A little while ago I revisited the movie “Straight Outta Compton,” the story of NWA from the mid-‘80’s to the mid-‘90’s. NWA’s rap was reflective of the reality in Southern California ghettos, and ghettos all across the U.S. at the time. The war zone atmosphere that permeated these ghettos was a result of the war being waged on Blackness – a brutal war still leaving victims in its wake.
Rodney King’s legendary beating was one of the first to capture on video what was standard operating procedure for police officers in dealing with Black people – beatings and brutality that has become so standard in fact that the tactics take on nicknames as odes to their popularity – rough rides, joy rides, screen tests – or the well-known fact that anyone bold enough to run from the police was going to get beat senseless.
It struck me how timely the theme of police brutality was given the videotaped atrocities captured in this selfie-Facebook-Twitterdom of constant information and ceaseless interconnectivity of today. Oakland, Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, a new city’s police tactics are depicted every few weeks like highlight reels.
And watching the movie again I thought “after 30 years this shit is still going on” and I had to catch myself ---- this shit has never stopped. Not since we landed on this country’s shores has the war on Blackness ceased in its inexorable drive to annihilation. From slave owners to patty-rollers to klansman to police officers, let’s be clear about one thing, shall we? Each has been and still remains the enforcement arm of whites in power exercising their will on those deemed to be a permanent underclass and requiring reminders of their place in the scheme of things.
Tricked out in their 9-11 bought riot gear the police are making war on the citizenry. Because make no mistake: Black folks might be the first in line for Gestapo-like treatment, but power craves one thing and one thing only --- more power. Law and order-type white folks don’t believe the power of the State will be unleashed on them, only on the mud people. But once those mud people are either eliminated or vilified sufficiently to have their fate ignored by the rest of the county, police will turn their attention to other lesser-included offenses among the populace.
In fact, they already have. Moving from California to the Mid-South has shown me just how universal police abuse of the underclass is. These same rednecks – and I use that term affectionately and consistently with their own self-definition of country folk – consistently vote against their own economic interest and believe that the only ones on the short end of the stick are people other than them, even as all evidence in the county jails and the probation office indicates to the contrary.
So as the enforcement arm of the dominant society continues to inflict pain on Black folks and poor folks and anyone else deemed to be a public nuisance, and as open season on police officers commences, people better wake up to the reality that at some point in history, you gotta choose sides.