Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama Personally Dragged into Police Brutality and Profiling Issue


Since the election of President Barack Obama, there have been hundreds or thousands of cases of police abuse of brown-skinned Americans -- cases that the Obama Administration has not chosen to raise to the level of national cause celêbres. Many Blacks and even a white woman have been administered 50,000 volt shocks, some dying after being Electrocuted While Black.

The victims were nameless Black and Latino unknowns, the abuse of whom is normal in America. Obama has commented on them for the most part. Politically, he has to visibly focus on the issues that affect the majority of (white) Americans if he is to maintain his approval ratings, pass his domestic programs through the US Congress and be re-elected in 2012. Focusing on police abuse of Blacks is a double negative for Obama who angers many white voters while failing to win their favor by focusing on meeting their needs.

However, the arrest of Harvard University's Professor and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. touches Obama almost as if a member of his family were needlessly arrested as retaliation for requesting a police officer's badge number and name. Obama graduated from Harvard University's law school. One of his mentors, Charles Ogletree, a nationally known lawyer on Harvard University Law School's faculty, is the lawyer for professor Gates, and was forced into the unfamiliar role of retrieving one of his friends and colleagues from the Cambridge, MA police department.

The above graphic comes from a report about Professor Gates' role in starting The Root online magazine for the Washingon Post, whose writers have been reliable friends of the Obama's aspirations during the presidential campaign and continues to support him now.

So, like it or not, President Obama has been compelled by these circumstances to wade into the same national problem that led to the founding of the Panther Party, which is police brutality and the police's utter contempt for and persistent harrassment of Black people, in the belief that Blacks have no rights that police officers, regardless of their skin color, are bound to respect. In all areas of de jure law, the US Supreme Court's pre-Civil War Dred Scott v. Sanford decision has been overturned, but Dred Scott survives heartily in the ethos of police departments nationwide, regardless of the skin color of the officers involved, when it comes to the treatment of Black people. Blacks have no rights that police feel compelled to respect.

In 1998, toward the end of the second term of the Bill Clinton's presidency, Clinton announced his desire for a "national conversation about race". For all intents and purposes, the discussion never occurred for the same reason that courts do not decide issues unless their is a specific "case or controversy" before them, and the parties are there to litigate the matter. Without a specific case to discuss, conversations have no focus and there can be no debate about how our values apply to a specific set of facts, a "case or controversy" about which facts andn statistics can be gathered and decisions made.

Skin color issues, like law, are not usefully resolved in the abstract. Concepts, beliefs and opinions have to be applied to specific facts for such conversations to have any focus and value. Often the specific circumstances that provide such opportunities for concrete analysis are not chosen by presidents but forced upon them by happenstance.

Because one of America's most important and substantial Black professors has been abused as Blacks generally are daily, President Barack Obama has been confronted with a very specific "case or controversy" about color arousal issues. The question is, if the most influential Blacks in the country can be treated with utter disregard for their humanity, than what chance do average Blacks have of living unmolested by police color-aroused brutality and injustice?


Anonymous said...

Though I'm sure Gates' arrest was the result of him committing Uppity While Black, I think the response to Obama's remark has more to do with America's relationship to authority.

Civilian officials are simply not allowed to criticize police, individually or collectively.

Ever. Period.

Laurie B said...

You can explore Skip Gates' many connections on an interactive relationship map here:

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

Laurie B., thanks for the information. I've placed it in the sidebar where we can continually refer to it.

"Anonymous", do you really believe it's true that, as you said,

"Civilian officials are simply not allowed to criticize police, individually or collectively.

Ever. Period."

Don't political candidates often run campaigns that focus on corruption within police departments and excessive overtime, while those candidates promise to use a "new broom" to sweep away those abuses and excesses?

Isn't it true that Sarah Palin fired the head of her state's police? And also ran a public campaign against him?

Weren't several police officers arrested just a couple of days ago by the FBI in New Jersey as the result of an investigation into police misconduct and corruption?

Wasn't the whole 2008 presidential election campaign about whether the highest levels of the US military were effectively prosecuting the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Haven't police officers been fired for demanding sex from women in return for not being arrested?

Haven't police officers been fired and publicly condemned for accepting bribes, or for stealing and selling drugs from the police evidence lockers?

The truth is that Black civilians are not allowed to criticize police individually or collectively, or else whites will say that we're imagining things and that WE'RE motivated by color-aroused ideation and emotion to engage in that critical behavior.

The truth is also that color-aroused policing is just another form of corruption and misconduct. Because of America's color-aroused ideation and emotions, Americans put police color-aroused misconduct in a category by itself, where we need ABSOLUTE proof of HEINOUS and ABSOLUTELY indefensible police behavior, such as sticking a plunger handle up a Black man's ass, before white people will acknowledge that police behavior is inappropriate. And even then, white people can imagine circumstances under which it would be appropriate to stick a plunger handle up a black person's ass, or take a child from a Black woman and shoot the child in front of neighbors.

Too many white people still believe that a Black person has no rights that the police are bound to respect.

And I think "Anonymous" should acknowledge that police are investigated by the FBI, internal affairs and the executive all the time, and it's only when skin color is involved that criticisms are considered absolutely off-limits.

If Obama had been criticizing a police officer for accept a bribe in a brown paper bag, everyone would have agreed with Obama's criticism.