1 Black Man Is Killed Every 28 Hours by Police or Vigilantes in USA #Racism #WTFnews


How America Is Perpetually at War With Its Own People

From the war on drugs to the war on terror, law enforcement’s battle against minorities serves as pacification.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Eugene Ivanov

May 28, 2013  |
 Police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extrajudicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012 according to a recent study. This means a black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours. The report notes that it’s possible that the real number could be much higher.

The report, entitled “Operation Ghetto Storm”, was performed by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, an antiracist grassroots activist organization. The organization has chapters in Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Worth-Dallas, Jackson, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, and Washington, D.C. It has a history of organizing campaigns against police brutality and state repression in black and brown communities. Their study’s sources included police and media reports along with other publicly available information. Last year, the organization published a similar study showing that a black person is killed by security forces every 36 hours. However, this study did not tell the whole story, as it only looked at shootings from January to June 2012. Their latest study is an update of this.

These killings come on top of other forms of oppression black people face. Mass incarceration ofnonwhites is one of them. While African-Americans constitute 13.1% of the nation’s population, they make up nearly 40% of the prison population. Even though African-Americans use or sell drugs about the same rate as whites, they are 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites. Black offenders also receive longer sentences compared to whites. Most offenders are in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

“Operation Ghetto Storm” explains why such killings occur so often. Current practices of institutional racism have roots in the enslavement of black Africans, whose labor was exploited to build the American capitalist economy, and the genocide of Native Americans. The report points out that in order to maintain the systems of racism, colonialism, and capitalist exploitation, the United States maintains a network of “repressive enforcement structures”. These structures include the police, FBI, Homeland Security, CIA, Secret Service, prisons, and private security companies, along with mass surveillance and mass incarceration.

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is not the only group challenging police violence against African-Americans. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has been challenging the policy of stop-and-frisk in New York City, in which police officers randomly stop and search individuals for weapons or contraband. African-American and Latino men are disproportionately stopped and harassed by police officers. Most of those stopped (close to 90%) are innocent, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Stop Mass Incarceration also organizes against the War on Drugs and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Along with the rate of extrajudicial killings, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report contains other important findings. Of the 313 killed, 124 (40%) were between 22 and 31 years old, 57 (18%) were between 18 and 21 years old, 54 (17%) were between 32 and 41 years old, 32 (10%) were 42 to 51 years old, 25 (8%) were children younger than 18 years old, 18 (6%) were older than 52, and 3 (1%) were of unknown ages.

A significant portion of those killed, 68 people or 22%, suffered from mental health issues and/or were self-medicated. The study says that “[m]any of them might be alive today if community members trained and committed to humane crisis intervention and mental health treatment had been called, rather than the police.”

43% of the shootings occurred after an incident of racial profiling. This means police saw a person who looked or behaved “suspiciously” largely because of their skin color and attempted to detain the suspect before killing them. Other times, the shootings occurred during a criminal investigation (24%), after 9-1-1 calls from “emotionally disturbed loved ones” (19%) or because of domestic violence (7%), or innocent people were killed for no reason (7%).

Most of the people killed were not armed. According to the report, 136 people or 44%, had no weapon at all the time they were killed by police officers. Another 27% were deaths in which police claimed the suspect had a gun but there was no corroboration to prove this. In addition, 6 people (2%) were alleged to have possessed knives or similar tools. Those who did, in fact, possess guns or knives were 20% (62 people) and 7% (23 people) of the study, respectively.

The report digs into how police justify their shootings. Most police officers, security guards, or vigilantes who extrajudicially killed black people, about 47% (146 of 313), claimed they “felt threatened”, “feared for their life”, or “were forced to shoot to protect themselves or others”. George Zimmerman, the armed self-appointed neighborhood watchman who killed Trayvon Martin last year, claimed exactly this to justify shooting Martin. Other justifications include suspects fleeing (14%), allegedly driving cars toward officers, allegedly reaching for waistbands or lunging, or allegedly pointing a gun at an officer. Only 13% or 42 people fired a weapon “before or during the officer’s arrival”.

