cop is a cop. He may be a very nice man.
don’t have time to figure that out.
I know is that he has a uniform and a gun.
Baldwin, James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, Soul!: A Conversation,
1983 in Beaufort, South Carolina, and the film, The Big Chill
released. It played to mainly a white audience of my generation of
late 1960s and early 1970s college students, activists—supposedly
conscious citizens opposed to the Vietnam War and racial injustice.
It was a nostalgic look back on the past, what used
be. For some Americans. It’s a nostalgic look back today, too,
for some Americans. Things aren’t the way they used to be, for
sure. But, then, it all depends on the demographics. Which boxes do
you check off on inquiring applications. Old categories from the era
of slavery in the US still matter. No need to look back to the past.
In that sense, for all of America’s technological advancement,
very little has been transformed it’s mindset when it comes to
race and the continue violence of injustice and police brutality.
the film, used-to-be “protesters,” graduates from the
University of Michigan’s campus at Ann Arbor come together
again to attend the funeral of an old college friend who committed
suicide in the home of Harold and Sarah Cooper. The Coopers, played
by Kevin Kline and Glenn Close, have a winter home.
The one the film’s viewers are privy to see isn’t it!
obvious by the largess of the house that the Coopers have done well
for themselves, at least according to the standards of the bourgeois
playbook in the 1980s. Harold is a business man who can retire early
and Sarah is a medical doctor. There’s a Tom Selleck-type
Magnum, P.I. television star, Sam Weber, played by Tom Berenger and
real estate lawyer, Meg Jones, played by Mary Kay Place, who used to
work in the “slums” when she thought she would be working
on behalf of Huey and Bobby. JoBeth Williams plays Karen Bowens, a
mother and housewife to a man who makes enough to provide her
children, as she always wished. Chloe, played by Meg Tilly, shared a
little cabin off from the house with the dead boyfriend, and Jeff
Goldblum, Michael Gold, a journalist with People magazine, is looking
for investors to help him open a nightclub like “Elaine’s”
Hurt’s character, a damaged Vietnam vet, Nick Carlton, on the
other hand, is another matter. He dropped out from a career as a
psychologist with a radio talk show.
most of the gang is inside preparing to watch the Wolverines on
television in the Cooper’s den, they hear a commotion outside,
and, of course, it’s Nick coming back to the house, escorting
by a police car. After an exchange of words, and a sad bit where the
officer, willing “to forget the whole thing,” challenges
Sam, a “hunk” of a man, to jump into Nick’s open
Porsche 911 convertible, just like J. T. Lancer, Sam’s
doesn’t go very well.
finally all is well, and Harold thanks the police. The policeman
drives off and the friends return to the house.
is just ahead of Nick.
when did you get so friendly with the police?”
repeats his question, and Harold turns to face him. He’s angry.
cop has twice kept this house from being ripped off. Happens to be a
hell of a guy.”
live here! I live here! I’m dug in!
doesn’t need someone like Nick, with his adversary relationship
with the police. And life in general.
a private road, behind a gate, among the beautiful Bodacious and
Angel Oak trees, life is good for the Coopers in South Carolina. And
the police help protect that good life.
Renewal swept through the US, removing Black people from urban
settings, from homes, from apartments in HUD and non-HUD
housing—disconnecting Blacks from their small businesses,
children from their schools. And while these homes, apartments,
neighborhood of small business owners, and schools were severely
neglected by absentee landlords, including HUD, and government
agencies that should have cared to for upkeep of streets, the
residents still fought to remain in place.
someone channeled Nazi Germany because there’s always a
history, a trace. It wasn’t the furniture or the personal items
or the gold. It was the land. Whole swathes of real estate—no
longer protected for the current occupants.
the Black Americans were removed, whites could return to the cities,
to high-rise apartments with electronic access only and 24-hour
guards. And gates. And police protection.
I have to say it because it has to be said again: the Black
bourgeoisie cashed in too. In a position to speak out on behalf of
the whole of the Black community, the Black bourgeoisie chose to look
out for Self and family. They waved the white flag of surrender and
wore the Kente cloth and practiced a brand of pseudoAfrican
nationalism that tooted
their “achievement” as having arrived too in solidarity
with systemic racism. Offering no challenge to the capitalists or to
the ideology of white supremacy, the bourgeoisie in the bronze cages
allowed white America to believe it had nothing to feel guilty about.
