Sunday, January 29, 2023

For the Record: Can Black Cops Be Racist?

Photo by Tyre Nichols.


The big reaction on the right to the murder of Tyre Nichols by the five Memphis police officers who beat him to death on the suspicion that he might have been "driving recklessly" has been to deny that racism had anything to do with it, because the cops in question were Black, like their victim.

We heard the same thing after Freddie Gray was caught avoiding police and having a (legal) knife in his shirt pocket, and rattled to death—a ride so rough it severed his spine—in the police van taking him to the station in 2015, and three of the six cops involved, including the driver, were African American. But I think it's a good deal more anxious and urgent now, maybe because we're in the age of George Floyd and they're feeling more threatened than before. 

Ostensibly there's a rational argument here, that it doesn't make sense to suggest that Black officers could do something racist against Black citizens, or uphold white supremacy, though it's also self-evidently wrong, or if you prefer racist in its own right (you're seriously arguing that a person's race prevents them from experiencing a particular emotion?). But it's starting to read to me like a panicky defense of racism: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, racism could not possibly be guilty of this terrible crime—it was miles away at the time."

There's something protective of racism in it, as in this response to Jamelle Bouie:

What bothers me is that the attack on the people ("pure evil") is in defense of the injustice that breeds them.

It occurred to me that I was really introducing critical race theory here, without having any deep understanding of it, critical in that "the point is to change it", as the man said, and I didn't know how to work myself out of the thread until sometime later when a relevant thing dropped into my inbox:

So do read that if you get a chance.

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