Police recruitment, training, policies, and overall racism within society conditions police (and many other people) to assume black people are violent to begin with. This leads to police overacting in situations involving African-American suspects. It also explains why so many police claimed the black suspect “looked suspicious” or “thought they had a gun”. Johannes Mehserle, the white BART police officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant in January 2009, claimed Grant had a gun, even though Grant was subdued to the ground by other officers.

Of the 313 killings, the report found that 275 of them or 88% were cases of excessive force. Only 8% were not considered excessive as they involved cases where suspects shot at, wounded, or killed a police and/or others. Additionally, 4% were situations were the facts surrounding the killing were “unclear or sparsely reported”. The vast majority of the time, police officers, security guards, or armed vigilantes who extrajudicially kill black people escape accountability.

***

Over the past 70 years, the “repressive enforcement structures” described in the report have been used to “wage a grand strategy of ‘domestic’ pacification” to maintain the system through endless “containment campaigns” amounting to “perpetual war”. According to the report, this perpetual war has been called multiple names — the “Cold War”, COINTELPRO, the “War on Drugs, the “War on Gangs”, the “War on Crimes”, and now the “War on Terrorism”. This pacification strategy is designed to subjugate oppressed populations and stifle political resistance. In other words, they are wars against domestic marginalized groups. “Extrajudicial killings”, says the report, “are clearly an indispensable tool in the United States government’s pacification pursuits.” It attributes the preponderance of these killings to institutionalized racism and policies within police departments.

Paramilitary police units, known as SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, developed in order to quell black riots in major cities, such as Los Angeles and Detroit, during the 1960s and ’70s. SWAT teams had major shootouts with militant black and left-wing groups, such as the Black Panther Party and Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in 1969 and 1974, respectively. SWAT teams were only used for high-risk situations, until the War on Drugs began in the 1980s. Now they’re used in raids — a common military tactic — of suspected drug or non-drug offenders’ homes.

The War on Drugs, first declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, was largely a product of U.S. covert operations. Anti-communist counter-revolutionaries, known as the “Contras”, were trained, funded, and largely created by the CIA to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua during the 1980s. However, the CIA’s funding was not enough. Desperate for money, the Contras needed other funding sources to fight their war against the Sandinistas. The additional dollars came from the drug trade. The late investigative journalist Gary Webb, in 1996, wrote a lengthy series of articles for the San Jose Mercury News, entitled “Dark Alliance”, detailing how the Contras smuggled cocaine from South America to California’s inner cities and used the profits to fund their fight against the Sandinista government. The CIA knew about this but turned a blind eye. The report received a lot of controversy, criticism, and tarnishing of Webb’s journalistic career, which would lead him to commit suicide in 2004. However, subsequent reports from Congressional hearings and other journalists corroborated Webb’s findings.

Moreover, major banks, such as Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo) and HSBC have laundered money for drug dealers. Therefore, the very threat that the Drug War claims to eliminate is perpetuated more by the National Security State and Wall Street than by low-level street dealers. But rather than go after thebigger fish, the United States has used the pretext of the “war on drugs” to implement draconian police tactics on marginalized groups, particularly poor black communities.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan passed the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act, which provided civilian police agencies equipment, training, and advising from the military, along with access to military research and facilities. This weakened the line between the military and civilian law enforcement established by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, a Reconstruction-era law forbidding military personnel from enforcing domestic laws. Five years later, in 1986, Reagan issuedNational Security Decision Directive 221, which declared drug trafficking a national security threat to the United States. This militarized the U.S. approach to drugs and overall policing. Additionally, the global war on terror and growth of the National Security State expanded this militarization of domestic police under the guise of “fighting terrorism”.

