[Speaking Truth To Power]
Officer Yanez. KSTP TV screen shot
Philando’s Murderer Jeronimo Yanez Gets Way — Are You Kidding Me? Victims Mom Mourns
We must pose several serious questions about the future of Black people in America at the hands of police following the acquittal last Friday of the murderer of Philando Castile, Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
Yanez was acquitted for pumping seven shots into this Black man while he sat in his car with his girlfriend and their four year old daughter. Yanez said he shot Castile because “I thought he had a gun,” the standard shameful excuse used so often to justify the summary execution police regularly inflict on innocent Black people.
However, since White America likes to promote and propagate the false notion that the Second Amendment is a right enshrined by the Founding Fathers, we should ask this: why would gun possession by a Black person be automatically deemed dangerous to police? Especially when the licensed holder specifically alerted his killer, in a respectful tone, after being stopped fearing he could be shot should the weapon be discovered accidentally.
It did not help. Yanez pumped seven bullets into the car with Castile’s girlfriend seated next to him and their daughter in the back seats. Since Friday’s acquittal, many have denounced the unjust verdict, including Castile’s mother. “My son loved this city, and this city killed my son,” said Valerie Castile. “And a murderer gets away. Are you kidding me right now? The system continues in this country continue to fail Black people and will continue to fail us.”
The truth Black America must face is: this system was always meant to exploit and brutalize us—not serve us. America’s indigenous police, from its inception as Slave Patrols, have been used as a tool of terrorism to control Blacks. For reference, consider what Dr. Gary Potter, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University School of Justice, says in The History of Policing Part One: “The genesis of the modern police organization in the South is the ‘Slave Patrol’ (Platt 1982). The first formal slave patrol was created in the Carolina colonies in 1704 (Reichel 1992). Slave patrols had three primary functions: (1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway Slaves; (2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter Slave revolts; and, (3) to maintain a form of discipline for Slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside of the law, if they violated any plantation rules. Following the Civil War, these vigilante-style organizations evolved in modern Southern police departments primarily as a means of controlling freed Slaves who were now laborers working in an agricultural caste system, and enforcing ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws, designed to deny freed Slaves equal rights and access to the political system.”
Dr. Victor E. Kappler—also a professor at Eastern Kentucky University, and a former police officer—in the article “A Brief History of Slavery and The Origins of American Policing” said this: “The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal and political-economic conditions. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities.”
Given this history, we should realize “to serve and protect” is a slogan which means “to serve” wealthy White Americans and “protect” them and their property from “bestial” Black “brutes.” That was the message of D.W. Griffiths’ 1915 silent movie “Birth of a Nation,” which is considered a classic in this country and was based on the 1905 book “The Clansman” by Thomas Dixon Jr. The acquittal of Yanez for the murder of Philando Castile is yet another painful episode that should make this clear to Black America: we will not get justice in the courts without a fight. The courts treat gross miscarriage of justice against Black victims of police brutality as business as usual.
That’s why throughout history many advocates of justice for Blacks have insisted solutions must come from resisting the blatant abuses and injustices. Indeed, Malcolm X once said to end police brutality “the only way you get justice is in the street. The only way you get justice is in the sidewalk. The only way you get justice is when you make justice for yourself.” Why were so many people so surprised by the Castile verdict when we’ve seen this injustice condoned over and over again? How many phony prosecutions and sham grand jury proceedings must we witness before we admit this system is unjust and racist to the root and needs to be completely overhauled?
When have Black Americans ever been given real justice in American courts? Indeed, we have won hard fought concessions by brilliant Black lawyers and activists. But real justice for Black Americans is something America’s legal system is antithetical too. We must stop fooling ourselves that this is not the case. We’re going to have to get radically serious to stop the killings and murders of Black people. We must march more militantly and force a complicit Congress and corporate America to speak up and have incentive to end this targeted injustice.
We must stop Congress and the business community from conducting “business as usual.” Business entities must be pressured to speak out on our behalf—with the knowledge that if they refuse to do so they can longer expect our business. Do nothing Democrats, especially Black legislators, must be called out and voted out if they remain silent while our people continue to be killed by police. Cities where abuses, sham trials and abuses occur must be immediately subjected to boycotts by the Black community and all those who support justice. Black America is going to have to fight this struggle on all fronts from the city streets to the halls of Congress.
The murderous actions of America’s police forces is rooted in a racist political reality—and must be uprooted within the realm of national politics and economics. Whenever another one of these state-sanctioned murderers of Black people goes free, or more often goes unindicted, many of us still act surprised by the lack of justice in American courts. In light of Castile’s murder by Yanez, some Black American gun-owners are reportedly wondering what this verdict means for them. Some are now wondering about their supposed Second Amendment rights.
The sad thing here is: White Americans were never guaranteed the right to bear arms because of the Second Amendment—much less Blacks. The NRA surely knows this truth, although they propagandize fanciful fiction for financial profit. Some commentators have rightly repudiated the NRA for their glaring silence in the Castile case. But there are several cases where the NRA’s silence showed their hypocrisy. I’m always surprised when Black people forget Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney’s declaration in the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford case.
Blacks, enslaved or free, were never intended to be covered by the U.S. Constitution since they were an inferior race, or as he put it in his ruling against Scott who had enjoyed liberty and was fighting a return to slave status: “It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
That’s why Black people are executed summarily, with impunity, by government agents — which is what police officers are. So those who believe any claims of being shielded by the Second Amendment — even when wrongfully claimed by Whites– are also meant for them, need to read up on their history. On August 5, 2014 John Crawford III was killed, in Ohio, by Beavercreek officer Sean Williams inside the sporting goods section of a local Walmart, while holding a BB gun. Besides the fact this Walmart apparently sold real guns, Ohio is an “open carry” state where licensed gun owners are allowed to do so out in public.
So, even if Crawford had a real gun how would one know whether it was legal or not? But the NRA never spoke out in defense of Crawford. Nor did they do so for 12-year-old Tamir Rice or Alton Sterling, Bryant Heyward, Keith Scott, Philando Castill, or any number of similar cases where police say they feared the Black victim had a gun. If the Second Amendment secures gun rights for Americans, why should the presence of a gun, in of itself, signal danger for police? Or, is this only the case when a Black person is perceived as having a gun?
The fact is the Second Amendment was not meant to confer gun right on Americans—it was enacted by wealthy White Americans to arm poorer White Americans in militias, which were Slave Patrols, to quell Slave uprisings. The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791. There is no doubt the Haitian Revolution—which started August 1791—was the driving force that led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, even though it passed Congress in 1789. There was a fear of Black uprisings in the United States.
One interesting thing to note about the Second Amendment is this: there are three words, besides the opening one, that are capitalized: Militia, State and Arms. The word people is not. Isn’t this odd, if the Second Amendment is about conferring gun rights on Americans? Moreover, wouldn’t the final phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” been sufficient to bestow gun rights? The Second Amendment was enacted to empower poor Whites to police Black people for wealthy Whites.
Black people who own guns, like Philando Castile did, are seen as actually represent more of a threat to White America than unarmed Black people who are killed by the police.