White America need not give up anything, particularly not it’s
extension of safety and protection to Black America.
Black bourgeoisie forgot it was Black too. And Black lives don’t
matter in America’s history of violence.
like Joe Biden who forgot what side he was on when Anita Hill tried
to be heard. Biden forgot his support for legislation that helped to
criminalize economically poor Blacks. There’s the Biden under
Bill Clinton writing the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law
Enforcement Act, putting 100,000 more police on the streets.
Committed to “law and order,” Biden has played a role in
forming the mentality of police officers who in running roughshod
over Blacks and Latinx communities learn to associate anti-police
brutality, anti-prison, anti-ICE activism as liberal thinking and,
therefore, soft on violence. In fact, anti-police brutality,
anti-prison, and anti-ICE represent the activism of pro-human
protesters who are sick and tired of violence—state violence
perpetrated against the most vulnerable Americans—made so
because of these heavy-hand policies and laws that are the foot on
the necks of Black Americans.
filmmaker Michael Moore reminds us, $600 billion is spent annually in
New York alone to run a police department that looks more like a
military brigade. So armed and readied for battle, too, for how is it
not possible for most police officer to ready themselves for duty in
the morning thinking while attaching the all the weaponry and the
armor mentally comparing themselves to the soldier trained to conduct
combat overseas—among another people of color.
renewal” did a number on the most vulnerable populations, the
already hunted population with in the cross hairs of
paid-for-by-fellow-taxpayers police weaponry. Who needs a war in
overseas? When shinny new high-rise apartments and condos went up in
areas once blighted in poverty, few Americans noticed the destruction
of lives, homes, apartments, businesses—except for the police.
And the prison industrial complex. I remember in the late 1980s and
1990s, encountering so many students majoring in criminal justice.
That’s where the money was at!
here are some students on the criminal justice to law school track
and here are my other students, marginalized by the way the way they
spoke and dressed, having experience already with the criminal
justice industry. And it wasn’t pleasant.
Black America asked for was to be protected by the same justice as
white America receive from law enforcement.
no surprise then that so many from the striking of homes in urban
areas in America found themselves “outdoors,” becoming
sitting ducks for heavy-handed police protection services. “Outdoors”
meant living on street benches and viaducts at night and passing the
newly built gated communities during the day. Remembering you are a
veteran of the Korean War. You are a Vietnam War. You are somebody!
But the city mayors aren’t there to protect your rights. You
have no address and, therefore, are ineligible to vote! You are
economically poor, Black, Latinx, Indigenous. You are BoBo and
Lakisha, not Christian and Kristan.
have a record. Or you don’t have a record. No matter. The 1994
Crime Act in all its amendments is there for you!
little something to relief the pain of being Black while breathing in
America will cost you sometime in the land’s fine facilities.
maybe there’s a relative or two. You can move into that cramped
two bedroom, or, is it just one, how to tell, with the children and
adults, if that room off the side is a bedroom or storage room. If
there’s income, it’s not sufficient—not enough to
move and go where? The old neighborhood where the whites now live
behind gates, paying upwards of 3000 per month in rent or mortgage?
Even the SROs are being torn down for more condos to be built. It’s
a boom for the city’s finest residents and others relocating.
It’s just not for you.
sets in and arguments break out between son and mother, father and
teen daughter, aunts and nieces. And what becomes of the mentally ill
cramped in with the young nieces? What to do about the diabetic aunt
no longer in walking distance of Walgreens or CVS? Becoming dependent
on a working nephew or son with children or daughter too far to come
now adds more stress to an already stressful existence. The city’s
public transportation is too dangerous after 8:00 pm. Sometimes too
dangerous at any time. The grandmother with Alzheimer has to move in,
and there are restrictions on how many people live in the apartment.
So for how long can she stay before there’s a move of someone?
is always the young 20-year old brother who just can’t do it.
