Was racism a factor in police shooting?
Published Jun 4, 2009 8:14 PM
Black, Latina/o and Indigenous communities inside the U.S. live under a 24-hour
occupation. Who are these occupiers? The armed police, whether they are in
uniform or undercover. The main function of the police under capitalism is to
protect the private interests of the “haves”—the
transnational corporations and banks—first and foremost. The police,
therefore, are trained to view the “have nots”—workers and
the oppressed—as a class to be kept under social control with various
tactics such as racial profiling.
The police are majority white in the U.S. but there exists a significant number
of Black, Latina/o and Asian police officers. Racism and national oppression
permeate every social institution in U.S. capitalist society, including the
police. Officers of color have issued complaints against white officers for
racist behavior, along with having to live under the constant fear of being
This reality was brought home once again within the notorious New York Police
Department. The list of police killings of Black and Latina/o victims by the
NYPD is all too long and well-documented, from Sean Bell to Anthony Baez to
But this past May 28, it was a 25-year-old police officer, Omar Edwards, who
was fatally shot by a fellow officer, Andrew Dunton. Edwards was Black and
Dunton is white. Edwards, who was off-duty and in plainclothes, was shot in the
chest and arm while chasing a Latino man in East Harlem with his gun drawn.
According to news reports, it is only after Edwards had been shot and was lying
on the pavement bleeding to death that Dunton and two other white officers
discovered, once they had handcuffed him, that he was an officer.
As of now, Dunton has not been relieved of his duties, which begs the question:
Would the reaction of the big-business media and authorities have been the same
if Edwards had killed a white officer?
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly are trying
to play down that “race” was a factor in the death of Edwards,
community leaders are not silent on the issue.
The Rev. Al Sharpton stated that he was “concerned of a growing pattern
of black officers being killed with the assumption that they are the
criminals.” (New York Times, May 29)
Congressperson Charles Rangel was viciously attacked by the corporate media for
saying, in response to Barack and Michelle Obama’s recent social visit to
New York, “Make sure he doesn’t run around East Harlem
unidentified.” (ny1.com, May 30)
The Rev. Sharpton, City Councilperson Charles Barron and State Assemblyperson
Inez Barron helped lead a march in Harlem on May 30 to protest Edwards’
Rickford Burke, president of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy,
stated: “The NYPD officer who intentionally shot and killed officer Omar
Edwards must be charged with murder. I am sick and weary of white rough cops
roaming the streets of New York City, shooting at Black young men, with
intention to kill, with impunity. NYPD policies facilitate a malignant culture
of coded silence, cover-ups and lies whenever these crimes occur.”
(caribbeanamericanforum.com, May 29)
Edwards is not the first officer of color to be killed by white police and most
likely will not be the last. Some will say that Edwards was in the wrong place
at the wrong time. But the truth of the matter is that Edwards lost his life
like so many, many others because he was a Black man, cop or no cop, living in
a thoroughly racist society.
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