Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Talk About Your Institutionalized Racism


When I talk about a type of oppression as being "institutionalized," I generally mean that it's sanctioned by the government and/or embedded deep within government systems. The best example of this is always the racist US police force.

Now that many people have Internet and camera phones, it only takes a little but of paying attention to notice the intense amount of racism within police departments across the country, from New York to Seattle, California to Florida. Police brutality in itself is out of control, but it's much worse for people of color - particularly black and Latin@ people.

Here's a stark example. In April, video was taken of a cop choking a restrained white man for no apparent reason. The guy passed out after a few seconds but was relatively unharmed. The cop was fired after brutality complaints were filed, and he may be charged with assault (or so it looked back in April). No one blinked an eye at this - it was considered totally justified to fire that cop for choking an unresistant man.

Fast-forward to July, and a black man on a corner is harassed by police on the suspicion that he was selling untaxed cigarettes. A cop is caught on video putting the unresistant black man in a choke hold. Tragically, the man had asthma, and can be heard saying over and over that he can't breathe. He has a heart attack and is dead before he arrives at the hospital.

What happened to the man who murdered the victim? He gets put on desk duty. Meanwhile, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch jumps up to say that "[t]he department’s modification of this police officer under these circumstances is a completely unwarranted, knee-jerk reaction for political reasons and nothing more."

Then it comes out that this cop has been sued three times for racially-motivated police misconduct, including an unwarranted strip search and misrepresenting facts in a case to try and get someone thrown in jail for charges that were eventually dismissed. He wasn't fired for any of that, and still gets to stay on the force after there's clear video evidence of him killing a man who was clearly not a threat.

How many more people of color need to die before we all acknowledge that a large portion of police departments have a serious racism problem? When will racist cops start seeing some actual punishment for murdering people? This is not okay. This has to stop. People are dying all the time. It's time to start giving a fuck.

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