The crimes and abuses of police in the United States are still far from being halted. The Black Lives Matter movement has performed a service to all who suffer from these abuses by putting this issue on the front burner.
This can be seen in the latest police atrocity in North Carolina, which added a new dimension to the confrontation between workers and oppressed peoples and the repressive state apparatus.
When a state trooper pulled over a driver on Aug. 18 for allegedly speeding, there was no reason to expect tragedy.
But the driver was Daniel Harris, a member of the Deaf community, who could not hear the state cop’s orders and who used American Sign Language to try to communicate.
The cop gunned down Harris.
The Deaf community’s reactions to this killing showed that this was far from a rare tragedy.
The National Association of the Deaf’s Vice President Melissa Draganac-Hawk noted that Harris wasn’t the first Deaf person “who was wrongfully shot by the police.” (time.com, Aug. 24)
An article in GQ magazine posted Aug. 24 had the title, “The Deaf Are the Unheard Victims of Police Brutality, Until Now.” Its author writes of other confrontations, from Washington state to Florida, in which police killed Deaf people for not obeying orders or for shouting. (tinyurl.com/ho9ybdx)
Those problems stem directly from the inability of the police to even recognize, let alone communicate with, Deaf people or people who are hard of hearing. To show the extent of the problem, a Facebook photo showed a Deaf man with his car sticker: “I’m Deaf, I’m Not Carrying a Weapon, Please Don’t Shoot.” It went viral.
More than just insensitivity, the role of the police as enforcers of 21st century capitalist society determines their atrocities, just as the roots of today’s police as enforcers of the 19th century slavocracy inform their racism. Cops occupy the communities of peoples of color and feel free to kill without punishment. Their unpunished, trigger-happy actions condition their confrontations with any worker, and especially anyone they consider different based on capitalist society’s discrimination against and oppression of them.
What the Black Lives Matter movement has done is open a door, not only to resist all the abuses, but to question the cops’ role in society. It has opened a space for Deaf people, for people with disabilities, for all workers to raise protests against the police, as the National Association of the Deaf has done following the killing of Harris.
As Marxists, we at Workers World know that there is no role for the police — a specialized armed force protecting capitalist property — in the socialist society we work every day to create.
Black lives matter! Daniel Harris’ life matters!