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Diallo, Devaluation Of Black Life And Police "Privatization"


The New York Police Department's (NYPD) decision to not punish the 4 police officers who killed Amadou Diallo has reignited discussions over the callous attitude that many Blacks in New York City believe the police department and mayor hold for the city's darker skinned residents. Their concerns and opinion are justified in light of the NYPD's documented history. But far from a simple indictment of the NYPD on charges of racism and the embodiment of the spirit of white supremacy, we think that the Diallo tragedy, and the reaction of many in the Black community to the persistent problem of police brutality, also points to the flip side of America's racial divide - that of the complex of Black inferiority.

In our opinion Blacks in New York City have little justification for anger or disappointment in the NYPD's internal review and decision regarding the murder of Amadou Diallo. Why Blacks would expect anything different than the decision that was rendered is beyond us. And we are continually troubled by the Black electorate's persistence in exclusively seeking justice from unjust judges. It does nothing but set the community up for demoralization and dashed expectations. How could Black leaders and activists expect anything different from a police department that it already has determined, at times, has the spirit of those who lynched Blacks without impunity, last century?

Our point is why does the Black community expect so much from those consistently who offer them so little?

Without question, the four plain-clothes officers from the NYPD's infamous Street Crime Unit were ill prepared for their assignment. They were unqualified. They did not know the neighborhood; they had no relationship with the people who lived there; and they obviously "profiled" Amadou Diallo according to the stereotype of the black male as public enemy number one. They saw a crime being committed where there was none, they misread the body language and words of Mr. Diallo; and tragically they saw a gun when there was only a wallet.

And their 41 shots fired at and into the body of Diallo reveal a paranoia and disregard for life that simply does not exist when White police officers deal with those of a similar skin-complexion.

But why does the Black community accept such unqualified individuals to "serve and protect" them, in the first place? And then, after such unqualified individuals repeatedly demonstrate that they are unable to "serve and protect" the Black community, Blacks are mystified - and begin to protest and beg for that which can't be obtained by such actions - a change of heart. Protests and political mobilization can change laws but they are almost totally ineffective at changing the hearts of lawmakers or law enforcement officers.

As several of our viewers, who are police officers, have told us, sensitivity training classes do not convert racists. Those who think like White supremacists, continue to do so, even after such training.

Black communities throughout this country could virtually eliminate racial profiling and police brutality by the "community policing" of their own neighborhoods. Black Christians, Muslims and grassroots organizations, particularly their male members, can voluntarily and for fees, patrol their own neighborhoods and reduce crime. Their presence and love and respect for their communities can even persuade young Black and Latino men and women to leave a life of crime behind. They also can serve as a buffer between police officers and youngsters in the community. And sadly, if need be, they can educate police officers on the nature, rhythm and culture of the communities in which they work.

Eventually, the police departments could, in effect, privatize their operations - delegating whole sections and communities to be policed by their own patrols. If it works in the case of public education where charter schools and vouchers are concerned, why can't it work with police departments?

As an example, we would trust the "privatized" force made up of members of the Nation of Islam, Black Baptist sand Methodist churches, the NAACP, the Urban League and Black Nia Force to police Newark, New Jersey much more than we would the local police department. We are convinced that under such a regime, crime would go down, there would virtually no loss of innocent life and you would be spared the expense of failed "sensitivity training" programs.

We would even to be willing to go on record that this "privatized" police force would do its work at less than half the budget that the Newark police force works with.

Under such community patrols, people who are totally innocent of crimes will be left alone. Why? Because the people in the community actually know who they are. There is no need to "profile" individuals that you know.

But because most Black leaders are waiting on benevolent White Mayors, police commissioners and police officers to appear, the Black community is continuously terrorized by both its police department and by its homegrown criminals.

The focus on Whites in government and law enforcement to change their ways is misplaced and sadly, even points to the sick belief in many Blacks, still present long after slavery has ended, that only Whites can solve problems in the Black community. This often unspoken belief is particularly troublesome when it is the Whites, themselves who are guilty of some of the Black community's problems.

Going to the NYPD for justice from acts performed by the NYPD makes no sense. Expecting the NYPD to voluntarily police and reform itself is even more illogical. The Black community must claim its own and take the lead in ending crime and maintaining peace in its neighborhoods. Allowing unqualified Whites to perform that task has left too many criminals unpunished and unreformed and left too many innocent Blacks dead.

Justice and Black lives have fallen in the streets of New York and America's inner cities because Blacks continue to entrust the maintenance of law and order into the hands of unjust judges who do not respect Black life. By blindly seeking a change of heart in those who do not respect the Black community, as opposed to shouldering the responsibility for making neighborhoods peaceful, Blacks only continue the devaluation of their own lives.

White supremacy in the hearts of police officers and Black inferiority in the minds of Black leaders will not only not bring Amadou Diallo back, it won't prevent more Black men and women from meeting his fate.

There are alternatives to begging Whites to treat Blacks better…


Cedric Muhammad

Monday, April 30, 2001

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