Tries, but can’t seem to stay long at McDonald’s because
some teacher decided he wasn’t college material and, if not of
college material, then of no worth at all. At least in his eyes. No
one will come along to him and say, time to take a year and go to
Europe. See the world. Come back all fresh… They tell that to
the sons and daughters in those gated communities—not in the
cramped one-bedroom apartment. Besides, in Europe, you might begin to
think you are human and not America’s punching bag!
love him at home. That’s not the problem. And it’s that
he can’t expect the same safety net or the protection as white
Americans receive—without asking. Begging—as his mother
used to do when asking a don’t-give-a-damn building management
to remove the toxic atmosphere of former residents, roaches and rats,
as forcibly removed from newly-minted apartments so as to not to be
found coexisting in the newly-installed kitchen cabinets and around
bedroom corners in the homes of those valued new comers.
the meantime, Black Americans, consisting of 12.5% of the country’s
drug users make up 29% of the country’s citizens arrested for
drug offenses. After spending time behind bars, the real crime
commences because it’s white America’s false recognition
of what makes them unsafe
brings about the convergence of the criminal justice system and young
20-years old, newly released from prison, scrambles to find work even
while he has to check off that box: Have you been convicted of a
crime? How is white America protected by a criminal justice system
sitting on the neck of young Black people? The young man is to do
what now? And vote—that’s out! Forced out of his home to
the street, he is further marginalized by a system in which he only
represents a number, a demographic—to aid in the further
funding of the police! For his body, his very existence, there will
be one more Glock, one more MRAP land mine vehicle, one more armor,
one more night-vision goggle, one more plains clothes team is
assembled, trained, and deplored into areas in need of protection.
According to a New
York Times article,
it was a plans clothes team that spotted Amadou Diallo and shot him
41 times. It was a plains clothes team that spotted Sean Bell at a
bachelor's party and shot him 50 times.
war declared on the Black body “protects” white America’s
the rest is, as they say, a collective “come to Jesus moment.”
It’s the precariousness of living while Black in America and
the police, firing on anything dark. And precarious.
police do look to keep the neighborhoods of folks like the Cooper’s
safe. They are paid to man the battlefield and keep a tight
surveillance on suspicious characters roaming the area by foot or
car, lingering too long in front of a neighborhood grocery store or
walking down a street where the majority of the residents wear suits
and causal khakis and not hoods and jeans. Maybe the walk is to just
reflect. The jogging helps to figure things out. The loose cigarettes
puts a smile on a few faces. But you never know when a police car
will stop near you, and it will always seem as if the officer wants
to know to whom do you belong? Are you not with the system—an
escapee? On parole? What
master is missing you?
not your safety we have in mind. Because we don’t protect you!
you can hear the question from those resisting the insinuation of
their belonging as an object teetered to a system: Why
are the police here? It’s
Eric Garner. Why
are the police here? It’s
Atatiana. It’s Breonna. George. Rayshard…
are the police here?
the last vestige of my neighborhood? At my car? On my yard?
as I write this article, several Blacks have been found hanging on
trees. From Los Angeles to New York, law enforcement would like us to
believe that Black Americans are hanging themselves. The possibility
that these deaths represent retaliation for the Black Lives Matter
protests happening throughout the US and around the world isn’t
considered. And the response to Black people asking for justice,
asking to be treated as human being is to hang us, to shoot us as we
try to escape a situation that is bad before the encounter between a
white officer and a Black even materializes.
did Rayshard Brooks see in that officer’s eyes? What did he
hear in that voice, a voice that would have channeled slave bounties?
What did he see when he turns and runs? The bounty hunter in the
uniform of the police?
old days have a way of returning in America just when you, as Black,
in your bed sleeping or walking on the street, forget, and think you
are safe. And when you think you’re be protected by the
police—the police arrive while you are asleep in your car or
when you are in your apartment, in your kitchen. The door opens and
you are fired upon.
I’m so tired of the must-see-video of one of us being shot in
the back, shot while jogging, shot while just being a teenager or
preteen. So tired of it all!
are never in a safe space and never can we expect protection from the
I write this article, it’s Juneteenth, for years, a day that
generally Black Americans celebrated among ourselves. Today, because
of the protests of Blacks and allies throughout the country and the
world, protests as a result of the police killing of George Floyd,
the world is celebrating with us, Juneteenth.
of the world. There are and will be some who are anti-human, let
am about two feet from a wall that divides my living room from that
of my white neighbor in her fifties. In the last three months, since
the COVID-19 lock down here in Wisconsin, she has displayed evidence
that something is wrong. And while I’m not a psychologist, I
have been Black for over 66-years and have studied and taught white
supremacy long enough to know the evidence of racism and it’s
shade of sexual perversion. I’ve seen and taught the photos of
happy picnic attendees, in the foreground, smiling into cameras
while, centered, in the background, a Black body hangs from a tree
after having been tortured and brutalized. Somehow these happy
Americans seemed to have received the pleasure they sought now that
the deed was done. For this Sunday. There will be another to come.
