The Price of Apathy is to be Ruled by Evil Men

By Dianne Post

As the events in Ferguson illustrated, injustice is as American as motherhood and apple pie.  From our inception, the Constitution counted African-Americans as only three-fifths of a person and Native Americans were not counted at all.  Neither group could vote nor could women or people who didn’t own property.

Likewise, law enforcement developed from a very flawed beginning, slave patrols sent out by plantation owners to capture escapees.  After the Civil War, sheriffs and justices of the peace were not paid by the government but were provided lists of workers needed by plantations, mines and the railroad.  The sheriff then arrested and the justice of the peace convicted African-Americans and “leased” them to the businesses.  Pinkerton thugs hired by corporations attacked labor union strikers in factories and plants while law enforcement turned their backs.

Black Codes ensured that African-Americans would remain under the control of the white establishment.  Jails and prisons then and now were and are used as a control mechanism for unwanted or overflow populations and for people we want to control, especially Black men and immigrants. Little argument can be made that the criminal justice system today is racist from cradle to grave, from the first police stop to the ultimate execution.

However, over the years, society has taken slow and painful steps toward inclusion and equality.  The country was torn apart by the Civil War, swung forward and back during Reconstruction, and then re-ignited with a new Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.  The Suffrage movement started in 1848 and culminated in women’s right to vote in 1920.  Native Americans were not made citizens until 1924 and even after serving in World War II many could not vote until the 1965 Voting Rights Act.   The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act prohibited discrimination against vulnerable members of our society.  The Lesbian/Gay/Bi-sexual/Transgender (LGBT) movement caught fire in 1969 and won marriage equality in 2015.

Arizona has also struggled to become more inclusive.  From the state’s founding, when  state leaders refused to be joined with New Mexico because there were too many Mexicans, to Operation Eagle Eye a Republican Party voter suppression operation in the 1960s to challenge minority voters, the struggle for fairness toward Arizona’s original Mexican inhabitants continues in the immigrant battles of today.

Unfortunately, the absence of fair justice for all in Arizona is not ancient history.  In 2005, the Department of Public Safety was found guilty of racial profiling.  In 2010, SB 1070 was passed setting off a national boycott and outcry that culminated in most of the act being overturned by the courts.  In 2014, the legislature passed SB 1062 to attack the LGBT community.  In 2013, a federal court judge found the Maricopa County Sheriff guilty of racial profiling and in 2016 found him guilty of contempt for refusing to abide by the court order to end the discrimination.

Racism and classism are tightly connected as Lyndon Johnson knew with his War on Poverty and Martin Luther King discovered when he enlarged his strategy to convene a Poor People’s March.  The Occupy movement fought against social and economic injustice beginning in 2011 and starkly illuminated the crimes of Wall Street that Senator Elizabeth Warren keeps alive today.  The recent Bernie Sanders presidential campaign forced the issue of income inequality onto the national political agenda.  Community organizing turned the Fight for $15 into a national campaign.  The findings in Ferguson that our courts have become debt collectors and our jails have become debtors prisons is another example of racism and classism playing out in the very fabric of our nation.

Since Ferguson, many people talk about restoring faith in our criminal justice system.  For minorities and the poor, they never had faith in the system so it can’t be restored but must be created by making reality the principles in the preamble of the Constitution, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, …”

So long as we continue to deny racism and ignore white privilege, we cannot establish Justice.

 

13 responses to “The Price of Apathy is to be Ruled by Evil Men

  1. Sen. John Kavanagh

    Two major historical inaccuracries need correction. First, the roots of American law enforcement were in the colonies and were grafts from the British system, starting with the Night Watch. The Southern Paddy Rollers came much later and we’re unique to the South.

    Second, the three-fifths compromise was proposed and supported by anti-slavery Northerners as a way to limit the power of pro-slavery Southern states in Congress and it worked by keeping their representation below 50%.

    I also disagree with other points raised but these two cried out the loudest for correction.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      The Night Watch in the north ran parallel to the slave patrols in the south.

      https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2015-10-29/policing-and-oppression-have-a-long-history

      “The slave patrols emerged from a combination of the Night Watch, used in Northern colonies, and the Barbadian Slave Code initially employed by Barbadians settlers in South Carolina in the early 1700s.”
      http://therebelpress.com/articles/show?id=2

      For your second point, no doubt, the North was racist, the creation of the Constitution was every bit as political as anything happening today. New York city especially benefitted immensely from the slave trade, since they were a major shipping and financial center.

      There was plenty of ugly going around back then and there still is today, but the slave patrols were part of early law enforcement before and after the colonies declared independence.

      Since you’re a former cop I understand why you’d want to downplay that.

      In your current role as a professor, I’d suggest you mind your apostrophes, but that would just be trolling.

      • Sen. John Kavanagh

        The Night Watch came before the slave patrols. The fact that they later ran at the same time does not erase the fact that the roots of American law enforcement were before the slave patrol.

        Since you did not challenge my comment on the three-fifths compromise but merely talked around it, I see no need to defend it.

        • For Sure Not Tom

          I didn’t challenge your three-fifths comment, I actually agreed with it and expanded on it, mentioning how New York City in particular benefitted from slavery.

          The slave patrols started in South Carolina in 1704 and run until 1877, the were a combination of the Night Watch and some Barbadian slave codes, in the later years they were sometimes organized by the KKK.

          The roots of American law enforcement are tied to both organizations, the Night Watch and the slave patrols.

          The “modern” police force was and still is used to suppress minorities, the most obvious example was in the first half of the last century, during segregation.

        • Sen. John Kavanagh

          It is fair to say that southern policing has historic roots in the slave patrol but not American policing and I emphasize historic and not operational roots.

  2. Fifteen minute interview with Bryan Stevenson about his book, “Just Mercy”:

  3. Apathy is caused by something.
    Therefore:
    Apathy and Rule by Evil are the price of something.
    Peace and Love… sad

  4. Carolyn Classen

    Well said, Michael. It will take a long time for white privilege to disappear in America. Although our country is 240 years old, it has a long history of attempts at equality and inclusion, but is not there yet. The recent shootings in Dallas are indicative of that.

    • Good Lord. Am I reading this correctly? “Although our country is 240 years old, it has a long history of attempts at equality and inclusion…” What is long? Well, we could, of course, go back to the Reconstruction era that lasted from the end of the civil war until 1877 when it was forcefully brought to an abrupt halt. Yes, Reconstruction was awesome, but it was replaced by lynching and then Jim Crow (institutionalized racism). What actually happened between 1877 and Brown v Board of Education (1954) that was an attempt at inclusion by the benevolent white ruling class? Also, keep in mind that the gains made by African Americans during the civil rights era were not given to them by enlightened white liberals. They were fought for, and the blood of martyrs is on every one of them.

      Also, slavery goes back 400 years. Start there.

      • For Sure Not Tom

        While the slave trade was still a business in England until the 1800’s, it’s my understanding that owning slaves in England was made illegal in 1772.

        But that the English court did not rule on slavery in the colonies at the time.

        Interesting that our founding fathers declared independence 4 years later, in 1776, and kept slavery around for another 80 years.

        Coincidence?

      • Well, the timing of the invention of the cotton gin in the mid 1790s was most unfortunate because, if not for that, slavery may have been over within one or two generations. But slavery was always about rich white folks wanting free labor so they could get richer, and “King Cotton” prevailed.

        Such a sad history.

    • Janet Linscheid

      The writer of the article is Dianne Post.

  5. captain*arizona

    police or employees of the city county or state and will shoot who ever their employers tell they are alowed to shoot.