Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Obama reassures the cops all will be well. But will it?

Source: Washington Post
The caption to this picture reads in part: "President Obama......seeks to unify a country divided by race and politics"

But these killings are not simply about race in the way they mean it.  If they were, other targets that would have caused more harm to white people could have been chosen. It's about police brutality, the role of the police in society and capitalism. 

By Richard Mellor
AFSCME Local 444, retired

The US media continues its coverage in the aftermath of the recent police killings and is trying very hard to control the damage. The situation in US society is so volatile that even diversions like imaginary terrorists and foreign threats can’t keep people corralled now that the NBA finals are over.

Most news outlets reported on President Obama’s “open letter” to US law enforcement yesterday praising them for their service, loyalty, patriotism and bravery among other things. 
"Every day, you confront danger so it does not find our families, carry burdens so they do not fall to us, and courageously meet test after test to keep us safe," he wrote, adding, "Thank you for your courageous service.  We have your backs."

It is clear, as I commented previously, that these events present a serious crisis for the US ruling class or the 1% as this section of society tends to be called over here.  While at some time or another ordinary folks need help from the police, the role of the police in society is to protect the rich and the powerful, protect their system and the laws that their legislators write.  They are the armed defenders of capitalism on the streets, even if  individual policemen don’t see themselves in this light. The 1% cannot tolerate or allow people to go around shooting their first line of defense in society. * Gavin Long, the Baton Rouge shooter may have been a hero for killing Iraqis if he did, but when under their direction as a marine he must only kill who his superiors tell him to.

The police are so important to us, to workers in our communities, in the urban ghettos, in the suburbs and rural areas according to Obama, that, Any attack on police is an unjustified attack on all of us.”.

And he writes further, “Some are trying to use this moment to divide police and the communities you serve.” I assume here he is talking about the individuals that are responsible for the Baton Rouge and Dallas killings.  But he may well be talking about the Black Lives Mater movement and its supporters as well, as this movement is not exactly a cheerleading outfit for law enforcement. Then there are all the other movements arising as a consequence of the 1%’s austerity agenda that also find themselves in conflict with the police if their activities are not contained within the laws the 1% deem acceptable.

But it’s the role of the police in these communities that is the cause of division, of animosity toward them, not simply “some” people. Law enforcement “…cannot be held responsible for the social issues such as poverty, lack of mental health services, unemployment, and abject poverty," Obama writes in his letter.  This is true, it’s not what the police are in these communities for. They are there to ensure the community is contained and doesn’t erupt in to complete chaos, or rioting as they are overwhelmed by poverty and preyed upon by absentee slumlords, vulture capitalists and the police themselves in so many cases.  The conditions that exist in these communities is a product of institutional racism over generations and the economic disparity and class war that is inherent in capitalist society. The police will be used more frequently in the suburbs as the workers and the middle class are forced to pay for corporate wars.

If the population rises up in a political manner, occupy vacant buildings, take action to disrupt business and commerce in response to these conditions imposed on them and in order to force society to act. If they do this to demand jobs, hospitals, schools, housing an end to racism and economic disparity etc., then the police are there to ensure “order” is returned. If they resist, they have courts and prisons for this activity. The “normal” state of poverty and lack of opportunity must be protected and the established channels that lead us nowhere must be taken.  If established channels had been taken in 1776, there would be no modern nation called the United States.

The Wall Street Journal throws in its own take on it all. “Racial tensions have been thrust back in to the national conversation in recent weeks after the police killings….”

What racial tensions is the Journal talking about?  Racial tension is always present here but people don’t go around shooting each other for it in the main or shooting cops, especially cops as the entire weight of the state apparatus will hunt you down for that. What they are trying to do here is make this an issue between white and black, nothing else. This divide and rule tactic, appealing to white workers on the basis of skin color and throwing us a few extras has worked very well for them but it is not so easy anymore.

The intent is obvious; they want white workers to side with the cops. We are not told to unite when cops shoot unarmed blacks.  The cops are being attacked because they have white skin like you, because they are European Americans like you, you’ll be next and you are not safe. But that is not the case. This isn’t simply an issue of racial tension. The cop that shot Philandro Castille wasn’t white.

The people that shot these police officers could have killed scores of white people if they had been driven simply by animosity toward white people, anger at losing a job, a house, a promotion to a white American or too much reflection on this history that never seems to change.  Obama and the Wall Street Journal as mouthpieces for the 1% want to ensure that white workers are separated from black on this issue as far as understanding the situation is concerned.

The reality is that a section of the working class is being targeted and brutalized, black people, mostly poor black people but not always.  And all workers are threatened by an attack on any section of our class. Over the past few years I have seen police and sheriffs forcibly evict people from their homes on behalf of the Wall Street bankers. Five million people lost their homes in the Great Recession.

I was talking with a young cop the other day and in the the course of the conversation he said, , “we’re neutral.”. “But I was down the Waste management strike where you guys were preventing us from blocking the scabs form going in, the cops stopped us and threated us with arrest if we didn’t comply” I told him.”

“But we have to maintain order” he replied.

“Yes but at which side’s expense” I say and that’s the end of that conversation. He simply didn’t consider it.

What is so worrisome for the state and its security apparatus is that the recent police killings have been conscious and planned. They are retaliatory actions, political killings in a way, they are a reflection of the crisis existing in the black community with regard to the police and that black people are being pushed to the limit. Security forces cannot continue to kill black men with impunity (and some women), most of them unarmed, at the rate of one every 28 hours or so, and not expect bad things to happen; we’ve all seen the videos. People have limits, any people. And as I pointed out earlier, retaliating in this way, in Dallas and Baton Rouge is harmful to the workers’ movement, to the black people’s struggle against racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. It is not a way forward and I am not arguing in favor of it.

There is also extreme discontent with the state of US society among all sectors of the working and middle classes. This is another aspect of these developments that worries authorities. As a nation we are all united is the theme but we all know that is not true. As George Orwell said, “All men are created equal, but some are more equal than others” When the gap becomes a chasm, society erupts.

The same WSJ has a very short column under “US Watch” about a police officer shot dead in Kansas after responding to a call about an armed disturbance and the authorities were quick to say “There was no indication that (the officer ) was the victim of a targeted attack”. He doesn’t mean the guy didn’t point a gun at him, but it wasn’t a political statement. Killing a state security officer in the investigation of a crime like robbery is one thing, having a political motive for it, rightly or wrongly, sets a dangerous precedent.

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