The disparity in how the media are handling the fatal shooting of a white woman in Minneapolis by a cop born in Somalia, emphasizing her innocence, contrasts sharply with how they react when white cops shoot Black and Brown people. Black and Brown youth are especially racially slurred constantly with terms such as “menacing” and “criminal” by the corporate media and police as justification for their executions.
What the media won’t say is that no police killings are justified. The police exist to terrorize the most oppressed. Therefore, such murder is treated as a “mistake” when someone who doesn’t fit into that description is victimized.
Why are the police so trigger happy in the first place? Why are they increasingly being armed with military-style weapons?
What happened to Justine Diamond is a tragedy. But so were the police killings of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland; of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; of Amadou Diallo, Shantel Davis and Eric Garner in New York; of Philando Castile in Minnesota; Rekia Boyd and LaQuan McDonald in Chicago; and of so many other Black and Brown women, men, trans people and people with disabilities across the country. But they were more than a tragedy.
They were the routine targets of what is called the “justice system.” The police, courts and prisons exist to defend the indefensible: the horrendous exploitation and oppression that go on every day and are taken for granted under capitalism. Billions of dollars are stolen from the working class by the super-rich.
In the United States especially, this expropriation of the masses goes hand-in-hand with violent racism and national oppression.
Racism in this country was generated by the rich as a tool to divide the workers, ever since the land itself was stolen from its Indigenous inhabitants.
Much of this stolen land was given by the British crown to wealthy settlers, often titled aristocrats, who then kidnapped and enslaved African families, making them work the land without pay so the plantation owners could become fabulously wealthy. The so-called “Founding Fathers” were packed with these slaveowners.
There were no police when this land was inhabited by Indigenous nations. The first police forces in this country were the so-called “slave patrols” and “night watches.” The former were created to hunt down Black people who had escaped from the hellish conditions on Southern plantations. The latter were to keep Native people locked up on the barren “reservations” into which they had been herded by the Army.
The basis of the racism that persists today is class oppression. Racism facilitates the super-exploitation of sections of the working class, while allowing those not so targeted to feel “privileged” by comparison.
That is made clear by the demographics of the U.S.
Looking at the richest 1% by their assets, only 1.4 percent are Black, including those who have achieved success through their outstanding talents as performers or athletes.
Even more stark is the finding that “the median white family has a net worth of $116,000. … In comparison, nearly 40 percent or 5.6 million African-American homes in the U.S. have zero or negative net worth. In addition, when you deduct the family car as an asset, the median black family in America only has a net worth of $1,700. (“America’s Financial Divide,” Huffington Post, updated Jan. 28, 2016)
While the median net worth for all white families is $116,000, based mainly on home ownership, the median net worth of the top 1% is $8.4 million — 72 times as much.
This huge class divide is why the U.S. has the highest rate of police brutality and mass incarceration in the world today. When police guns are fired in oppressed Black and Brown communities, it is to defend a racist system that has served the rich so well. When there are no decent jobs, it is a wake-up call that young workers of color are expendable.
Racism does not defend the interests of white workers. On the contrary. Whites make up the majority of those shot and killed by U.S. cops each year, and they are not rich whites. But people of color suffer police brutality and murder far out of proportion to their numbers.
The U.S. county with the highest proportion of police killings in 2015 was Kern County, Calif., where 52 percent of the people are Latinx, 5 percent Black, 5 percent Asian and only 35 percent white. Its courts also handed out the largest number of death sentences. (Death Penalty Information Center)
As workers struggle to make ends meet, the biggest challenges we face are defeating racism, Islamophobia and targeting of immigrants. Billionaires like Trump understand this very well and do everything they can to instigate hatred and divide our class. Building class solidarity against all police killings, especially targeting the most oppressed, is paramount.
We say abolish the police, courts, jails and all the instruments of class and national oppression. The multinational working class, who make everything, can create a society of abundance for all, where these oppressive institutions will have no place.