In the aftermath of the killing of two police officers in Bed-Stuy, the PBA, police brass and corporate media have spun a dominant narrative that presumes the sanctity of police lives, of police as vulnerable targets of wanton “cop killer’” hatred and violence while rendering the untold number of Black and Brown mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts and grandparents murdered by police invisible, expendable and even worthy of death. This psychological manipulation is nothing but the state’s attempt to minimize the growing movement for police accountability, but also to demonize and vilify protestors as callous “cop hating” rebel rouser, which obfuscates the reality that, locally and nationally, far more unarmed Black men, women and children are murdered by police than police are murdered by civilians.
This is the truth as lived by poor and working-class Black and Brown people, where surviving the violence of police as “public servants,” avoiding stop-and-frisk harassment, a beat down, false arrest and imprisonment, the ability to feel safe and protected whether on the streets or at home is an elusive and constant struggle. This tale of two cities doesn’t exist in white middle-class, affluent and gentrified “up-and-coming” communities, where reckless endangerment, contempt, lawlessness, blatant disregard for life, bullying and police abuse are as unlikely and unfathomable as they are the order of the day in others.
This is the result of being taught to believe that everyone has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” when, in reality, for the millions of “people who are darker than blue,” encounters with police, often ends in the same violence that befell these two officers. When death isn’t the outcome, these victims are forced to endure the shame, humiliation, distrust, frustration, alienation and anger of that encounter.
This is the “blue on Black violence” that dominates Black and Brown life generation after generation, and it’s why there have been historical formations such as the African Blood Brotherhood, Deacons of Self-Defense, Jamaica Rifle Association and the Black Panther Party, the police assassinations of Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Twyman Myers, Zayd Shakur and Mtayari Sundiata Shabaka. It’s also why, every 26 hours, police or a white uniformed security guard kills a Black man, woman or child in this country. This is the open wound that oozes trauma and grief into the lives of Black and Brown people every day. Does it mean that what happened on Saturday, Dec. 20 isn’t a terrible loss, shock, pain, sadness, grief and trauma for the mothers, wives, children, extended family and friends these officers leave behind? No, but it must also be said that it is equally traumatic and painful a loss for the families of those murdered by police bullets and chokeholds.
If one is to believe that a lone gunman took the lives of these two police, then where are the questions about the root causes of such hostility, and how does it relate to King’s message that what doesn’t affect one directly affects them indirectly? These murders are no more owed to the behavior of one gunman than the murder of a Black or Brown person is owed to one police officer. Both are emblematic of a city divided by race, class and unchecked police power.
That said, this moment ought to serve as a call to justice-seekers to beg the question and analyze the abusive police-community relations that exist in poor and working-class Black and Brown communities but not in others, and the need to adequately address and provide resources to poor people, those without health care and/or advocacy to ameliorate the crises of mental health. This ought to be a turning point for prosecutors, grand juries and juries unwilling to indict or convict police officers for the murders they commit of Black people no matter the circumstance. Police terror and murder will no longer be condoned and supported. Likewise, there is an impetus for enlightened and serious action to restructure a system that allows the men and women in blue the power to divide this city.