By Juan Miguel Martinez
I have never once wondered if Mookie did the right thing. Moments after Radio Raheem was choked and murdered by the NYPD, he was taken away in the back of a blue car. The crowd is at a standstill. Mookie chooses his side and walks over to stand by his people. The shouting escalates and the crowd parts for Mookie to walk through. “HATE” he yells. He tosses the garbage can through the plate glass window, causing the crowd to move. They run in and tears Sal’s Famous Pizzeria to a shell, and it burns. Even the pictures of people that are not brothers on the wall. People tend to be baffled and angry at this scene, and don’t understand why the residents of Bed-Stuy turned on the neighborhood business. In the next scene, it is the morning after. Mookie comes to collect his weekly pay from Sal. Sal tells him his $250 will not begin to pay for the window he broke.
“Motherfuck a window, Radio Raheem is dead”, Mookie says.
That is all there is to it. Spike Lee explained the act for you. Property, inanimate objects mean less than nothing when comparing with a human life. When people turn their anger, frustration and sadness on a structure, it is a sight to behold. In a country where the unemployment rate is currently at 30%, it is less about looting than it is basic survival. An uprising is not something that happens easily, it is something that happens when the proverbial pot has boiled over from voices not being heard. Riots are senseless acts of mania, while uprisings have an electric self-respect, and are an act of collective self-defense. People are being murdered by an agency we pay to protect us. Warnings have not been heeded, and confidence in the police is at an all-time low. It is a way we can all temporarily breathe. We sigh more than anything – but it is a breath for George Floyd and Eric Garner, and all the other black and brown folk that have been senselessly murdered. We witnessed plain and simple homicide of a black man by the Minneapolis police force on May 25th, 2020. In a way, we were given a thorough illustration of how it is for us in this country. An emotionless Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, cutting off his air while a complicit Tou Thao held back a crowd of upset people so Chauvin and three other murderers could finish the act.
There is a fundamental flaw in the idea of police – it is no different than the thought processes employed by shady criminal organizations. Provide protection for those that pay, silence the opposition and above all – keep your fucking mouth shut. There are many possible methods that can be employed to correct the damage that is being done. One would definitely be to introduce proper screening and background checks before people are hired, in order to weed out the truly evil. Another notion is to attack the roots of capitalism. The police in America have always been the personal task force of the wealthy, here to carry out their orders of shattering the will of the poor. The distribution of wealth in America is so thoroughly disproportionate, a place that has both an obesity and starvation problem. The “thin blue line” is a phrase used to describe the line between society and police, one that practices order and keeps the chaos in check. It is definitely thin and maybe blue but who knows? It is apparently a colorblind one – a criminal is a criminal, allegedly. It has taken on more properties associated with a tightrope, walked by two different types of people. The sometime genuinely righteous and the too often genuinely aberrant. They are given weapons and imbued with a god-like status. They consider themselves the tip of the spear, “holding the animals back”, riding around in the night. It is an ideal profession for racists, a place where they are given a license to execute their wildest and most heinous fantasies. They were bullies but now they have guns – and we are all going to pay. The basic philosophy of the police force is rooted in vigilantism, a skewed by-product of perceived altruism in a sick mind. The first police force was established in Philadelphia in the 1750’s, but before that, makeshift groups made up of local militia and “concerned individuals” comprised the posse. They were mostly going after Native Americans and southern runaway slaves, as they were the ones viewed as a threat to law and order. Being considered property and three-fifths of a human might make someone act out in desperation, but that was unfathomable then. It seems to be an inherited prejudice by a majority of cops, where people of color were meant to be corralled, except now they are meant to be quiet. Shut them up anyway you can – kneel on their necks until they stop breathing, empty your clip in them because they reached for their identification. Not much has changed in the regard of how people of color are viewed. Now, demands for equality are viewed as dubious propositions, and our mistreatment is a seen as self-made, an invention of our imaginations. It is because of this that we are afraid to ask for assistance from them, while whites call them like they are their own personal customer service. There are more of us, still here, still captives under the watchful eye of blue lives.
A good police officer will be able to hold true the good ideas and discard the negative, in order to be an agent of change. That can, and usually all goes away when the idea of a fraternity, a secret code to live by is introduced. They can be in the trenches together, tricked into believing what they do is right and good. It becomes scripture, and upholding the general law no longer seems as important as the unwritten law the department has fashioned for you. Suddenly the positive ideas start to fade and it is no longer about protecting people, but protecting your partners from the people. That means staying silent if you see horrible crimes – how will you turn over a family member? We have become the villains in their eyes, whether directly or indirectly. Not only is your partner watching your back, but the government and your police union is too. They will make it near impossible for them to get fired as a reward for their continued effort in the extermination of the poor. The colonizers continue to colonize, but the target is now consciousness since there was no land left to conquer, no people left to rape. The idea of America has become to revere the wealthy and white and hate yourself for being poor and of color – and the police are here to remind you of it. Unless they speak out against corruption, where the general consensus is that our thoughts and prayers will work before that happens.
During these times of uncertainty where the economy is getting ready to tank, the best solution is to start the defunding of police. Funds can be reallocated to proper healthcare, housing and public education which will make communities of color safer. We will have the freedom to thrive, and funds can be used to invest in our futures instead of the continued criminalization. We deserve the nice roads, the computers in our schools, the apartment buildings with gyms where we can exercise without being questioned about our tenant status. Being born a person of color is automatically held against us, but that narrative can change. Police commit a litany of crimes, probably the same amount as us. They dole out the destruction of our self-confidence and the erosion of our positivity. It is attempted spiritual robbery. It is easier to instill fear than respect. A change is coming. We are present, doing the duty of the ancestors who have flown us their strength. They cannot kill us all, even though they try. I once heard a police officer say in regard to people of color, “You kill one and ten more come back.” How right he is.