By Luke Tripp
How could a minor jaywalking incident escalate into contentious police brutality vs. an assault felony case? The answer is simple. In the United States, the slightest encounter between Black people and White police officers can easily explode into a serious conflict.
This is what happened when Arizona State University (ASU) police officer Stewart Ferrin stopped ASU professor Ersula Ore, demanded to see her ID, and when she did not immediately comply, he proceeded to handcuff her while slamming her to the ground. Consequently, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has press criminal charges against Dr. Ore of “assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, refusing to provide identification when requested to do so by an officer, and obstructing a highway or public thoroughfare.”
Arizona State University released a statement saying the officers’ actions were justified. Ore’s lawyer, Alane Roby, said the professor was acting in self-defense. This case reminds me of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates’ encounter with police officers in his own home when he was treated as a suspected home intruder.
And I will mention my own racial profiling case, in which I was stopped on the sidewalk while walking from my office on campus at St. Cloud State University to my home because a city police officer suspected the bag I was carrying was some woman’s stolen handbag. The general public has the mistaken belief that the police tend to target only young Black and Latino men who look like the stereotypical thug. Nothing can be further from social reality.
Audio and Video of incident between Ore and ASU officers (video starts at 2:15)
The criminal “justice” system in America operates in an anti-Black culture, in which all Black people are linked to crime and viewed as an existential internal threat to the security and wellbeing of American society. American police departments are control mechanisms that use coercion to make people comply with the laws. But they enforce the laws in a racially biased way. The degree to which they enforce them varies according to one’s racial characteristics, with the strictest enforcement on Black people.
The Arizona case is another barometer of the intense, historic, and pervasive antagonism of the police departments towards Black people. The most dehumanizing and racist system in America is the criminal “justice” system. By design it is a major tool of Black oppression in 21st century America, which continues to have a devastating effect on the Black community through its strategy of mass Black incarceration.
Dr. Luke Tripp is interim chair and professor of Department of Ethnic and Women’s Studies at St. Cloud State University. He welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.