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h/t to Marcy Wheeler and Falguni Sheth…

For blacks, America is dangerous by default

By Mariame Kaba
The Watch
(A reported opinion blog on civil liberties and the criminal justice system)
Washington Post
August 22, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mariame Kaba. Kaba is a Chicago-based organizer and educator who directs Project NIA, a grassroots juvenile justice organization.

[Diarist’s Note: For more on author, educator and activist Mariame Kaba and NIA, CLICK HERE.]

In 1900, a 15 year old black New Yorker named Harry Reed recounted his ‘clubbing’ at the hands of police:

“We five boys were sitting on the seat of an open Eighth Avenue car. When we got at the corner of 37th Street and Eighth Avenue we saw a mob, and the mob called out, ‘There’s some niggers; lynch them!’ and they made a rush for the car, and I jumped out. Then I ran up to the corner of 38th Street, where there were four policemen. Of these four policemen three were standing on the corner, and one ran into the street to stop me. When he saw me coming I was running hard, as fast as I could. When I reached this policeman in the street, he hit me over the head with his club. He hit me twice over the head, and I saw the other three policemen coming, and I fell down. I thought if I fell down the others would not attack me, but they did; they hit me over the legs and on my arm, when I raised it up to protect my head, and they hit me in the back…”
Harry’s story was not exceptional. Historian Marilynn S. Johnson suggests that urban residents began complaining and organizing against police brutality in the mid-19th century. In fact, the first major investigation into police misconduct was launched in 1894 in New York City through the Lexow Committee. This committee documented police abuses including corruption, brutality and perjury. In the late 19th century, the most common complaint from urban residents against the police was about “clubbing” which was “the routine bludgeoning of citizens by patrolmen armed with nightsticks or blackjacks.

On August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown was murdered by a police officer in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri in front of several witnesses. A hundred and fourteen years separate Reed’s clubbing and Brown’s killing. Over that time span, the hostile relationship between black people and the police is unchanged. As a result, black people in general and especially young blacks profoundly distrust cops. This week, the Black Youth Project released a report summarizing research on young black people’s perceptions and experiences of policing...

As Ms. Kaba explains, throughout most of the balance of her truly illuminating and extremely compelling post, the findings of the report, “Black Youth Project Memo: ‘The Policing of Black Communities and Young People of Color,’” are “unsurprising.” (Diarist’s Notes: The findings in the report may be “unsurprising;” nevertheless, they are stunning! If I provide readers with the details on this, then they’ll be tempted not to click on the link to her brilliant article, at the top of this blockquote. The link to the BYP Memo/Report is immediately above, at the end of the first blockquote.)

Kaba concludes…

… In his book “Youth in a Suspect Society,” Henry Giroux writes about the ‘punishing state’ and its growing power and impact over the lives of youth of color. The police have always been the gatekeepers and enforcers of the punishing state. The militarization of schools with their security cameras, metal detectors, and police patrols reinforces the idea that young people of color are dangerous threats. Giroux also speaks to a “politics of disposability” that serves to remove young people from the realm of being deserving of support and resources. Over the past 20 years, young people of color have become increasingly the targets of policies and rules suggesting that they are in some ways already assumed to be “criminal” or at the very least “dangerous” by default. In 2014, young people are being managed and controlled through the lens of crime, repression, and punishment.

To be clear though, the persistent denial of black humanity and a callous disregard of black pain have been constants in American history. In a society where black skin is an inherent marker of suspicion and criminality, Michael Brown’s (disposable) body becomes a lethal weapon. This gives anyone a license to kill him. His dangerous, “weaponized” black skin means that he can only be an aggressor and never a victim. The bodies of Michael Brown and other black youth therefore become human magnets for police bullets.

Michael Brown and his peers didn’t create the world in which they are living and miserably dying. They are the generation born into a get-tough on crime, stop and frisk, war on drugs, war on terror, war on everything country. It’s the country that is actually dangerous by default, not Michael Brown.

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Yes, as renowned educator and author Henry Giroux has also noted this for much of his 45+-year academic career, for people of color and those impoverished, in general, “It’s the country that is actually dangerous by default…”

[Note: h/t to Kossack joe shikspack. Diarist has received blanket permission from Henry Giroux to reproduce his essays and related public appearances in their entirety. Professor Giroux is a member of the Board of Directors of Truthout.]

Henry Giroux: Liberty and Justice for All?

TruthOut Interview, August 21st, 2014

The Agenda With Steve Paikin | Henry Giroux: Liberty and Justice for All?

The Agenda With Steve Paikin | Henry Giroux: The War on Justice

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