Garikai Chengu, Counter Punch, May 4, 2015
Black people in America live in a police-state-within-a-state. The African American police state exercises its authority over the Black minority through an oppressive array of modern day lynchings by the police, increasing for-profit mass incarceration and the government sanctioned surveillance and assassination of Black leaders. The African American police state is unquestionably a modern day crime against humanity.
The first modern police forces in America were Slave Patrols and Night Watches, which were both designed to control the behaviors of African Americans.
Historian Victor Kappeler notes that in 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation’s first Slave Patrol. Historical literature is clear that prior to the Civil War a legally sanctioned police force existed for the sole purpose of oppressing the slave population and protecting the property and interests of white slave owners. The glaring similarities between the eighteenth century Slave Patrols and modern American police brutality in the Black community are too salient to dismiss or ignore.
America was founded as a slave holding republic and slaves did not take too kindly to being enslaved and they often rebelled, becoming enemy’s of the state. Slave Patrols were created in order to interrogate and persecute Blacks, who were out and about, without any due process or formal investigation. To this day, police do not serve and protect the Black community, they treat Blacks as inherently criminal and sub-human.
Ever since the first police forces were established in America, lynchings have been the linchpin of the African American police state.
The majority of Americans believe that lynchings are an outdated form of racial terrorism, which blighted American society up until the end of the era of Jim Crow laws; however, America’s proclivity towards the unbridled slaughter of African Americans has only worsened over time. The Guardian newspaper recently noted that historians believe that during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century on average two African-Americans were lynched every week.
Compare this with incomplete data compiled by the FBI that shows that a Black person is killed by a white police officer more than twice a week, and it’s clear that police brutality in Black communities is getting worse, not better.
Racial terrorism gave birth to America. It should come as no surprise that the state’s law enforcement agents routinely engage in the terrorism of modern day lynchings.
Traditional lynchings were not preceded by judge, jury or trial and were often for the most trivial of reasons such as talking to a white woman, failing to remove a hat or making a sarcastic grin. Modern day lynchings are also not preceded by due process. Numerous Black children like Tamir Rice have been slaughtered by police for trivialities like playing with a toy gun in public.
In modern America, the African American police state assassinates the Black victim twice. Once by way of lynching and again to assassinate the victim’s character so as to justify the public execution. All too often a Black victim’s school record, employment status and social media presence are dragged by the media into the court of public opinion, as if any of it has any baring on whether an agent of the state has the right to lynch a Black U.S. citizen.
The history of Nazi Germany’s Gestapo has many parallels to what U.S. law enforcement in the Black community has become.
The infamous “stop-and-frisk” policies that allow the New York Police Department to stop you based on suspicion are Nazi-like. Latinos and Blacks make up 84 percent of all those stopped, although they make up respectively 29 and 23 percent of New York City’s population. Furthermore, statistics show that NYPD officers are far more likely to use physical force against Blacks and Latinos during stops.
The perpetuation of the African American police state is a modern day crime against humanity. The ongoing protests and uprisings in Black communities are a direct and just response to centuries of worsening incarceration, modern day lynchings and systematic second class citizenship. Far from being a “post-racial” nation, American race relations are at a new low. Simmering discontent in Black communities will continue to rise towards a dangerous boiling point unless and until the African American police state is exposed and completely dismantled.
Garikai Chengu is a scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on [email protected]