Police Brutality, White Supremacy And Reparations
By Alan Smith, Co-chair, Green Party of Pennsylvania (www.gpofpa.org)
For the past four months we have stopped what we were doing. We have taken drastic, life altering, paradigm shifting changes in order to deal with a global pandemic. The same energy is needed now in dealing with a 400 year old pandemic called white supremacy. It's the brutal treatment by white enslavers on ships sailing across the Atlantic, and the bombing of dark skinned peoples by a Black president with drones flying high in the sky. It's 17 year old Antwon Rose killed by a white police officer in Pittsburgh and a black neighborhood in Philadelphia bombed by a Black mayor. White supremacy is a world-wide disease characterized by the dehumanization and devaluation of Black life.
Thus, George Floyd's murder is not an aberration. Ahmad Arbery's murder is not an aberration. Breanna Taylor's murder is not an aberration. Tony McDade's murder is not an aberration. All were murdered in the name of "public safety." Black bodies have been systematically denied safety, and Black human beings have historically been excluded as part of the general public. Blackness itself has been criminalized. Blacks have been lynched to "protect and preserve" a social order. Who and what then is being protected and preserved? In the call for law and order and public safety, it is capital, property, structural/social arrangements, and white supremacy that are being protected and preserved.
Armed to the hilt, clad in riot gear and barking orders, shooting, throwing chemical weapons and running over people with their vehicles, the police have been responding to protest against police brutality with more police brutality because their core responsibility is to protect and serve the ruling class which is inherently a cruel and vicious endeavor.
Police act this way because they know their actions are protected by qualified immunity. An article written in 1994 soon after the 1992 Los Angeles riots by the Touro Law Center explains how police brutality became decriminalized, citing the close relationship between prosecutors and police as one of the reasons.
Whiteness itself has unqualified immunity. As the PBS documentary, “Slavery by Another Name” points out, from 1877 to 1966 only one Southern white man was ever convicted of murdering a black person despite the thousands of documented lynchings during this period.
When the U.S. Constitution was being written, and power was being allocated among the states, the southern States argued for the humanity of its enslaved Black population. The northern States asserted that they were beasts of burden. A compromise was made that Blacks would be considered three fifths of a human being for voting purposes.
This three fifths idea infects every institution in the U.S. Whiteness becomes the standard by which all things are measured. One drop of Black blood, you're tainted. Got to look white, talk white, act white in order to get the job. Got to live in a white neighborhood to have nice things and go to nice schools. According to the Pew Research Center, the median net worth of a white household in the U.S. is 13 times that of a Black household.
Here’s a prime example of the three fifths compromise at work today. An office in Southeastern Pennsylvania has 3 white males and 2 Black males working. None of the white males has a college degree. Both Black males have graduate degrees from prestigious universities. Yet, all are paid approximately the same amount per hour give or take a few dollars. Blacks are taught at a very young age that one has to work much harder to be seen as good as one's white counterparts. In essence, Blacks are working two fifths more to compensate for the deficit placed upon them by a white supremacist culture.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously asked in the last book he wrote before he was murdered, "Where do we go from here?"
Many are looking to Brian Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative for solutions. It lists 10 things that can be done with regard to our criminal justice system, but it's ultimately calling for reform. There is no reforming an institution that is designed to prioritize capital and property over human lives that is inherently designed to devalue and destroy Black life.
The following action items must be done to combat the evil triplets of white supremacy, capitalism and militarism that King spoke about:
1) Repeal laws that criminalize survival and basic existence. Loitering, vagrancy are just some of the many laws that were passed to re-enslave Blacks after the Civil War.
2) Legalize drugs and treat drug abuse as a medical issue not a criminal one as Portugal has done.
3) Abolish prisons. The practice of caging human beings to solve problems is barbaric.The work done by the prison abolition group Critical Resistance and the work done by Scandinavian countries can help guide us on this issue.
4) Overhaul the justice system. Much to be done here, but let’s start with addressing the reality that 95% of the prosecutors in the U.S. are white.
5) Most importantly, abolish "policing" as a practice and as a profession. Policing in the U.S. began as slave patrols. The history of policing is rooted in white supremacy. We need Public Safety Personnel (PSPs). People trained in de-escalation, conflict mediation, nonviolent negotiation, and non lethal disarmament and restorative justice. We need people trained to protect and serve the most targeted in our society, not the wealthy and powerful. We need people trained in dispute resolution and active and compassionate listening.
Simply addressing our criminal injustice system however is not enough. We also need fair and equitable living conditions. We need reparations.
After WWII billions of dollars in zero interest loans and grants were given to veterans to help them buy homes and start businesses. 98% of that money went to whites. Redlining also created a system of apartheid.
This list is not exhaustive, but the following things should be done for Blacks to repair the damage done to millions of Black Lives: 1) Debt jubilee; 2) Zero interest loans; 3) Credit score resets; 4) Housing vouchers to cover one and a half times the cost of a one bedroom one acre site in your zip code; 5) Free universal healthcare; 6) Eight weeks mandatory paid vacation; and 7) Free K-16 education.
Finally, similar to what South Africa had, the U.S. and its communities need Truth and Reconciliation and Reparations Commissions. We need to know the truth about what law enforcement has been doing. Those involved need to share the full details of their actions and their involvement in these crimes against humanity. They will be given amnesty for their crimes in exchange for formal commitments to spending the rest of their lives repairing and paying restitution for the harm done.
"America must have the courage to confront and correct its wrongs, truthfully and honestly, so that our country can move forward in harmony, and not be tied down and doomed to continue repeating its past mistakes," says Olivia Faison, the Green Party's 2020 candidate for PA Auditor General.
These past four months, we have proven to ourselves that we can totally change our lifestyles and abruptly alter our behaviors. We have proven to ourselves that we can pull money out of thin air and make tremendous structural shifts overnight. We have shown that we can STOP the unhealthy machine and focus on teaching and reinforcing healthy habits in fending off COVID-19. Let's do the same in tackling the disease called white supremacy. Black Lives Matter!
The Green Party is the only national party that has Black reparations as a part of its platform. The Green Party of PA (GPPA, https://www.gpofpa.org/) is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. For further information about GPPA, please visit www.gpofpa.org or email email@example.com. Please follow GPPA on social media: Facebook and Twitter.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
“Demographic Trends and Economic Well-being,” Pew Research Center, 2016, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/06/27/1-demographic-trends-and-economic-well-being/;
“Reforming Policing in America 2020,” Equal Justice Initiative, https://eji.org/issues/policing-in-america/;
“Rodney King and the Decriminalization of Police Brutality in America” by Peter L. Davis, Scholarly Works, 1994, https://digitalcommons.tourolaw.edu/scholarlyworks/212/;
“Slavery by Another Name,” PBS Documentary, 2012, http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/home/; and
“Study Finds 95 Percent of Prosecutors are White,” Equal Justice Initiative, 2015, https://eji.org/news/study-finds-95-percent-of-prosecutors-are-white/.