Aspen Institute Conference on Race Relations Video.
I went to a Black Lives Matter event in front of City Hall in LA where the activists involved are protesting police shootings of minority youth. They are calling for the police chief to step down. Although I am no fan of Chief Beck and have never been personally helped by LAPD, I find calling for the removal of the police chief to be a step that while it may be personally empowering for the activists if the were to achieve this goal, it does not get to the root of the problem. This is a matter of power relationships. As long as the law is structured to protect the property interests of the wealthy, there will be no real reform. Underclasses are policed to keep them from spreading their undesirable ways into the areas of the city inhabited by the controlling class. Police are the thin blue line protecting property and those who have entered the sphere of the protected classes.
With that said, occasionally there is some basic policing, such as the recent capture of the murderer of many women in south Central Los Angeles, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., now better-known as the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer, convicted of at least ten murders, was sentenced to death recently. Margaret Prescod, founder of advocacy group Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, host of the Sojourner Truth radio show on KPFK, has pressured LAPD to find the murderers of these black women, and has accused the police department of neglecting solving the murders because the victims were perceived to be, as she put it, “Crack Whores.” In reality they were mothers, and daughters, persons who did not deserve to die simply because some of them were sex workers. Franklin claims he did not commit the murders according to the LA Times article on the trial “The ‘Grim Sleeper’ is sentenced to death for string of murders” by Marisa Gerber and James Queally dated August 10, 2016, when he was confronted by the victims families. But the evidence seems conclusive.
In an interview with NPR Prescod explains “We went down to what was then Parker Center Police Headquarters to find out about the murders, see what was being done about it, how the community was being informed, and we were told by the guy in charge, said, ‘Why are you concerned about it? He’s only killing hookers,” from Families Of LA Serial Killer’s Victims Still Await Closure by Kirk Siegler May 2, 2016 transcript.
This seems to be a glaring example of where police priorities have been. The murders have been going on in poor neighborhoods for decades. Police claim that there is a code of silence that often prevents residents from reporting crimes and helping investigations. But when the police act, as the recently released Department of Justice report on the Baltimore police that condemns the abusive culture of police treating minority neighborhoods as occupied territory, there is good reason why people may be reluctant to turn to the police. To quote from the report in another NPR piece ‘Lock Up All The Black Hoodies’: DOJ Report Details Abuses By Baltimore Police by Camila Domonoske dated August 10, 2016, the pressure to bring about significant reform in local police departments around the country is increasing as the establishment media gets the green light from the Obama administration to ramp up the coverage of cases of police maleficence.
I don’t want to just parrot reports from NPR that I hear on the radio as I drive to and from work in the Los Angeles traffic gridlock, so I went down to meet with Prescod at the Black Lives Matter encampment, and listened to the stories of those present including a woman representing a Gang Truce group who had nothing good to say about the police, her husband is currently locked up. Talk went around a circle of some fifty to sixty persons, mostly persons of color, but some white supporters such as my self as well. This was the weekend before the Republican convention. I heard of he incarceration nation where large swaths of black youths have been incarcerated for minor offenses and have since in many places lost their right to vote, as convicted felons in many states cannot vote and incarcerated persons are denied the right. Also due to the requirement on job applications to report convictions many are unable to find jobs, denied housing and public assistance, even food stamps. These mostly minority men become even more likely to return to crime or find themselves trapped in a marginal world of exploited off the grid employment often as sex workers.
I know quite a few denizens of the motels on commercial strips who have no ID, outstanding warrants, work selling drugs or their bodies, who survive from day to day with little hope other than the enthusiasm of youth. What these young persons need is opportunities to go back to school or to find entry level apprenticeships. Instead they find drugs, easy temporary cash from the sex trade, and the inevitable return to prison.
I know plenty of more fortunate twenty somethings who cannot find meaningful employment, live precariously depending on the kindness of strangers, all in an economy that seems to have left an entire generation outside and an increasing number of what were formerly middle class in marginal service jobs or in the gig economy with no benefits and no job security. I am fortunate to have a skill and experience, but I would hate to be an unemployed youth today. Education is a debt trap for them with no guarantee of employment. For minority youths it is worse, far worse, because not only is the limited opportunity, but also a police apparatus that has been designed to oppress and incarcerate with color and youth being the indicators that flag the individual as a target.
This dystopian view, most recently a result from the failure of the Sanders campaign to make real headway in changing the Democratic Party establishment, which the recent Wikipedia release of the DNC emails shows that the party apparatus actively attempted to thwart the Sanders campaign, leaves one again in the political desert seeking some kind of relief. In my case I am leaning back to the Green Party. I like the Canadian Strategic voting plan, vote green in Red and Blue states and only vote for the Democrats in swing states. This will help build the momentum for a Green Party presence in the next round of elections, especially if Green Party candidates can begin to show results in local elections. This may be a pipe dream, but many of those who rallied to Bernie have now got the grass roots campaign experience to work on an entirely independent manner. If the Black Lives Matter, Immigrant Rights groups and the Environmental movement can find common cause under the banner of a new party, Green or other, then there is hope for America. Otherwise we will have demagogues like Trump and establishment tools like Hilary Clinton running the show.