According to FBI figures, in 2013 there were 461 “justifiable homicides” by police. According to the Wall St. Journal article of 12/03/2014 and reviewed here, there is a 45% systematic undercount of this number. That means that a more accurate number is 668 people killed per year in the US by police, or almost 2 per day.
Just as with the incarceration rate, which exceeds every other country in the world, it’s hard to find a country that is not in civil war (e.g. Syria, etc.), and one that is relatively stable politically, that comes close. Some might argue that the reason is that there are more civilians with guns in the US, so the police have to be quicker to shoot. So take a look at Canada, where gun ownership is just as widespread. There, according to this list, the police killed all of seven people in 2013. And according to this article, a black person is three times more likely to be killed in an encounter with the police than is a white person. The article says that the number of black people killed by police has “nearly reached” the number lynched a century ago. But considering that the total number underestimates by 45%, it’s most likely that even more are being killed – or lynched by the cops in their daily encounters with black people.
And we mean exactly “encounter”. In this video, we see a cop having stopped a black man for supposedly driving without his seat belt on, and when he’s asked for his license and reaches into his car to get it, the cop immediately shoots him.
What is happening?
Here in the US, the police are taught to shoot first and ask questions later. That’s shown in this memo from an official in the Seattle police department, where they worry that cops will now hesitate to kill people. Add to that some other factors:
- A general culture encouraged by Hollywood, the military industrial complex, the corporate-controlled politicians and every other source of real influence in US society that the taking of human life means nothing.
- The prevalent racism in all sectors of US society
- The “law-and-order” politics, necessary for controlling large sectors of the US population, especially in this era of economic attacks on all workers. Part and parcel of this is the image sown of black men as violent criminals.
So when they say “the whole system is guilty”, this is literally the truth. Reforms are can be won, at least temporarily. The number of people, including people of color, murdered by the police can be temporarily reduced by a true mass movement. And we must wage that movement. But US capitalism cannot afford to stop doing what it’s doing.
As Malcolm X said, “you can’t have capitalism without racism.” And as this movement struggles to be born, we have to figure out how to connect the struggle against racism with the struggle to overthrow capitalism itself. Nothing less will do.