The adoption of military tactics, equipment, training, and weapons leads to law enforcement adopting a war-like mentality. They come to view themselves as soldiers fighting against a foreign enemy rather police protecting a community. Nick Pastore, a former Police Chief of New Haven, Connecticut from 1990 to 1997, turned down military equipment that was offered to him. “I turned it all down, because it feeds a mind-set that you’re not a police officer serving a community, you’re a soldier at war,” he told the New York Times. He said “tough-guy cops” in his department pushed for “bigger and more hardware” and “used to say, ‘It’s a war out there.'” Pastore added, “If you think everyone who uses drugs is the enemy, then you’re more likely to declare war on the people.” Mix this war-like mentality with already existing societal anti-black racism and the result is deadly. Black people, who, by default, are assumed to be criminals because of their skin color, become the victims of routine police violence.

The fact that a black person is killed by a police officer, security guard, or vigilante every 28 hours (or less) is no random act of nature. It is the inevitable result of institutional racism and militaristic tactics and thinking within America’s domestic security apparatus.

 

Adam Hudson is a journalist, writer, and photographer.

 

Dalits are ‘Missing “from the Indian newsroom


Hindu, Apr, 9
Robin Jeffrey

The media’s failure to recruit Dalits is a betrayal of the constitutional guarantees of equality and fraternity.

There were almost none in 1992, and there are almost none today: Dalits in the newsrooms of India‘s media organisations. Stories from the lives of close to 25 per cent of Indians (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) are unlikely to be known — much less broadcast or written about.

Unless, of course, the stories are about squalor and violence. An analyst once summed up the treatment of African-American and Hispanic issues in the American media: such people “rarely travel, eat or get married,” if all you knew about them was what you learned from the media.

Is it a calamity that Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are almost completely absent from newspapers and television? Of course it is. It’s a calamity for at least three reasons.

First, it means that the Constitution is not being lived up to. The Constitution promises “equality” and “fraternity.” There’s something deficient about “equality” if a quarter of the population is missing from the Fourth Estate. And it’s hard to fraternise — to practise fraternity — with people who aren’t there.

Second, a fitting presence in newsrooms, and the varied coverage that it brings, mitigates the resentment of people who are ignored and discriminated against. Recognition of tribulations and achievements combats discrimination. And if meaningful changes do not happen, resentment will bubble up destructively — as it already does in areas of Maoist influence in eastern India. Constant, probing stories about the triumphs and agonies of people on the margins help to effect remedies and turn barriers into bridges.
A section overlooked

Third, genuine media people, who believe in the old New York Times tag about ferreting out “all the news that’s fit to print,” can never be satisfied with producing a newspaper, a magazine or a bulletin that robotically overlooks a quarter of the population (except when there’s violence and squalor of course). Grizzled city editors (city editors are always grizzled) used to pose a single question to self-satisfied reporters at the end of the day: “What REALLY happened out there today, boys and girls?” It ought to flash in lights in every newsroom.

The Dalit absence from the media has been focussed on sporadically since 1996. That’s when Kenneth J. Cooper, the Washington Post correspondent, himself an African-American, tried to find a Dalit media person in New Delhi. Cooper wrote about his failure to do so, and B.N. Uniyal publicised Cooper’s inquiries in the Pioneer. “Suddenly, I realised,” Uniyal wrote, “that in all the 30 years I had worked as a journalist I had never met a fellow journalist who was a Dalit; no, not one.”
Not a single SC, ST

Nothing had changed by the time I published India’s Newspaper Revolution in 2000. Nothing had changed by 2006 when a survey on the 10th anniversary of the Cooper-Uniyal inquiry found not a single SC or ST among more than 300 media decision-makers. And nothing much had changed a year ago when the Tamil journalist, J. Balasubramaniam, wrote a personal account in the Economic and Political Weekly.