Thousands yet to come and be offered to the god of violence.
neighbor loves nothing more than to set her sub woofer at bass and
place a speaker on the wall that separates our apartment. It’s
a daily occurrence, a ritual, she makes no attempt to conceal. And
for hours at a time, the floor is alive and chair I sit in vibrates
to the beat of her music.
I am thinking about the spade of police killings of Black Americans,
or thinking about an idea for another article, or reading, or playing
with my cat, cooking, sick, just not feeling well, need to make a
series of calls to set up appointments with my oncology team or talk
with my sister—it doesn’t matter. She can rev
up the system and I’m surfing on waves. Or, set low, it’s
way, the white woman has my attention. I’m to know she’s
there and in control.
if I don’t acknowledge her, “Yes, ______, I know it’s
you!”, then there’s the alternative. The chokehold! I
first see it rise in my cat, as he shakes his head repeatedly while
looking at me for relief. But what can I do? My ears begin to feel
pressure, as if in a plane at lift off. My head begins to ache, but
it’s not a typical headache. Instead, tt’s the high
frequency from the powerful stereo system that we seniors, in a
senior complex, complained about before the lockdown. The stomping
and pounding of an angry white woman with a powerful stereo was
alarming to us, over a decade older, with compromised health issues.
But then, like the monster in a horror film, this white woman turns
slowly and menacingly from the white women neighbors in front of her
to the Black woman, right next door.
this a terrorist in dreads?
should dare complain to management about this white woman—without
there being consequences!
times, I think, this woman doesn’t seem capable of
understanding she is inflicting pain. But then she seems to enjoy it.
Here, in the face of her dog walking business coming to a stand still
for months, she can make entertainment, some distraction. Here, in
her home, she is powerful. Knowingly or unknowingly, she joins a
historical and continual response to the presence of freed Black
people after the Civil War. She, someone among the over 40 million
without employment, is still white, and is still permitted by a
collective “innocence” that is American ignorance on how
white supremacy functions in everyday America, to control a Black
woman, someone with one too many books, and one too many degrees.
Isn’t that why Reconstruction collapsed? Isn’t that why
Tulsa, Oklahoma happened?
who believes Black lives matter—how dare her—and live
next to me!
written about management here in this predominately white senior
complex in a rural area of Pleasant Prairie. Gas lighting has been
the outcome of my encounter with the company hired by the investors,
capitalists seemingly less concerned about my Black live in this
building, at least. While COVID-19 is killing a disproportionate
number of Black Americans because of the economic disparities this
country sets in place to keep a chokehold around Black people’s
collective necks, and while the shootings of Blacks has brought
Americans of all races out into the streets for weeks, the investors
have seemed to wash their hands of the torture I’m
experiencing. They notified her of their “inspection” of
her apartment and found nothing that would create the problem I
mentioned to them. I believe, she didn’t even own a stereo!
Just a smart phone!
out the website Nextdoor on the use of high-tech and sonic equipment
to target Black neighbors. Back in 2015, the CEO was interviewed by
Gayle King after his site become a place for racists to virtually
congregate and share tactics on how to annoy neighbors, particularly
Black neighbors. All you need is a smartphone and apps.
course, as quickly as the stereo and accessories disappeared is as
quickly as they returned—not to blast neighbors out of their
stupor, but to harass me. White neighbors complained first, back in
December, when the woman arrived in the building. I joined the
original complainers in March. Somehow, as I told the white tenants,
my complaint will not sit well with the troublesome tenant and the
her, months later, it’s as if I’m discovered, and right
next door, on the other side of her living room wall. Imagine
Columbus just saying to himself, oh, well, just let the inhabitants
remain in place. Live and thrive—while of darker hue…
candidate for “bully of the year,” my white neighbor
isn’t tolerating restrictions on her “freedom” very
well, is she?
you called the police?
