The View From Here: Actions By Police Nothing New
by David Mark Greaves
The pundit denial of the behavior some European-Americans have toward those who are visibly of African heritage is always astonishing to see. “It wasn’t racism because the Supervising Sergeant was an African-American woman,” they cry in the Daily News. What nonsense. Those European-American men felt they had the license to do as they wanted because when they let their tribal selves out, reining them in would have subjected her to ostracism from the troops as being soft, rather than a commendation for reminding them of their training and thanks for saving them from the worst parts of themselves.
And now police say that Ramsey Orta, the young man who captured (on video) the actions of Officer Daniel Pantaleo as he used a chokehold on Eric Garner, has a criminal history. Even if true, therefore what? The video is discredited and we shouldn’t believe our lying eyes?
And it doesn’t matter how often this violence happens, this infinite number of “isolated incidents” perpetrated against African-Americans, there is always the assertion that they do not spell racism, like claiming there is no forest, only the trees. But now when it’s coming in sets of threes, with Garner first, then the pregnant African-American woman manhandled by a European-American officer for the offense of having a barbecue grill working on the sidewalk, and this last one, as we go to press, the wrestling out of her apartment of an African-American woman by European-Americans who then left her standing half-naked in the hallway outside of her apartment while they walked past to examine what turned out to be the wrong place.
Now a report of the office of Preetinder Singh “Preet” Bharara, an Indian-American who is the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York documenting “a deep-seated culture of violence” at Rikers Island toward African- and Latino -American boys. The only thing that brings this behavior by European and African-American correction officers to heel is the law. It will not be corrected by retraining and sensitivity sessions. Only knowledge that there is legal accountability. The New York Times reports that the chairman of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, Richard D. Emery, “wants to create a CopStat-type system to identify patterns of abuse and complaints in NYPD precincts and involving their officers”. “It will allow the department to be forewarned about issues percolating out there,” said Richard Emery at his first meeting as the head of the board on Tuesday. This would be a good start.
Some call this behavior merely racism, others call it being a “cowboy”, but both of those are said just to be nice, it’s really the most overt expression of the racist elements of European-American tribalism held onto by some, and although it has been tempered over the centuries in its physical expression; there are no more floggings, lynchings and ownership of people, many of whom were able to successfully runaway, many thanks to the efforts of thousands of Abolitionists and Anti-Slavery European-Americans dotting the way into slave-free states and Canada. And yet vestiges of that time resonate even now in the stationhouse and the courthouse, from the recording studio to the boardroom and the teacher’s lounge. There is so much energy spent combating the various manifestations of racism, whether it’s in foreclosures, housing courts or in education, that there is little left to heal the wounds, pay the bills and grow the community. African-Americans could use some tribalism of our own to trade more with each other and address the difficulties in emulating the racial cohesion that was in place from slavery to the civil rights era. The need to be as unified as the Hasidim and just as determined to keep and add to our own.
There is a need to maintain stable families despite the difficulties because we never had to deal with times like the following: Maria Perkins, a slave, wrote her husband the following letter, which revealed her heartache at the forced breakup of her family: Dear Husband I write you a letter to let you know my distress my master has sold albert to a trader on Monday court day and the other child is for sale also and I want you to let [me] hear from you very soon before next cort if you can I don’t know when I don’t want you to wait till Christmas I want you to tell dr Hamilton and your master if either will buy me they can attend to it know and then I can go afterwards I don’t want a trader to get me they asked me if I had got any person to buy me and I told them no they took me to the court house too they never put me up a man buy the name of brady bought albert and is gone I don’t know where they say he lives in Scottesville my things is in several places some is in staunton and if I should be sold I don’t know what will become of them I don’t expect to meet with the luck to get that way till I am quite heartsick Nothing more I am and ever will be your kind wife.12 (From The Effects of Slavery and Emancipation on African-American Families and Family History Research by Tristan L. Tolman, AG)
This is the level of family trauma our forebears had to deal with for centuries and some awareness has to be given to the trauma embedded in the Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome, caused by having to adapt to those kinds of circumstances, is passed down in multiple ways and damages our families today. These are the conditions that have to be worked on and are being worked on by many, but always drawn away by the ongoing pattern of “isolated incidents” that only swift legal responses will curtail. So we must continue the fight for legal justice and always keep in mind the words of Maya Angelou, “And Still I Rise”.