls mimicking a life-size piñata that spills blood instead of candy and, last but not least, the iconic image of a body riddled by a volley of bullets.
But the emotional terrorism, which the police are well aware of and use to their advantage, is displayed every time the mere insignia and symbols of the police solicit a response contrary to how the denizens would normally react if they hadn’t heard the sirens or seen a police car. Poor communities of color fear the “mythical reality” of police oppression and thus become organized into an ideology of fear that enables uniforms, badges, sirens etc. to become just as frightening and controlling as a raised baton.
I use the term “mythical reality” because there is a narrative that comes to the aid of police oppression that adjusts the lens so that the legend of police as heroic men and women, out-manned and denigrated, fighting against villains who are attempting to undermine the fabric of America, is perpetuated continuously. This legend is solidified not only in the mainstream of America’s upper and middle class communities, but also in the poor communities being oppressed. This is usually expressed in the generation gaps, where a grandmother’s or a mother’s desperation forces them to call the police oppression and brutality into their communities as a retributive parenting tactic that backfires when their children are gunned down by the police in an attempt to cleanse the neighborhood.
Before we seek to mobilize an uncompromising rectitude of this “mythical reality,” we must seek to understand our current perspectives of the police and their prescribed role in poor, Black and Brown communities and demand that the current perspectives be aligned and compatible with our communities’ goals and vision for our neighborhoods, our children and ourselves.
What role, if any, should the police play in Black and Brown communities? Have they earned the packaged “reverence” bestowed upon them by the media and power structure who have a vested interest in our being subservient to that “reverence” – even if by the time it is translated in our communities it becomes the police oppression that we have allowed to find refuge in our own expectations?
Frantz Fanon said, “Education is nothing but the re-establishment and re-enforcement of values and institutions of a given society.”
What value, if any, is re-enforced and recognized as intrinsically belonging to the poor minority communities? When the police break from their ideological huddles and ride out to the ghettos, what re-enforcement of values, what philosophy of education are they carrying in their holsters, and in what ways have they chosen to institute this education in the community?
The nucleus of this essay is a question that seeks and searches its own imperatives to birth unto itself an edifying perspective; and that question is: Do Black and Brown communities owe themselves the task of searching their perspectives of police oppression and aligning those perspectives with empirical experiences and historical narratives of police and how they have responded to the community?
Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas states in her essay, “COPS and the Visual Economy of Punishment” (an essay in “Abolition Now!: Ten Years of Strategy and Struggle Against the Prison Industrial Complex” by The CR10 Publications Collective, published by AK Press in honor of Critical Resistance’s 10th anniversary):
“So common and accepted, so significantly mundane is the brutality of the police against raced communities that the reality in which they are displayed before us becomes a social hallucination. The racist disposition of the visible, which will prepare and achieve its own inverted perceptions under the rubric of what is seen according to Judith Butler can turn a clear vision of police brutality into a myth of police vulnerability.
“Even rebellious youth are socialized to fear police. This reality can be seen as the police drive slowly through any ghetto and turn rebellious youth into spectators of the ominous events that are assumed to take place. It is interesting how this fear is translated by the media and becomes a socialized symbol of respect for authority when convenient. The masses that are terrorized by the rebellious youth are grateful to the police for keeping neighborhoods safe by way of oppression and force.”
I would like to point out something so obvious it seems to lose reality in the propensity to take it as a given: The “rebellious youth” terrorizing the Black and Brown communities are the sons and daughters of those same communities. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, fathers, grandfathers, you must mobilize into a class of guardians and get your children out of the streets! You can no longer afford to call the police on your children as a first option and then criticize how they choose to operate in our communities.
What education does the Black community owe itself in regards to police oppression, violence and brutality? How will Black and Brown communities use this education to re¬negotiate the context, organization and terms in which the police utilize their resources to serve, protect and communicate with the community?
The brevity of this essay is intended to keep the reader oriented towards begging questions that will demand the police recognize a more self-determined community.
What would happen if the demand for police oppression dissipated and communities organized themselves and their “rebellious youth”? What role, if any, should the police play in Black and Brown communities? What education is re-enforced in police jurisprudence?
If we do not have the courage, fortitude and indignation to grapple with these questions sincerely and usher in a new perspective, our communities will continue to be extended training grounds for the “mythical reality” of police oppression.
Organize or be organized!
Note: I define the term “mythical reality” as a situation where one class of people, usually the lower class, knows a reality, usually violence, racism, prejudice etc., to be true by experience, while another class, usually the upper class, tries to control the perception and narrative of the other class by forms of control offered by their privilege.
Anthony Robinson Jr. is the author of “Incarcerated Tears: Book of Poems Vol.1,” which can be purchased at www.BuyBooksontheWeb.com or by writing to him. Send our brother some love and light by writing to Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, NFORK AN-156, 1605 E. Main, Sayre, OK 73662. Now 28, he has been locked behind enemy lines for over a decade.