“Most people who are killed by American cops are white.  Black people are disproportionately killed, but they are not alone.  It’s white working class life expectancy that is falling because of drugs, and drink, and suicide, and the depths of despair.  Connecting this moment—this broad, chaotic, polarizing, rebellious moment that is taking place in the US—connecting it with the kind of larger population for whom this is maybe not all obvious—we have a lot of work to do.” (1)

Today as I participated in a Quaker Meeting focusing on sharing feelings, thoughts, and reactions to George Floyd’s death, BLM demonstrations, and “race” in general, it occurred to me that apart from feeling confused and overwhelmed, I feared believing that white privilege would make me immune to militarized police attacks was a dangerous myth possibly held by more than a few of us assembled.  That in my mind, my gut and my heart I felt that whites would increasingly be the targets of violent force and  brutalization if they confronted the militarized state power.  That, in my younger days, during the late 1960’s, demonstrating with the Black Panthers and the Brown Berets and migrant workers in Southern California, I was very naïve: I never thought I would be a target of police violence, nor did I think of domestic police forces as “militarized.”  Not even when they put soldiers and armored vehicles in Boston City Hall Plaza during the 2004 DNC. We had been warned not to demonstrate and not to go into Boston; but we did without a second thought.  This might have something to do with the erroneous thinking that the “other” is actually different and subject to circumstances that don’t apply to me and my group.

I wonder if that was the fatal error in the thinking of the 75 year old white man yesterday as he walked toward a line of militarized police in New York.  His demeanor was not aggressive.  He actually looked as though he wanted to have a few friendly words with the police. Before he could utter such a word, he had been knocked to the ground by those heavily armed police wearing protective helmets. He was knocked down on his back and his head crashed onto the hard pavement.  The entire line of policemen then proceeded forward, marching over and around the apparently unconscious body. Blood was visibly pouring from the fallen man’s head.  One armed officer stooped toward the man, but was quickly yanked up by fellow officers, and pushed back into the forward  moving formation.  At some point, an ambulance was called and the elderly gentleman taken to a hospital where he was reported to be in critical condition. You can watch the video on Democracy Now: see link below (2).

At the close of the Quaker meeting, I turned on WZBC, 90.3 FM (the local Boston College radio station) to listen to “Sounds of Dissent,” a program hosted by John Grebe for the past many years.  You can go to the station “archive,” anytime during the next two weeks, and listen to an interview with Stuart Schrader, author of Badges without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (3).  Schrader was explaining that the carceral state and the national security state have to be talked about in the same conversation.  Both share the same sources of technology, personnel, values , and financial sources (the budget for police departments being the largest item of domestic expense, just as the budget for military is the largest part of federal budget).  They use the same technology and training.  The development and technologies for both police and military go on simultaneously. Both have to be dismantled simultaneously, Schrader states.

Schrader emphasizes that there never was a time when the police did not see themselves as doing at home what the military was doing abroad.  Sheriffs and police commanders historically came from military experiences in situations where the US had invaded, colonized or otherwise waged war.  Police training uses the same tactics domestically and has always been an explicit part of police training.  There never was a time when the training and ideology was aimed at serving and protecting the average citizen and workers.  The drone and helicopter surveillance technology flying over the demonstrations in Minneapolis last week—capable of identifying any individual in the crowd and tracing them to their home address—was first developed in Viet Nam.

During the Quaker Meeting, one member suggested that participants consider taking another step in the vigils held monthly at Raytheon offices.  He suggested moving from the street and into the office building. Contrary to everything I have explored above, I am aware that the response to a group of white Quaker elders occupying corporate space would be very different than how the militarized police would respond if we were 15 – 20 Black youth and parents.  Or am I just being naïve again?  Do I need to listen more closely to the reminder from Black journalist Gary Younge: “Most people who are killed by American cops are white.  Black people are disproportionately killed, but they are not alone.”  We are not alone.  Seize this moment!

(1) Black Lives Matter & The Question of Violence by Gary Younge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFwxcjAbnM

(2) Buffalo Police Assault Leaves 75-Year-Old Protester Hospitalized with Head Trauma

(3)   Badges without Borders

Mary Lynn Cramer, MA, MSW, LICSW worked for over two decades as a bilingual child and family social worker. For the past fifteen years, she has been deeply involved in “economic field research” among elderly women and men living in subsidized housing projects, dependent upon social security, Medicare, and food stamps. She has degrees in the history of economic thought and social work. She can be reached at: mllynn2@yahoo.com


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