Both Sides of the Badge

Both Sides of the Badge

Bill O’Reilly catch phrases like race hustling or race baiting, are the blatant racist code that festers in the already infected wounds of this nation.

By RA Monaco

Angrily marching into the New Year, the struggle for social change in 2015 will continue to emotionally wear on the nation—coast to coast.  “It’s a very exciting time to be alive if somewhat wearing emotionally,” said Joanna Macy, during a recent podcast discussing her philosophy on life.  Her message was simply, that “You don’t have to be optimistic, just be present.”  In fact, explains Macy, Buddhist teachings say that “A feeling that you have to maintain hope can wear you out.”

Probably more determined than optimistic, thousands around the country have decided to just be present by taking their protests to the streets.  Most are troubled by continuing law enforcement practices in already marginalized communities that have seemingly focused on racial and economic demographics.  Beyond the growing crisis of trust that has widened since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in August, there are also concerns about the increased aggressiveness of militarized policing.

The guns-drawn-and-pointed confrontation between law enforcement and the Clive Bundy entourage, stands in stark contrast to the fatal shootings of Tamir Rice, a black 12-year-old in Cleveland and 18-year-old Antonio Martin—the third fatal shooting of a young black man by a white police officer in the St. Louis area since Michael Brown was killed in August.  Include, Kajieme Powell, 25, who was shot and killed by St. Louis city officers on Aug. 19th and Vonderrit Myers, 18, killed Oct. 8th when an off-duty St. Louis police officer shot him eight times.

Another moment of escalating tensions

In a media-oriented clean-up session following the choking death of Eric Garner by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, Police Commissioner William Bratton didn’t deny that more minorities are impacted by NYPD enforcement strategies.  “But it’s not an intentional focus on minorities,” claims Bratton.  The Associated Press was told by Commissioner Bratton, “It’s a focus on behavior…We are not a racist organization-not at all.”

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This past Saturday morning became another moment of escalating tensions.  At the funeral of NYPD officer Rafael Ramos—who along with officer Wenjian Liu was shot in the head while sitting in their patrol car—police officers standing outside the funeral turned their backs away from the screens projecting Mayor Bill de Blasio as he spoke in remembrance of Officer Ramos.

Commissioner Bratton challenged the press to “name one” Mayor, who hasn’t also battled with police unions in the last fifty years, “it’s nothing new, it’s part of life.” Even modest attempts to shift policy from security to inequality—class and race—have led to cop insurrections, consider the cop revolt of 1992 against mayor David Dinkins, who tried to set up a civilian review board to assess police brutality.   

The blatant racist code that festers

Before personally learning about the shooting of NYPD officers Ramos and Liu, an email was sent to me at 6:07 PM, on Saturday, December 20, by someone who had read an article I had written for Salon Magazine prior to the Michael Brown grand jury announcement.

In bold, the email read: “New York City police officers were shot to death — execution-style — as they sat in their squad car, by a man who boasted on his Instagram account about wanting to kill cops in revenge for Eric Garner & Michael Brown

I hope you, Al Sharpton and the rest of you race hustlers/baiters buddies are happy now.   You and they only make things worse.”  

Previously unaware of the tragic event, I asked by email at 7:41 PM, Why would I be happy?   

Another email arrived at 7:59 PM:  “your idiotic position and race  baiting/hustling is a direct result of this tragic event.  Your too stupid or ignorant to recognize it. You and the rest of your race hustlers.”

After two more ranting messages from this person the source fueling his racist rage was revealed—the message read:

 “Blood on your hands… WATCH:  WOW!  Fox 5 NY has the full story in a fantastic report that pulls no punches against the disgraceful [sic] De Blasio.”

Modern racism and its attendant linguistic code have become standard in Fox programming.  These days, the use of descriptive words like thug—as was often used on Fox to describe Michael Brown—or Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly catch phrases like race hustling or race baiting, are the blatant racist code that festers in the already infected wounds of this nation.

Their purpose is to antagonize and inflame Fox audience’s sensibilities on racism.  It is a practice that demonstrates their purpose.  Use of racially coded language reveals a calculated and deliberate effort by the Fox Network to cultivate an audience demographic that is intellectually weak and worse, which validates, the more overt practices of racism in America.  It’s hardly a surprise to see Fox News host an all white panel to discuss “Race in America” or to bring in an African American to tell all other African Americans why they’re the problem.

