When Congresswoman Maxine Waters produced the chant ‘no justice, no peace’ in the wake of Rodney King’s vicious beating could she ever have imagined that a widespread insurrection would have such little impact upon an insidious status quo in the United States of America?
Twenty-two years on and Maxine Waters is attending a funeral for Mike Brown in her hometown of St. Louis, while facing the aftermath of Ezell Ford’s tragic death in her congressional district of South Los Angeles.
Many of the details from both cases are hotly disputed, but one consistency is unequivocal: these two young black men were both unarmed victims of racially-motivated police brutality.
Like many before him, Ezell Ford was helpless to resist the predisposed intentions of highly-aroused officers prepped for war in the ghettoized black neighbourhoods of Los Angeles.
In more ways than one, Ezell Ford peered into the eyes of despotic oppression during the final moments of his life. One of many precious lives prematurely ended by acquiescent enforcers of a militarized institution fed by an omnipotent arms industry: blurring the lines between police officer and soldier.
Kara Dansky, an ACLU scholar who studies police militarization, highlights the example of one prominent federal program which requires each department that received military-grade equipment to use these instruments of war within a year or face the prospect of losing the gear to another precinct. Combined with the external pressures of a post-9/11 social climate, and the upshot is Ferguson.
As Orsod Malik fervently points out in Acknowledging Privilege, the set of established beliefs advanced by white supremacy are perpetuated through a prescribed myriad of socially constructed attitudes, behaviours and institutional powers. All of which signify that privilege is an exclusive entity: reserved for social groups with the power to dictate hegemony; the authority to subjugate justice.
Justice couldn’t bring back her brother Derrick, but perhaps it could reaffirm the injustice of his untimely death and offer Demi a future unburdened by the thrust of an established white supremacy.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, records are not kept regarding the true scale of unjustifiable police shootings in America. However, the traditional civil rights organization – the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – recently presented statistics to a hearing which revealed that between 2004 and 2008, 45 police shootings were recorded in the city of Oakland. Significantly, none of these victims were white, whilst in 18 of these cases the victims were unarmed. Incredulously, in all 45 instances the officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing; just as Eriberto Perez-Angeles and Omar Daza-Quiroz – the two officers who killed Derrick Jones – were exonerated following two trials, the latter being a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by his wife Lanell Jones. According to Perez-Angeles, “justice” had been served.
Placed in a wider context, all 45 instances of racially-motivated police brutality in Oakland, California over this five-year span are profoundly emblematic of the depraved landscape in America. Critically, the “interlocking systems of domination” – that prominent black feminist bell hooks denotes through the powerful phrase ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ – cooperatively work to preserve this insidious status quo which functions to consolidate prevailing forms of capital in the exclusive sphere of a parasitic privileged elite.
As a recent report regarding racial disparities in the US criminal justice system reveals, black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males. Crucially, the source of these outrageously disproportionate incarceration rates in the world’s most profitable privatized prison industry is “deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination”.
On a merely subconscious level, when an officer observes a black man repudiate the will of law enforcers: refuse to offer an illegitimate authority his civil obedience; this act of sincere rebellion instantaneously arouses the thoroughly ingrained belief that white people are superior to men and women of all other races, especially the black race.
Their acquiescence to the norms of an institutionalized culture has facilitated this ravenous and deplorable social paradigm which continues to pervade American society under the guise of a ‘western democracy’.
For Derrick Jones, the loosely-defined act of moving his hand toward his waistband prompted two law enforcement officers to shoot him nine times.
Without question, these horrific instances of latent racism highlighted thus far signify that the warped constructs associated with institutionalized racism are symptomatic of an established white supremacist doctrine firmly embedded within the very foundations of American society.
As recent events concerning the execution style killing of Mike Brown poignantly underscore, proponents of institutionalized racism are omnipresent in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. But shouldn’t we instead empower the innovators of tomorrow?
Unquestionably, the prevailing dogma of an orthodox, black-white dichotomy rampantly pervades our prevailing western cultures as a central component to the all-encompassing doctrine of divide and rule. But what can we really accomplish by psychoanalysing the civil obedience of its agents? Shouldn’t we instead be tearing down corruption by instigating real change with our civil disobedience?
Fundamentally, institutionalized racism is the by-product of an interminable perseverance to preserve the status quo. After eons of a continual struggle for collective liberation, the ingrained belief that white people are superior to those of all other races is largely sustained by a racist ideology incognito and rampant.
Building upon a recognition of more traditional notions of racism, the term institutionalized racism actively seeks to acknowledge the growing intimacy between established institutions and personal constructs. For many of us, in the midst of a social climate where perceptions of the world around us are being attentively shaped by an advanced cultural hegemony, white privilege lurks dangerously behind the scenes.
As the American media conglomerates amply demonstrate, news reports and talk shows pivot a one-sided narrative over racially-charged police shootings upon the personal constructs of the perpetrator and victim. For example, the convenience store robbery – which allegedly took place moments before Mike Brown was killed – has been confounded by the extensive coverage of ‘rioting’ and ‘looting’ that surreptitiously awakens the derogatory racial stereotypes ingrained in America’s social hierarchy. In fact, CNN and other mainstream media outlets only lodged a serious interest in the death of Mike Brown once rioting and looting begun to escalate on the streets of Ferguson.
And lost in the midst of this arousing fixation on the white perpetrator is black consciousness. Courageous black revolutionaries like Steve Biko and Malcolm X sought to enact Frantz Fanon’s findings on the effects of colonization on the oppressed in South Africa and America respectively to instigate real social change: and their ideas live on today.
Presently, representatives of an omnipotent media industry inadvertently minimize the mainstream impact of authentic civil movements by failing to recognize the profound influence of an established white supremacist doctrine on one’s personal constructs.
To combat this, we must actively support movements like the Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement, the Dream Defenders, and the Black Youth Project, by joining their collective struggle for justice, equality and liberation in any way we can. Furthermore, we must distance ourselves from any latent prejudices by continually challenging our most immediate and established perceptions, because through identifying the inexorable grip of hegemonic compartmentalization we can sincerely act upon our awareness of the interrelated facets of a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy to ensure that the ‘invisible’ are made visible.
We can collectively break this habitual paradigm of acquiescence.