Blog #30: Hands Up–Don't Shoot


Contrary to the refrain from the tragic Ferguson, Mo., shooting of Michael Brown, we know that keeping your hands up does not mean you will not be shot. Assata Shakur had her hands up when she was shot on the New Jersey turnpike by a State Trooper, Oscar Grant was laying face down on a subway platform when he was shot in the back by a Bay Area Transit cop, Sean Bell was executed in a hail of bullets by a half dozen N.Y. city cops while sitting in a car, and Trayvon Martin fought to defend himself when he was murdered by a wanna-be cop just yards from his home.

Obviously, I find this plea for mercy sorely insufficient, in fact, indefensible when a trained killer has a weapon pointed at you under the guise of Blue authority. Needless to say, this passive posture generally supports the inferior and superior paradigm, creating a social environment in which Black lives do not matter. Brooke Reynolds, in an essay titled “Policing Race,” informed:

“This “order” was created and protected by US law. From slavery to today’s militarized ghettos, it is clear that racial violence has almost always occurred explicitly or implicitly in cooperation with the law. William and Murphy trace the relationship between the law and social order: “The fact that the legal order not only countenanced but sustained slavery, segregation, and discrimination for most of our nation’s history and the fact that the police were bound to uphold that order sets patterns for police behavior and attitudes toward minority communities that has persisted until the present day.” (Parenti). In terms of the relationship to the police themselves, “Government-sponsored racial discrimination and segregation have deeply affected the organizing ethos and practices of US policing.” (Parenti)—thus, it becomes clear that “... relationship between police violence and social institution of policing is structural, rather than incidental or contingent.” (Martinot, Sexton). Wielding an arsenal of moralist rhetoric and trained over hundreds of years of historical practice, the police work in conjunction with white society and its government to keep white lawlessness understood as nothing other than “public order,” enforcing “the law of white supremacist attack” with determination and fervor.”

In response this reality, Robert Williams wrote the book “Negroes With Guns,” reflecting on the institutionalization of State violence and the inherent human rights of Black people to defend themselves, that was also practiced by the Deacons for Defense opposing Ku Klux Klan violence.

Reynolds continues:

“By confronting the perpetration of police racial violence with the maintenance of social order, it is rendered unidentifiable, ignorable, and inarticulable. Having been so deeply written into our very conception of social organization and policing, police brutality and racism becomes invisible to white society (who also has an investment in denying the reality of racial violence). Shocked by stories of police violence and unmoved by the dehumanization of racial profiling, white people simultaneously reveal their ignorance of and investment in the violent inherent in the protection of white supremacy.”

Furthermore, Reynolds states:

“The ignorability and inarticulability of racist police violence to white society is directly related to its historical and current impunity. Authorized by the government end white society as a whole, the police are given the freedoms necessary in order to guarantee the stability of white supremacy and to continue constructing racialized identities. Within this system, injustices done to people of color are not classified as injustices, if they are recognized at all. Police murders, abuses, and terrorization of people of color, no matter how gratuitous, are more often than not met with legal indifference, public support, and are virtually bereft of consequences. Martinot notes the relationship between modern-day police impunity, slave patrols, and white supremacist law:

“Both the police and the impunity of slave masters belong to the same paradigm of dual systems of law, sanctioned by the law, in producing the subjection of people of color. What contemporary juridical procedure has done, by valorizing police impunity, is regenerated the doubled system of law of the slave system… Thus, both manifest the component elements of white racialized identity paranoia…, violence…, and white solidarity…” (Martinot).

“The racist police violence which pervades the landscape of US society today is not incidental, nor [is it] the work of ‘rogue cops,’ [It is] an essential part of the larger campaign of social re-racialization” (Martinot). Historically rooted in a very real desire to subjugate and control people of color in America, and operating in a way which inscribes and deepens whiteness as an identity and a value, today’s police forces operate along the same paradigm as their predecessors.” (Reynolds)

These lengthy quotes from Reynolds “Policing Race” establish the lens in which we are to view the recent rash of police killings of unarmed Black people. It is extremely important that conversations and national debate about the relationship between the police and the Black community is not the same as the relationship between the police and the white community. The historical ramifications of this dynamic relationship today are subject to the reality of the racist culture in law enforcement. Law enforcement modus operandi, for all intents and purposes, are based on outside armed forces, albeit white people, patrolling communities of color, with all of its inherent racial implications.

Over forty years ago, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense raised the very same issues, establishing their patrols to ensure police officers conducted their business in accord with the law. For their actions and concerns for the welfare of the Black community, the BPP became the number one target for extermination by law enforcement across the country. The primary reason is because the BPP did not believe or practice passive resistance, they were not in the streets chanting “Hands Up Don’t Shoot.” Such passive pleas would be considered a misguided belief protesters would be safe challenging a system of armed forces with innate disdain for the well being of Black people’s lives. Rather, such modus operandi parallels the racial attitudes of the slave patrols out of which the police system evolved. (See, Hadden, Sally E., Slave Patrols, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001) (Reynolds, pg. 3-8).

The task of young people today is to increase pressure and define the national debate on the relationship between the Black community and police. De-Militarization and De-Centralization must become the primary demand. The call for community control of the police was what the BPP fought to achieve, and that objective is what needs to be demanded now. The police need to live in the community, not come from outside the community. There must be more diversity in the command and structure of the police, reflecting the composition of the community they patrol.

It is time to reverse the chant ‘No Justice No Peace’ to “No Peace Without Justice,” it is time to ensure Black lives matter as much as white lives, and that all people’s lives are as sacred as police lives.

The First Line of Defense IS power to the People!

Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators!

Jalil A. Muntaqim
Attica - 12/5/14