Beyond Ferguson: The reality of Black persecution & colonization in 2016

Richard Sudan
Richard Sudan is a London-based writer, political activist, and performance poet. His writing has been published in many prominent publications, including the Independent, the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Spectator. He has been a guest speaker at events for different organizations ranging from the University of East London to the People's Assembly covering various topics. His opinion is that the mainstream media has a duty to challenge power, rather than to serve power. Richard has taught writing poetry for performance at Brunel University.
© Sait Serkan Gurbuz
The problem of US police violence was rammed home on Aug 9 2014 with the killing of Mike Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Missouri by white officer Darren Wilson.

Many more examples of police violence and abuse of power continue to surface, and while the problem has always existed, more and more people are at least now discussing the issue.

Cases like that of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot dead by a Cleveland police officer. The police officer later walked free, while the world reeled in disbelief at the complete failing of the so-called justice system.

The murder of Trayvon Martin, 17, for example, who was killed by one George Zimmerman, who was not a police officer, but whose resume revealed him to be an aspiring one, with a history of racism to boot.

There is a deep history to places like Ferguson, where there is a tendency for the indiscriminate killing of young Black men, and a history of struggle against the same state which once recognized slavery as legal.

To understand what is happening today, we need to understand that history, while also recognizing the degree to which things are made worse today by the effects of a failing neo-liberal economy at crisis with itself. The problems of today can be explained by the crimes of the past, but the current severity of the problems we now face can be explained by the unique conditions we now confront.

The problems of today are not new, but as the crisis which brought them about reaches its apex, the crisis of capitalism, so the problems caused by the crisis worsen in severity. Political problems, social problems, economic problems, and corruption, all worsen and are magnified under such a crisis.

The problems associated with the abuse of state power in this sense are no different. As the crisis of capitalism deepens, so too do the abuses of power by the apparatus of the state, in this case the police, unto the very communities which built the so-called free world, the birthplace of capitalism, with free labour extracted from slavery, over a period of more than 300 years.

Africans in the USA never got a slice of the pie, and now Blacks in poor communities are expected to remain calm while the very same state which exploited them, now guns down Black people in the street with complete impunity.

Black Americans have every right to resist, defend themselves and fight what is quite simply, the ongoing colonization and social control of Black people in America.

Given the history of the treatment of Blacks in America, and today when looking at levels of education, employment figures, welfare numbers, and disproportionate prison population numbers, is not hard to see why many view the racist history of the United States as being a continual line which simply traces itself from the past, right up to the present day, in the tragedies we see played out. If you’re Black in America, you are more likely to be imprisoned or killed by the police than other ethnic groups. All of these factors speak to the very real and unaccounted for history, in America’s very recent past.

The relationship Black people have with the police today, is arguably no different to the relationship previously with the Klu Klux Klan-it fact some argue its much worse today, with Black people dying at the hands of the state at a quicker rate than at the height of the KKK’s prominence.

As Malcolm X once noted ‘nowadays the KKK have traded in their sheets for police uniforms’. Who could argue with Malcolm’s assessment, when we see the treatment of young Blacks in the US today?

There now exists a private prison system, interwoven with the role of the police, which seeks to make money from imprisoning Black men, a sequence of events which is permeated by a popular culture which still teaches Black people and other minorities to know their place in America.

While scenes like those in Ferguson are repeated around America, and to differing degrees, it is crystal clear that the problem of institutionalized police-state violence is very real, and it is also clear that the problem is widespread.

While it’s true, that since the founding of the USA, minorities and marginalized communities have always been on the receiving end of police violence as part of the class war waged against them, and while it’s also true that now, with the advent of the camera phone, that more of these instances are captured, increasingly, police violence in the United States also is becoming more and more militarized.

Militarized police violence in the sense that more and more police equipment is provided by the military, and also because the police training itself has arguably become more militarized.

What is the result of this process, given that the elephant in the room- i.e. a justice system in the US which fails to jail officers for shooting dead civilians-remains the status quo?

The result of failing to address ongoing institutionalized and militarized state violence at the hands of the police, is that we see more and more instances of murder take place, which resemble executions like that of Freddy Centeno, a mentally ill man who was killed by police in a number of seconds, shot dead having barely had a chance to respond to the police. The fact that Centeno also had a history of mental illness which was known to the police-but apparently not to the officers that shot him-says much about the dangers of state power held in the hands of the incompetent and uninformed.

Centeno is shot and killed in a few rounds. The video which was released by the family, resembles a gangland style hit. The officers do not look like they have any aim other than shooting Centeno nor do they hesitate to do so.

The police are trained in a certain way, the so-called justice system is rigged to favor police officers, the private prison system is designed for corporate gain, benefiting from government contracts and free labor, disproportionately exploiting Blacks and Hispanics, which in turn, represents a modern form of slavery created by capitalism, keeping the wheels turning on a system which consumes more, exploits more, and occupies more countries than any other nation on earth, both historically, and in the modern political context.

The role of the police has always been to control the working class on behalf of the ruling class. Austerity, which in reality simply means class war waged by the 1 percent in the form of economic slavery, has pushed poor communities already marginalized, to the brink of frustration.

Rather than allowing a place like Ferguson to become a spark for further unrest elsewhere, or even a beacon of resistance, the police crush dissent. The media which essentially acts as an arm of the government, simultaneously favors the police, and negatively paints anyone part of any inevitable insurrections with the same brush.
This is precisely the reaction we have seen from both the media and also the government in response to the police killings we have seen in recent years. The media and the police seek to justify the actions of the police.

We’ve even had a Black president essentially tell the people of Ferguson to ‘cool it’ when the world’s spotlight was fixed on Ferguson not so long ago.
As the economic choke-hold continues to keep its grip on the US, instances of state killings sanctioned both at home and also abroad will continue. Furthermore, so long as the prison and justice system in the US continues to cultivate a climate in which, it is more profitable to imprison people than it is to educate them, this breakdown will continue.

As popular culture continues to stereotype Black people and others of color, and a defunct justice system continues to fail in delivering justice to victims of police violence, the message is clear that it is still open season on Black people in America. God only knows how these issues will be shaped over the coming months and years, especially with America’s choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for next president.

As always, answers and solutions will have to come from the bottom up, not from the top down.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.