A mid west carpenter reports having several discussions with co-workers about the Michael Brown case. He says that the co-workers (all white) at first defend the police. “Are you kidding?” he asks them. “Brown was unarmed. He didn’t have a weapon! How can you justify shooting somebody who is unarmed?” Then, he says, he goes on to tell them that they shouldn’t think that what happened to Brown will only happen to black young men. “What the police do to them, they will also do to whites.”
“That gets them thinking,” he said.
In fact, of course, he’s right. We know that the police shoot black people a lot quicker than whites, but nobody is safe. Just ask Dillon Taylor, for instance. Well, actually, you can’t ask him because he was shot and killed by the Salt Lake City police just two days after Michael Brown was killed. And in his case, he was shot as he walked away. And there is video of it. And the cop was completely exonerated.
Or take the case of James Boyd, a mentally disturbed homeless man who was shot by the Albuquerque cops, who then sicced a dog on him as he lay dying on the ground.
Again, it would be very wrong to deny that black people bear the brunt of police brutality and police murders. But it’s not purely a matter of racism, and for most white people – for most people in general, in fact – they have to see how their self-interest is involved. And there is little that can be clearer: If the police are given a free hand to brutalize and kill any one group of people – black people, in this case – then nobody is safe from them.
And there’s another issue: The reason why the police are allowed to run wild in the US.
Ever since the 1980s, the US economy has not allowed for the “American Dream” for increasing numbers. So big business has had to find a way to confuse and divide millions of people. The main way they do this is by sowing fear and distrust, hostility and suspicion. Everybody is out to get you. Everybody is out to rob you or worse. And the police are all that stand between you and “mayhem” as the Wall St. Journal put it. Of course, given the
history and traditions of the US, racism is an inherent part of this.
But in the end, we should never forget what self-styled “zillionaire” Nick Hanauer wrote, “you show me a highly unequal society and I’ll show you a police state.”
This is why the struggle against racism as related to the police is directly related to the economic struggle. It’s why Martin Luther King said, “we are engaged in the class struggle,” and why he died while (maybe because) he was organizing a poor people’s march on Washington.