As Thanksgiving approaches in three days, it would be sacrilegious for me to suggest that Black people in the U.S. have little for which we are thankful. Yet, when it comes to our experience under racist and irresponsible policing in our communities, this sentiment is valid.
This is one of those posts that really disturbs me. It disturbs me to write this post simply because I shouldn’t have to write it. It disturbs me that many fellow Black people will call me a “fanatic” or “irresponsible militant” for drawing conclusions and making suggestions that are logical, effective, and drawn from a keen analysis of history. The fact that I must STILL address the issue of anti-Black police brutality says so many unfortunate things about Black people, Black leadership, and the future of Black people in urban areas managed by the occupying force we refer to as “The Police.”
I addressed this issue at length in an earlier article, but the recent news of a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Mike Brown’s killer, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, and our shocked reaction to this news, indicates I must revisit the issue. You might want to view the press conference remarks by St. Louis’ prosecuting attorney, Bob McCullouch, below:
You might also want to view the understandable reaction of angry Black folk in Ferguson, Missouri as they realize that yet another white police officer was not held accountable for unfairly taking Black life:
If police murders of unarmed Black people rarely occurred in the United States, we might understand. If police officers were routinely punished for murdering us, we might be more tolerant. If the Ferguson grand jury was not composed of 9 whites and only 3 Black people, we might understand. To make matters worse, the Black President that 96% of Black people voted for in 2008, responded to this disturbing no-indictment decision by ironically and insultingly stating, “We are a nation of law,” by speaking to all the “racial progress” the U.S. has experienced, or spending more time addressing the violence of righteously indignant protesters, than he did the violence of Mike Brown’s murderer or the other acts of police brutality across the nation. See his remarks below:
Despite the president’s diplomatic, sanitized and somewhat ambiguous remarks, none of us who are reasonable are prone to be to very understanding or tolerant as we witness another example of how Black life in this country is devalued, and how that devaluation is justified by government agents.
For the love of God, Black people, and for the sake of our current and future safety, Please read and absorb the following words:
- Several decades of police brutality in our neighborhoods strongly suggest that police sensitivity training, candlelight vigils, marches, and “knowing our rights,” simply do not prevent police officers from murdering our people. In fact, such acts have escalated over time.
- The reason such tactics or strategies do not work is because they assume that the police exist to promote peace and safety in our communities. This is a false and dangerous assumption. As my previous article on this subject demonstrates, the racist and belligerent police forces that currently exist have their roots in early slave patrols in this country. The objectives of slave patrols were to prevent Black revolt and insurrection against the white privileged class, intimidate enslaved Blacks into submission, and monitor for any activity or sentiment that might lead to rebellion. The officers we see today are the ideological and political descendants of these slave patrol officers, and their objectives where poor and so-called “minority” people are concerned, remain the same. The police as an institution therefore, play a deliberate and conscious role in assaulting, intimidating, detaining, and even murdering our people to quell Black dissent or resistance in a country which by the way, STILL sees us as a cheap and docile labor force.
- Since all the approaches I mentioned clearly don’t work (and will NEVER work, for the reasons I just suggested), we will continue to endure physical and psychological terror at the hands of police forces in this nation, just like our people across the Diaspora do at the hands of U.S. military forces throughout the world.
- Mainstream Black leadership in this county makes its living by teaching us to accommodate to our pain and suffering or use means they KNOW don’t work to give us the feeling of protesting or blowing off steam, without actually solving our problems (Brother Malcolm referred to this as learning to “suffer peacefully”). Most of these leaders are far too invested in their expense accounts, jobs, and status to commit to the organizing and sacrifice that is needed to end police brutality.
- As former NYC Mayor Rudolph Guiliani harshly reminded us, the persistent violence Black people perpetrate on ourselves compromises our ability to focus squarely on racist violence. While he argued that point from a racist and conservative angle, the point has validity. As we confront police brutality, we must also confront Black fratricide.
- No amount of education, candle-lighting, legal representation, knowing your rights, lawsuits, boycotting, marches, or scholarly debates have ended police brutality, or will end it. The only way to end police brutality….is to end police brutality! The only way you save your life when an enemy has a gun pointed at you or has you in a choke-hold, is to disarm that person and render them physically unable to hunt you down afterwards. As I’ve posted before, the Nation of Islam successfully did this, and we can also draw from Robert F. Williams’ example. No one’s life is more important than another’s nor is anyone’s family and community more important. The corrupt and malicious police forces of this country, will at some point push Black people to a position of what I call “irreconcilable discontent.” And when that happens, injuries and casualties will occur on both sides. Every creature in existence has a system for defending itself. When we begin to say “enough is enough, when we understand the nature and objectives of the police, courts, and government agencies, begin to value our lives, and cease hiding behind misinterpreted and revised scriptures, along with our fear of death and prison, I suspect the issue of police brutality will cease in frequency and importance.
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.”
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.