Kenneth Cooper, now a media consultant and editor based in Boston, began a distinguished career on the St Louis American, an African-American daily that was commercially successful. If there are similarities between the plight of African-Americans in the past (and present) and Dalits today, then why are there no Dalit-oriented media voices like Ebony or Essence magazines or the old St Louis American or Chicago Defender?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that Dalits lack advantages that Black America enjoyed (though “enjoy” is hardly the right word) even in the 1920s. Most important was a black middle class of shop-owners and professionals. Such people could buy advertisements and put up capital to back a publication. Black America worked in a single language, English, and had networks of churches and their pastors who provided respected leaders, education and connections. Martin Luther King was one of many. Black America was also less divided internally: caste among African Americans was not a problem, though skin tone may have been.

If you’re inclined to say, “Good journalists, regardless of caste, cover stories objectively” or “Quotas and reservations are the bane of modern India — only ability counts,” consider the nationalist experience. Did the old elites who confronted British rule feel they were satisfactorily represented in The Statesman and the Times of India? They didn’t. And The Hindu, Amrita Bazar Patrika, the Hindustan Times, Young India and many others were the result. Babasaheb Ambedkar said it well: “with the press in hand it [is] easy to manufacture great men.”

What might be done to put a Dalit presence into media? Two suggestions. Neither an answer, but both worth considering.
Two suggestions

To begin with, the Editors’ Guild could commit itself to carrying out an annual census of newsroom diversity of the kind that the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) began in 1978. In that year, “people of colour” were 4 per cent of people in U.S. newsrooms, though they were close to 30 per cent of the American population. The target was to reach more than 20 per cent by 2000. They missed the target. In 2011, “minorities” were about 13 per cent of American newsrooms, though they constituted 36 per cent of the U.S. population. (That includes African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians). The new ASNE target date has been set to 2020.

Such targets in India would be difficult. (Targets, remember. Not “reservations” or “quotas”). Caste is so raw and sensitive. But if major organisations took a lead in conducting and publishing an annual audit of diversity, and included women and Muslims in such an audit, an embarrassment factor would kick in. Lesser organisations might feel obliged to follow or be singled out for ridicule.

A middle class is growing slowly among people at the bottom of India’s pyramid (BOIP). People near the bottom, most of whom are Dalits, need a publication that looks at the world from their perspective — bottom up, not top down. A BOIP middle-class needs a first-class publication — an Ebony or an Essence, two of the glossy magazines of Black America that report achievements as well as outrages.
Classy & different

A slick, view-from-below magazine (English and Hindi) would cover stories from the margins in ways that people at the margins would recognise. And its journalism could be so compelling that others would want to read it for its classiness and its difference. In a tiny, budget-conscious way, the Dalit-focussed publisher, Navayana, already tries to do this in the book trade.

Such a publication would need to be run by a trust, and some of the capital would need to come from a Dalit middle-class itself. But the corpus of the trust could be built from donations from people-of-goodwill from all backgrounds and from one-off contributions from governments. Rs. 100 crore would make a realistic target — a mere $20 million, the cost of a couple of mid-priced battle-tanks or a small slice of 2G spectrum.

What about television? For about a year-and-a-half before I first came to India in 1967, I wrote a daily television column for a small-town newspaper in western Canada. I watched a lot of U.S. and Canadian television. There were no Black people on TV. When I came back to North America in 1970, Flip Wilson, an African-American comedian, had a popular TV show. Something dramatic had happened. Thirty-eight years later, the U.S. elected a Black President.

Are there any Dalits anchoring a programme or going regularly to camera on a major Indian television channel? My contacts tell me there aren’t. It will be a big moment when that changes — and a daunting burden on the person who breaks that barrier.

Achieving “equality” and “fraternity” in India may be harder even than the path that African Americans have had to follow. There are more divisions, fewer resources and huge disparities. But until there is diversity on television screens and printed pages, the promises of the Constitution will be unfulfilled, unthinking prejudice will persist and simmering resentment will grow. Media diversity is a matter of national self-interest as well as justice.

(Robin Jeffrey is Visiting Research Professor, Institute of South Asian Studies and Asia Research Institute National University of Singapore. The article is based on the Rajendra Mathur Memorial Lecture delivered in New Delhi on 31 March, 2012.)

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