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In response to the racial characteristic of Fox News programming, a “die-in” and “shutdown” protest is currently in the works for January 2, 2015, targeting Fox News’ Midtown Manhattan headquarters, according to WND senior staff reporter Aaron Klein.

Modern racism is often purely subconscious

The reality is that modern racism is implicit for almost everyone who grew up in America.  In other words, it’s not necessarily a conscious act—we’ve all watched TV programs like Blazing Saddles and All in the Family and laughed.    In fact, modern racism is often a purely subconscious filter or response.  That is not a justification; my intent here is to suggest only that by recognizing the implicit nature of racism we might do better.

Many Americans—perhaps most—including many Whites, abhor conscious racism.  “Since the 1940’s,” says commentator Jim Myers, “polls indicate that whites show an increasing willingness to interact with black people, and this must also be one reason why many white Americans assume that race relations are getting better.  They know that they have personally abandoned bad attitudes toward black people.”

The use of racist code, or denial, is a morally reprehensible form of self-deception, yet we—think sponsors—tolerate it from the hosts on the Fox Network who seemed to have spawned from the 70’s sitcom character Archie Bunker.

Preying on the weak to a state of blind hate

It may interest many to know that Albert Einstein was also a combatant for racial justice.  In a letter to the editor response to Walter White’s October 1947 article, Why I Remain a Negro, Einstein wrote, “If the suffering springs from the blindness and dullness of a tradition-bound society, it usually degrades the weak to a state of blind hate, but exalts the strong to a moral superiority and magnanimity which would otherwise be almost beyond the reach of man.”

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I ask you to read the above words of Einstein a second time and consider how Fox host’s like Bill O’Reilly project a moral superiority that ultimately preys on the weak to a state of blind hate—like the person who sought me out by email.   Consider too, the moral egregiousness of not even trying to see the harm to others that we could—and should— easily place in our own line of vision.

Implicit racism becomes an even more difficult problem once we begin to see how it embeds itself in the institutions of society.  When faced with making judgments in particular situations, there is a selective blindness that often fails to see bias at work—even in our own hearts.

Right-wing apologists argue 

Self-deception is motivated by reduced awareness of truths, the usual motivation being self-interests—Fox News is but one example that supports the reduced awareness of truth.  In some instances, implicit racism manifests as a “willful blindness.”  The fact is that these racial disparities create both material and psychological winners and losers.

Right-wing apologists will argue, that they owe an affirmative obligation to racial minorities to ignore their or anyone else’s race.  Racial awareness—maintains and leads to balkanization, irrationality, and group-think in a society committed to defending the worth and autonomy of the individual.  They reason that neither Whites as individuals nor the collective American people, through their government, are responsible for the few continuing instances of racial injustice.  The people of New York City and Ferguson would likely not agree.

You’ll be told by those on the right that racism is a personal attitude of aberrant individuals, not an institutional or political problem—it’s about skin color, not social status or power.  In fact, “a policy that makes explicit reference to race, or racial identities, is taken to stand condemned by that fact alone, independent of whatever the policy aims or is likely to accomplish (for example, to foster race egalitarianism).”

Color-blind warriors on the left

Now, before color-blind warriors on the left jump-up onto their high horses, they too counsel against race-consciousness.  The argument from the left is simply, that it alienates Whites from progressive causes, downplays the unifying role of class and destroys political unity.

Einstein’s solution was to work to educate “all of our people” on the risks to democracy of this denial of collective and institutional responsibility.  To do otherwise, he insisted, is to ignore an evil that “so grievously injures the dignity and the repute of our country.”

It may help those who are marching toward social justice in 2015, to be mindful that discrimination works largely through unconscious processes.  There are situations in which our consciously justifying choices can be based on reasons other than racial bias.  There are habits of thought based on our personal filters of how we interpret what we perceive—this happens without our ever being aware that these stereotypes are at work.

Standing in the shoes of others 

Also, to be consciously anti-racist, demands that we be open to the point of view of others.  This is something that a long time friend helped me to better realize when he resigned himself to our discussion saying, “You couldn’t possibly understand unless you’ve lived a day in my skin.”  In short, the struggle for social change in 2015 will depend upon our learning to be empathetic—developing a willingness to stand in the shoes of others.

In the end, social change will ultimately hinge upon our very own imaginations—our individual ability to see the world through the eyes of those on the short end of the stereotyping sticks.

No one wants to hear about a police officer being assassinated or another young man of color getting killed by the police—every life matters.  Humanity and social progress demands more from us all—on both sides of the badge.

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