By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
The buzz phrase of the president is now “law and order.” It is a gaslight for his base, signaling them that they have a duty to get rid of those who are protesting for justice. He is following in the footsteps of Richard Nixon, who, before Trump, many considered to be the most corrupt president in our country’s history. The current present has taken that mantle.
As he uses that phrase, along with other triggering words and phrases such as “vicious dogs” when referring to how to shut the protesters down, it is telling that he does not utter an ounce of concern for those who have recently been accosted by police nor does he acknowledge the history of rampant state-sanctioned violence practiced by law enforcement. Police officers and White vigilantes have been basically given the freedom to rein terrorist attacks on Black individuals, Black families, Black communities, and Black businesses, as revealed in The New York Times and CBS News.
The phrase “law and order” in effect means “shut the protesters down,” but it is significant that “protesters” only applies, in the mind of many, to Black people and their allies, fighting for racial justice and against police brutality. Remember that White people with assault weapons showed up in capital buildings in this country, and that the president urged governors to “talk with them” because they were angry about their rights being infringed upon by the passing of stay in place measures to help protect the spread of COVID-19. The people were angry because businesses were shut down and because they were being prevented from enjoying the luxuries of a pre-pandemic world, shown by ABC’s Nightline.
Now, the president and his allies have jumped onto the verbiage being heard now: “defund the police.” They are spinning it to mean that people want police departments completely abolished (as indeed some do), and purposely stepping around the suggestion that “defund” the police more accurately means recycling some of the money given to police departments into communities which exhibit higher crime rates because of poverty and neglect, as noted by The New York Times.
Not only are too many communities suffocating under the abject poverty which they live on a daily basis, but they are also targeted by police who seem to know the desperation poverty breeds, causing all kinds of behaviors – many nonviolent – for which individuals are harassed, arrested, and far too often, killed.
Police departments have no guardrails for their officers; they know how to harass people and they do it, knowing they are in effect protected from any violence they initiate or in which they participate. They know to say “I was in fear for my life” to justify shooting Black, Brown and poor people. They know how to fudge police reports so that the victim – their victims – are always in the wrong. They are protected and so they commit crimes – in the name of law and order – and get away with it.
While the police use the sentiment of being in fear for their lives, the real truth of the matter is that Black, Brown and poor people are in fear of their lives on a daily basis. That claim is not an excuse used by African Americans to get away with criminal behavior. It is the truth. Although it is not wise to do it, Black people run from police because the raw and unsupervised power of police is known. Nobody trusts them. The lives of the poor, unemployed, unarmed innocent people are on the line every day.
To “defund” the police departments in my mind means to take some of the money away from police departments and put it into programs and organizations and institutions, which will give hope and energy to blighted communities. Black children need quality schools – like the White kids have. They need clean water – not lead-tainted water as so many have. Black communities need good jobs. Black people need adequate health care. This is not brain surgery. It is human and common sense. Any group of people who are characterized by not being able to pay their bills, purchase medicine and provide good educations for their children is a group of people in crisis. Black people in this country have been in crisis since we were brought to this country and enslaved.
We don’t need militarized police departments, ready to shoot us at the slightest change of the wind. We need to be treated as human beings, with needs like all other groups of people. We need to know that our bodies will stop being the fodder for the prison industrial complex. We need to know that selling cigarettes or doing some similar transaction on the streets will not result in us being arrested and/or killed by police. We need for police to stop targeting us for minor offenses, like broken taillights or cars with bad mufflers, which too often result in us being sent to jail. We need the money they spend to harass to be revamped to help us. Making that a reality would be genuine “law and order.”
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.