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White Fear is code for White Supremacy: Calling Cops on people of color

May 17, 2018

In recent weeks there have been numerous posts on social media about white people calling the police on people of color. There was the Starbucks incident, the student of color relaxing in the campus lounge, the black golfer and the black family that was grilling at a public park.

In each of these incidents, it was white people calling police, most often it was reported that these white people were “feeling unsafe,” because the people of color didn’t “belong there” or because people of color were not speaking English.

Each of these incidents are deplorable, they are a form of violence and it really underscores the very notion of how White Supremacy functions in the US.

However, it is important that we not single out certain white people for their decision to call cops on people of color. As I stated, these recent examples are deplorable and should be condemned by anyone who believes in racial justice. But it is highly problematic for white people who think they would never call cops on people of color, when in fact all white people pay taxes for local, state and federal law enforcement that is designed to primarily police communities of color.

Alex Vitale, in his important book, The End of Policingstates: 

Well-trained police following proper procedure are still going to be arresting people for mostly low-level offenses, and the burden will continue to fall primarily on communities of color because that is how the system is designed to operate – not because of the biases or misunderstandings of officers.

This is the history of policing in the US, which grew out of organized white people policing runaway slaves. The function of policing that grew out of policing runaway slaves, then enforced Jim Crow laws, the policing of black people during the civil rights and anti-segregation movements, to the so-called War on Drugs campaign to the current backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement. White people have always dictated the practice of policing people of color, white people have always benefited from it and white people continue to perpetuate the reality of police departments policing communities of color.

Look at any police department in major cities and you will see that police patrols, in cruisers, on bikes or on foot, disproportionately spend their time and energy in neighborhoods of color. Again, this is by design.

Another example of how police departments are always wanting to present themselves as public servants as opposed to a tool of white supremacy, is the recent comments from the GRPD in regards to the Latino/Latinx community. 

Members of the GRPD were recently on a local Spanish language radio station, right after the May 1st immigrant justice march. This was clearly a public relations ploy to try to convince the Latino/Latinx community that the GRPD exists to help the immigrant community. The GRPD keeps saying that they are not interested in the immigration status of people, yet here is what one member of the GRPD said in the recent MLive article:

Local officers do not seek out immigrants who are in the country illegally, and they’re not actively passing names along to federal agencies. However, there are incidents when officers are obligated to assist ICE when asked.

In addition, last fall, the Grand Rapids City Commission adopted a resolution, referred to as the Equal Service Policy. This policy was originally designed to make it so that all city employees, including those within the GRPD, would not be allowed to ask people what their immigration status is. However, at the 11th hour, the city changed the language of the ordinance, which ended up excluding the GRPD from this city policy. 

If the GRPD was so committed to the idea of not asking people what their immigration status was, why would they lobby the city to exclude them from the Equal Service Policy and why would they collaborate with ICE agents when called upon? We must not be fooled by the GRPD’s attempt to convince us that they care about immigrants, African Americans or any other community of color, which they by design disproportionately target with their community policing practices. We have to see past this lie and recognize that community policing is just a form of domestic counter-insurgency.

White people have got to stop calling the police when they feel threatened by people of color. This only causes harm to communities of color, it promotes violence and it results in ore and more people of color ending up in the Prison Industrial Complex.

What white people need to do, is engage in some serious collective self-examination and how we are all beneficiaries of a system of White Supremacy. We need to come to terms with the assessment that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made about white people in 1966.

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