By Dr. T
The United States Justice Department just issued a scathing report on the Baltimore Police Department that showed unequivocally that Baltimore Police routinely targeted and stopped Black citizens without cause. This was a Pattern and Practice Investigation of the police department after the tragic death of Freddie Gray last year. The City of Baltimore actually requested this investigation to support its promise to be more transparent after the community erupted in protests and unrest in response to Freddie Gray’s death. Although 6 police officers were arrested and charged with a broad range of criminal charges, cialis they were either acquitted or all charges were ultimately dropped, and none of the officers involved will be held accountable for the young man’s death. The Justice Department found that the Baltimore Police Department (a Structure of Law enforcement) as a matter of practice (created a System that) intentionally targeted minorities, thus producing and sustaining (a Culture) that supported both its system and its practice. The structure, the system, and the practice of law enforcement officers stopping Black citizens for no distinct reason has been “joked” about within the Black community for ages. “Driving while Black”, “Running while Black”, “Walking while Black”, “Just being Black while Black” are all punch lines to many a joke shared to break the tension of actually being Black in America. You gotta laugh to keep from crying, as the elders always said.
Increasingly, the tension within our communities, the rise of new movements like Black Lives Matter and continued protests in response to what “appear to be” benign police stops that have, increasingly, turned fatal over the last few years underscore the importance of this most current diagnosis by the U.S. Justice Department. The information age and proliferation of digital and social media has brought worldwide attention to the problem of systemic and institutionalized violence in America, aimed at targeted and oppressed communities. The Justice Department’s report validates what WE have always known within the Black community. They have documented in no uncertain terms that the Baltimore Police Department engaged in escalated use of force practices excessively within the department rather than de-escalation practices. Further, the investigation found that the police department actually specifically directed its “enforcement practices” towards the African American community and its citizens. That is racism and it is REAL.
So what now? Does the DENIAL continue? The continued focus on rationalizing BAD policing and Bad police officers as “just a few bad apples” or will we continue to excuse our law enforcement officers because they have an extremely hard and challenging job to do and need our support? All of these platitudes are true and yet, they do not adequately respond to the report by the Justice Department. The report is not talking about individuals, although I’m sure it does address individual law enforcement officers’ training and personal responsibility. This report addresses what are systemic and institutional problems. These problems have created tragic and generational consequences within the African American community and the denial by all the responsible constituencies has created a Culture in this country that affirms, validates and rationalizes these patterns and practices as not only normal, but also necessary. And that is the Culture of Violence and the Legacy of Racism we have created in this nation. Until we are willing and able to face the system and the legacy, we will be unable to effectively dis-mantle it and history will indeed continue to repeat itself.