Silence on US Police Violence Rooted in White Supremacy: Academic
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A prominent American university professor said the silence over police brutality against people of color in the US is rooted in historical reality of White supremacy, stressing the need for the ruling majority to develop a consciousness that leads to empathy for the victims.
“State sanctioned police violence (of all kinds) will not go away until the ruling majority develops a consciousness that leads to empathy for those who have long been the victims of such violence,” Jason M. Williams, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Fairleigh Dickinson University said in an interview the Tasnim News Agency.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Q: In the wake of recent developments in Chicago, it seems that stereotypes and discriminatory presuppositions are somehow still maintained by police officers and even are resistant to public outcry; do you think this is an accurate description?
A: Indeed, this is a perfect description, and it is evidenced by many of the polls regarding police brutality and handling of Blacks in America. For the most part, Whites continue to believe that police in America are doing a great job enforcing the law and responding to crime. Meanwhile, Blacks and other racial “minorities” consistently report feelings of mistreatment and misconduct from police. To further understand this conundrum one must be made privy to the historical and intersectional purpose police have served in America. For example, from slavery through the Jim Crow era of legalized apartheid, Blacks were routinely brutalized by both private White citizens and police officers and the ruling majority did not conceptualize such mistreatment as immoral or unlawful because Blacks were not considered citizens worthy of the protections of the US Constitution. Thus, the painful silence that emanates from much of the public is not an anachronistic expression, but rather one that is rooted in historical reality of White supremacy in the US. State sanctioned police violence (of all kinds) will not go away until the ruling majority develops a consciousness that leads to empathy for those who have long been the victims of such violence. Because the pendulum of justice continues to lean toward White supremacy, there is very little doubt that America would ever have the courage to admit its ensuing race problem within its processes of social control, even as it laughably masquerades about as the leader of the free world.
Q: It seems that politicians in the US are less concerned about these sort of issues, unless people pour into street to protest or media realm gets loaded by criticism. Is that so?
A: While there are some genuine politicians who do care about the historical mistreatment of Blacks at the hands of police, the vast majority of others could simply care less, and this is evidenced by the inaction of both the Federal and State legislatures who fail to aggressively and forthrightly deal with these issues. Moreover, the mistreatment of Blacks has never been a political priority—a reality and position rooted from slavery. Therefore, only in instances when a story breaks internationally (i.e., the Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland cases and others) do politicians stand up to preserve the false image of American exceptionalism and democracy. They do so by advocating that everyone should be treated equally notwithstanding the fact that egalitarianism has never been a real feature of American society and that mistreating Black bodies has been a foundational duty (e.g., slave patrols) in American policing. Activists within the Black Lives Matter movement, however, have done a tremendous job holding politicians accountable, forcing them to take stands and generating tangible results. The issue of race and policing has even surfaced in the Democratic Presidential debates while the vast majority of Republicans continue to ignore the issue keeping in line with their typical anti-“minority” xenophobic ideologies. But more political courage is needed if real change is to come.
Q: How do you see the probability of similar incidents occurring in future? Would public protests and demonstrations have a real effect?
A: These incidents will continue to happen until accountability within policing becomes a reality. However because police misconduct does not impact White Americans as much as it does Blacks and other “minorities” these kinds of incidents will continue to be rationed as necessary and within the guidelines of police training and procedure and, of course, with the help of police unions. While demonstrations have raised consciousness and cultivated some changes within policing, more focus should be placed on police unions. Thus, movements against police violence must begin to focus on the role of police unions, as these entities are complicit in the suffering of victims of police violence and are typically geared to represent the best interest of police—not justice. In the aftermath of Laquan McDonald’s death in Chicago IL, there has been some scrutiny regarding Chicago police contracts; hopefully, the focus on contracts will become viral and the next frontier against police violence.