Black Lives Matter and the power elite

 

Racial tensions are very high in the U.S. today. The Black community is angry, hurt and in pain because the frequent killing of Blacks by police officers is evidence to Black people that their lives are not respected or valued by White American society.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement grew out of this reality which continues to propel it. The main thrust of the movement is aimed at the criminal “justice” system, especially on police brutality and harassment, racial profiling and ticketing, police militarization, and mass incarceration.

Perhaps the greatest immediate danger to the social fabric of the Black community is the criminal “justice” system. Through mass incarceration, millions of Black parents are now in prison, on probation, or on parole. Moreover, a large segment of the Black population is legally marginalized by being branded as felons or ex-felons. Thus, police actions against with the Black community have serious implications for the economic status of the family and the educational future of the children.

The White ruling elite views BLM as a disruptive threat that has the potential to become an insurgent force that will challenge their stratified power structure of racial domination. Therefore, they are implementing both repressive and reform strategies to weaken and defuse BLM. The repressive measures taken by the White elite include hiring more police officers and equipping them with military weapons, putting more people under surveillance and detention, restricting the space for protest demonstrations, and stigmatizing protesters as violent, uncivil, militant troublemakers.

The grievances that are acceptable to the White elite only address lite manifestations of racism in the criminal “justice” system. By making small concessions to minor demands and incorporating the moderate protest elements into the mainstream entities, the White elite wants to co-opt BLM. The White liberal establishment has framed the issue as the bad or inappropriate behavior of a few White police officers. Hence their remedies include better screening of police officer candidates at the point of hiring, conducting racial/cultural sensitivity training, and arranging get-acquainted sessions with people and police in the patrolled area. In addition, recommendations are made to incorporate more people of color and women into the police force to change the White image and to reduce the racial criticism of the police force.

The racial integration of police departments and prison staffs may reduce the level of profiling, brutality, and harassment, but they will not address the basic underlying issues because these fixes are predicated on the erroneous idea that the blame for police profiling and brutality is on White police officers who harbor racial animosity toward people of color. By focusing on racist police officers, serious attention is deflected away from the systemic control role of the police, of any color, which is to serve and protect the racialized capitalist social hierarchy from disruptive insurgent forces.

The basic fact is that the police force is under the command of the ruling White elite, which directs the criminal “justice” system to target those individuals and groups who it views as a threat to social stability and its dominant power structure in the social order. History has shown that organized morally driven disruptive strategies against racialized political structures by Black people and their allies have been effective in the struggle for social justice in America. The struggle to dismantle U.S. apartheid will continue.

 

Dr. Luke Tripp is a St. Cloud State University professor in the Department of Ethnic and Women’s Studies.