I’ve learned is that this particularly expression of American
madness isn’t a task for the police, law enforcement. When I’ve
called the police, generally in the middle of the night, I’ve
asked that they don’t come to my apartment—in part
because of the COVID-19. But mainly, because I don’t want to be
shot dead for calling on a white woman. Historically, that scenario
isn’t advised for Black Americans. I can’t wait to see if
the police arriving will be “nice” or not.
how do you describe the new tactic used against me, if it’s no
longer stomping and pounding, and the police can’t hear the
stereo behind the steady hum of white noise behind her door?
is them, and they are her. I know that all too well.
beefed up white guys, I imagine from past experience, show up.
Bullish. In the middle of the night, the two see a dark face. Never
mind an older woman. Never mind a woman barely over 100 pounds. A
wellness check on Atatiana Jefferson and in seconds, she’s
dead. Breonna Taylor, an EMT, sleeping after her shift, never finds
out that hers, sorry, was the wrong house.
appear frightened of the darkness. Where’s the
light? Where’s the light?
one of them will point a flashlight at me and then behind me. All of
this taking place so rapidly as to set my heart to racing. What
have I done? What have I done?
police shouldn’t be called to a scene like the one I described
above—unless, the neighbor is wielding a knife or is pointing a
gun at me. What are the police to do? Reinforcing a lease contract
regarding noise or disturbance, loud or otherwise, is the
responsibility of management. So when the police come expect them to
be angry. In an idea world, they shouldn’t be. But this is
America! What they see is a Black person who has disturbed them!
Disturbed their lunch. Or interrupted the writing of some report.
as for the possibility of a mentally ill person, someone behind a
door they are asked to knock on—well, should this “wellness”
check be a task of the police? And, ultimately, anyone behind that
door doesn’t have to open it.
police show up with guns. They know how to use guns, rubber bullets,
and tasers—military-style gadgets as outrageous as my
neighbor’s misuse of a stereo system and military-style
surveillance accessories. The mindset that creates an environment in
which I sit in fear of the white neighbor and the police is that same
entity which must be eliminated! It’s this corruption of
thought that makes for an unsafe environment for Black Americans.
police are not trained to resolve racial harassment! Who are we
kidding? I know before I pick up the phone at 2:00 and 3:00 am in the
morning. Policing, as we know it, is what protected the slaveholder
from my enslaved ancestors and protected the rights of Americans to
erect Confederate monuments in honor of criminals who served to
maintain the institution of slavery.
the current situation, police, for the most part, recognize in Black
Americans a potential, if not, criminal element. And a fascist idea
of an enemy within unites all who are not symbolic of racial
will the police make me feel safe? They are taught by a racist
society to see a “tainted” person, someone “contaminated”
and not 100% Americans. How will they protect me from someone intent
on revenge and doesn’t care if she hurts or sickens or worse
another human being?
many times is this scene played out in America? How many times will
Black forced to move from one neighborhood to the next, usually white
enclaves, where we are unwelcome, and where we are guaranteed not to
receive the same protection from danger that white Americans take for
will recognize my white neighbor’s rights before they even see
me as a human being anywhere I move within this country.
are some in the police department who I think do understand. But
that’s not all of law enforcement in this town. It’s
certainly not true of Wisconsin, a predominately white state, that
manages, year after year, to rank among the top states in the nation
for incarceration Black Americans.
appeal to civil rights agencies, such as the NAACP or the Legal
Action groups, is often futile. White supremacist policies and laws
set the bar set so high as to permit only specific cases of the most
outrageous, that is, murder at the hands of police or vigilantes, to
be brought to the attention of the courts. Good luck if you try an
appeal to Aging Disability and Resource Centers or even tenant Rights
resource centers. They are overworked, underfunded—and this
on the part of a capitalist system that doesn’t do so well when
it comes to serving and protecting anyone but the wealthy and
powerful—let alone Black Americans!
In the meantime, the countless, day-to-day violations of Black
citizen’s rights are silenced.
it and grin while you’re at it!
to policies and laws that recognize Black as the terrorist rather
than recognize the practice of white terrorism must be changed and
not reformed, but erased and replaced with humane and democratic laws
practicing social justice as a norm.
white supremacy of capitalists upholds the racism of the many.
don’t believe we can change the mindset of those Americans
committed heart and mind to hate and the oppression of others. For
all their electronic gadgets and weaponry, Americans can’t take
up the short time we have to confront a pandemic and a warming
planet, with people who won’t bulge.
are our own protection. We must collectively change the system that
chokeholds us in its entirety. The mindset of young Americans and
future generations is counting on us.
is certain, but inaction is surely death.