Xenophobia and Racism Are Kindred Spirits in the Deaths of Unarmed Black Males

Proverbs 23:7 King James Version (KJV)

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.

The Shadow League has published over a dozen extensive stories regarding the deaths of innocent Black men at the hands of various police departments across the United States. But with a staff that is overwhelming African American and male, we have segued from penning these stories with as much frequency in recent months because they simply hit too close to home. But recent incidences of death by police have galvanized us into attacking these issues with renewed vigor. Last week the Department of Justice released its findings on the racism that has been seething within the confines of the Ferguson Police Department for years. Though many in the media have based the outrage on interdepartmental emails that gave some substance to the racism that has been dismissed by the powers that be for generations as a mass hallucination by people of African descent, the emails are only indicative of that mindset.

The hard truth of the insidiousness of these institutionalized practices were laid out in said report. As was previously reported in The Shadow League, the numbers are as follows:

85 percent of drivers stopped by police were Black

90 percent of people issued tickets were Black

93 percent of all people arrested were Black.

So, whats in a number? Well, these numbers tell us that there was a clear and concerted effort by the Ferguson Police Department to treat Black people in the municipality as financial chattel and de facto modern day slaves on the Ferguson plantation. Though the Department of Justice was unable to bring charges against former Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the investigation did reveal the prejudicial manner the law enforcement officials in Ferguson have been operating under for decades. Five days ago, before speaking at the 50th Anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March, President Barack Obama eluded the fact that Ferguson is not an anomaly in America during a conversation at Benedict Colle in South Carolina..

“It turns out they weren’t just making it up. This was happening,” Obama said during a town hall.

With the Department of Justices findings comes official acknowledgement on the federal level that there is a police department in the United States of America that purposely targets Black people for the sake of stuffing its municipal coffers. Why? Aside from hate, one could surmised that Black people are doubly vulnerable because many in power simply do not wish to address racism head on and would likely turn a blind eye to any cries of racism. This tactic was successful for years for more reasons than we have space to list. However, primary among them in my mind are poor people of African descent have a noticeably degraded and porous power base from which to enact change, the lack of collective income means most cannot afford to challenge a racist institution at its own game in court and the belief by some people of African descent that their fellow Black folks are deserving of increased police scrutiny. The last portion of my argument is akin to what some psychologists describe as Stockholm Syndrome-a psychological disorder where hostages empathize, sympathize and relate to their captors to the point of identifying and defending them all while still being victimized by them..

Though the citizens of Ferguson and similarly situated communities across this nation are not captives in the purest sense of the word, they have been trapped in these situations as funding fodder for generations. The hood simply does not have the resources to get up and move en masse like their ancestors did during The Great Northern Migration of the early 20th century and, even if they did, where would they go? To the south? To another Northern community to be followed, ticketed, and jailed for petty crimes or shot dead in the streets over another misunderstanding? So, for all intents and purposes, they are just as trapped in their hoods as any plantation slave ever was.

According to the Department of Justice report, African Americans were twice as likely to have their vehicles searched during a stop even though Whites were more likely to be in possession of contraband. Similarly, African Americans were more likely to be arrested for drug offenses even though statistics show that Whites are more likely to use drugs.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that Black teens are 21 times more likely to be shot by the police than their white counterparts. 

To be certain, these things are not just happening to people of African descent, though the plight of people of African descent is a phenomenon that we are particular sensitive to. However, two individuals of Hispanic descent have been gunned down as well as several individuals who suffered from diagnosed mental disorders in the past year.

Each considered outside the American norm. Using these examples, it appears that various police departments in municipalities across the country stuff the coffers of their city, state or village by overly policing individuals they deem as undesirables.

On March 5, 19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot and killed by Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny, who was responding to a 911 call in which Robinson was involved in an altercation with a friend and his brother.

On March 9, 37-year-old parolee Naeschylus Vinzant, who was wanted for removing his surveillance tracker, as well as a suspect in a robbery and kidnapping. The Aurora (Co) Police Department reports that the local SWAT team attempted to take him into custody when a shot rang out, the suspect was struck once and died at the hospital.

On March 10, 27-year-old Air Force veteran and aspiring R&B artist Anthony Hill was shot and killed by a Dekalb County Police Officer after he was found exhibiting strange behavior while roaming around naked in his northeast Atlanta apartment complex.

In addition to being African American, each of the aforementioned individuals clearly falls into a category that is deemed as other than by many in the majority. Robinson was a young Black male, thus automatically a de facto thug in the minds of many. The fact that he was shot five or six times furthers my belief that he was deemed as alien to the officers idea of what is normal thus justifying his deadly use of force in his own mind.

Vinzant was a convicted criminal who was wanted on additional charges, and Anthony Hill was experience an episode likely brought on by his bi-polar disorder and he was also nude.

Though racism may not have been in the forefront of the minds of any of the officers who fired the killing shots, Americas tradition of blame placing and ostracism of the unalike appears to have been at play at least on a subconscious level.  Indeed, as we see recent instances of Whites shooting at officers but living to tell about, the deaths of unarmed Black men becomes all the more egregious.

As reported by Alternet.org, last year a White man, who was armed with a shot gun, intoxicated and shouting, was arrested by police in Michigan who did not discharge their weapons.

In August, a White male pointing a loaded weapon pistol at the police and small children in a local playground. The police spent the next hour trying to talk him down. He eventually surrendered without the police firing a shot.

In October, a Tennessee man was arrested after waving a loaded at another man and his sun during a road rage incident. The police arrived to find him locked in his vehicle, weapon in plain sight. He also was apprehended without the cops firing a shot.

Though this information is somewhat anecdotal, it does illustrate our prior argument about how law enforcement reacts to those considered unlike the majority. Even during instances in which the law enforcement officer in question is Black, and the individual he killed was White, it is a safe bet that the victim still fell into some undesirable category based on income, class, mental health or correctional record. But nobody deserves to die simply because the officers are, at best, socially incompetent, at worse, stark raving racists.

The fact that an armed White male who is active threatening law enforcement officials appear to have a better chance at survival than unarmed Black males. Now, THAT part IS racist. 

These instances of individuals being summarily executed, without trial and with apparent extreme prejudice, are all the more wretched when taking into account our nations inherent fear of everything that isnt White, Ango-Saxon and Protestant.

So when adjusting for those individuals who were arrested while actually committing a crime, we find that many officers are targeting those who are deemed as unlike the majority thus easier to single out, bully, use of excessive force, prosecute and kill without oversight or repercussions.

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