Friday, July 18, 2008

If You Are Black And Gay You Better Not Give The Finger

Let's be honest the police have historically not been friends to either blacks, or LGBT people. If you happen to be a member of both groups, you possess even more reasons to have issue with law enforcement.  While sitting on a public bus, a young woman gave the finger to an officer who proceeded to pull the bus over and assault her while he was taking her into custody. How is it possible that an act of civil disobedience like flipping the finger, earns an individual the penalty of having their face smashed into concrete, and their nose bloodied? 

Daily the police assault POC, and the LGBT community. They attack because we are vulnerable, and society has invested them with power.  How many have needlessly lost their lives due to police brutality only have to have that same officer either transferred to a different unit, or placed temporarily on desk duty? How many times must they be caught on tape savaging our communities before we can get some justice? If the people who are supposed to be upholding the law, daily violate the law, then we have no law.  What we have is a masquerade of justice wherein certain bodies matter, and others are only considered to the extent that can be exploited, and marginalized. Whether it is driving while black, transcending traditional gender roles, or daring to love freely, the police are engaged in maintaining hierarchies in our society that relegate many to a second class citizenship status.  They do no exist to protect the average citizen, they exist to protect the  possessions, rights, and freedoms of the ruling elite.  Take a moment and remember their violent repression in Seattle.  Who are they really sworn to protect?

After 911 the image of law enforcement was reborn, cleansed by a day of heroics. Despite those officers who gave their lives, the reality of the corruption behind the blue wall is an ever present danger to POC and LGBT people.  We cannot forget that when they see us, they see a criminal. We must remember that when they interact with us, they see disposable bodies. A gun and a badge do not give you the right to terrorize innocent citizenry. Our bodies matter, and they always have.


Larry Geater said...

We have the same problem with the police that we do with teachers. We do not value them. We show it by what we pay them. The low esteem demonstrated by low pay guarantees that we will get substandard aplicants. We just had to lower the standards for police recruits here in Memphis because their were not enough qualified applicants for the jobs.

Many of our police have a gang mentality. They are thugs with badges and guns. Untill we decide policing is important that is the mindset we recruit.

DaRelle said...

The police officer was wrong, wrong, wrong.
But, flipping the finger as civil disobedience? Now that's spin.

DiosaNegra1967 said...

let's not forget she is also a woman...on top of everything's common knowledge that 5-0 will assault women on a regular basis anyhow....

darelle: oh yeah....flippin' off a cop is now civil disobedience...welcome to 1984, y'all...

Meadester said...

@larry geater, I'd be in favor of raising pay for police if I thought that would solve the problem, but I'm not convinced that it would. Federal agents are better paid than local cops on the beat. The Feds are certainly well educated many of them have advanced degrees. That does not stop Feds from being even more brutal and thuggish your average local cop.

I think the main problem is with all of the arbitrary laws - i.e. those concerning drugs, prostitution, "underage" drinking, carrying a gun for protection, wearing seat belts, wearing motor cycle helmets, etc. Some locations are better than others about some of these but almost everywhere has at least some "nanny state" provisions. To take a job enforcing such laws you almost have to have an authoritarian mentality that says people in power know best and/or the majority has a right to impose its will on the dissenting minority. There a few exceptions - police who believe in liberty and are trying to change the system from within, but the system is stacked against them.

daedalus2u said...

Civil disobedience is when you break a law that is unjust and illegal under the Constitution. She broke no such law flipping the police off. said...

Hi there Renee!

Thank you so much for your contributions in the discussions at my blog!

This situation is utterly outrageous....

{shaking my head}

hysperia said...

The cops in my city are paid a substantial amount of money and they seem to be no less "vulnerable", if I can use that word, to racism, sexism, classism and so on, than most other forces. I'm not sure that it's the pay scale that attracts "bad actors" to become cops. I think that some are attracted to wielding the power of the paramilitary force of the state, and others are corrupted by it after they have been trained or worked in that system for awhile. I do believe that there are cops who don't fall prey to the system, but they just have to be pretty few and far between.

Hope you don't mind if I take some space to tell a story. I used to live in an apartment and I also used to get up very early in the morning. One summer morning at about 5 a.m., I was drinking coffee on my balcony when I heard the distressed crying and calling out of a young man. I stood up and saw him walking quickly in a straight line across a field opposite me. I was distressed FOR him. He was white, probably late teens and clearly under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. He couldn't run a straight line. I didn't understand what he was running from till a cop came into sight chasing him, a good distance behind at that point. Suddenly, four cop cars came screeching into the parking lot below me and I saw cars blocking off the field in the direction that the young man was running - and he wasn't running fast, believe me.

I hated what I was seeing - there were now about twenty cops preparing to take this one, crying, clearly freaked out kid, down. I had two teenaged sons at the time. I couldn't help myself. I saw my kids in that young man crying while runnning, so I shouted to the kid, several times, "Don't fight, don't fight. They're gonna kill you."

Well, they didn't kill him. But they did surround him, tackle him onto the pavement, sit on him, handcuff him and pretty violently manhandle him into a cruiser.

And then two cops paid me a visit. NOT having appreciated my interference. I admit, saying They're gonna kill you" wasn't brilliant. And I didn't truly think they'd kill him, it was a euphemism. I think. I was severely lectured, whilst standing in my nightgown, by two burly young cops who were REALLY peeved that their authority had been questioned, that their bona fides had been challenged. I was SCARED. They threatened to charge me with "obstruction of justice". I was a law professor at the time which, of course, they didn't know. I told them they could do what they wanted and I would cooperate, but they weren't likely to be successful with that charge - and I told them why - as in, my comments could equally well be interpreted as an attempt to HELP the cops. They weren't impressed.

They charged me. I had a lawyer pretty quickly and Crown Counsel (like the D.A. in the US) dropped the charge within days.

But ask me if I'd try to warn a citizen again. I'd actually try not to. The charging process, hanging with the cops, waiting for my lawyer, freaking out my family etc. was actually traumatizing. My body still jerks in fear when I see so much as a traffic cop.

This was in a pretty middle class, pretty white neighbourhood. The young man was white. I'm white.

Goddess help those who are not so privileged.

Anonymous said...

Common now, I learned as a teen to be careful of the police because I was old enough to get murdered or beaten up. I'm black and I know I can get killed, beaten up for less than pulling the finger! How did she not know she was in a racist society?

Yes, it was wrong that we live in this society but her family, friends, someone should have taught her better.

Or maybe she just didn't care anymore.

Renee said...

@anonymous, you are victim blaming. Giving a police officer the finger is no justification to receive the treatment that this woman did. We do not excuse maltreatment by blaming the victim the correct approach is to blame the accuser and demand a change.

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