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Study Finds Police Shootings Reflect Structural Racism

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“Part of the resistance to openly discussing this issue is that many people feel offended by criticism of people who are risking their lives to protect all of us. Our study suggests that this problem is not simply about the actions of individuals, but about the actions of all of society.” ~ Michael Siegel

It turns out that the issue of peacefully kneeling protestors and cops killing unarmed black men is just the tip of the iceberg. The greater iceberg hidden beneath the surface is structural racism, which tends to lead to segregation and structural violence. Bottom line: racism is a cultural problem.

A new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) finds states with a greater degree of structural racism, particularly residential segregation, have higher racial disparities in fatal police shootings of unarmed victims.

Structural racism is a broader cultural problem influenced by institutional practices and cultural representations (statism) manifested by a rich-poor dynamic. Couple that with statist indoctrination and economic debt slavery and you get structural violence. Structural violence is the bastard child of structural racism and statist indoctrination.

Here’s the thing: Most people will agree that racism and violence are inherently unhealthy. So, most people will not purposefully act in racist or violent ways. But when your entire society is based upon violence and segregation (both racial and economic), people are more likely to unwittingly or unintentionally act in racists and violent ways. This includes, most definitely, cops.

If offense-minded policing, based on the hyper-violence of statism, leads to structural racism, on the one side; then it stands to reason that structural violence leads to the violent lashing-out by the oppressed, on the other side. As MLK Jr. surmised, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

The oppressed person is sandwiched between his/her own state-indoctrinated upbringing within structural violence, and the absent-minded, outdated-law-pushing policeman representing the violent state. The result is a clash of racial violence that most people are not even aware of, where the poor and the oppressed (usually black people) are the victims of those with the monopoly on violence (usually police).

The problem, on both sides, is the violence festering at the core of our culture. It’s a vicious cycle. Structural violence begets the monopoly on violence begets more structural violence. The oppressed get more oppressed. The poor get poorer. Structural violence is the environment where all this takes place. Structural racism is the response from those with the monopoly on violence.

Structurally racist cops say you should just stay within the lines. Don’t get out of order.  Don’t break the rules. Definitely don’t rock the boat. They wag a finger in your face. They toss a bible in your lap. They threaten you with legalese, incarceration, and violence disguised as law and order. They toss the phrase, “it’s just the way things are” around as if you deserve it and there’s nothing you can do about it. They are basically telling you that it’s their way or the highway.

Then again, as Eve Ensler vulnerably declared, “Good is toeing the line, being behaved, being quiet, being passive, fitting in, being liked; but Great is being messy, having a belly, speaking your mind, standing up for what you believe in, fighting for another paradigm, not letting people talk you out of what you know to be true.”

Here’s another revealing study from a research team of cognitive neuroscientists out of McMaster University on the subject of status profiling. The research suggests that simply wearing a police uniform changes the way the brain processes information. Simply putting on a uniform, like one the police might wear, automatically affects how we perceive others, creating a bias towards those considered to be of a low social status (structural racism).

The reality is that power tends to corrupt. This applies especially to police. And especially-especially to police that are trained to be offense-minded, oppressive, extorting, overreaching, and violent enforcers of a statist agenda.

Those who dedicate themselves to this culture of violence dedicate themselves to ill-health, racism, and oppression. Those who dedicate themselves to life, freedom, and diversity, despite the culture of violence and racism, dedicate themselves to survival and reap from it the harvest that sows its seed in the progressive evolution of our species. A species hellbent on violence against itself is unhealthy and eventually destroys itself. Racism is violence against our own species. A species determined to be healthy only ever uses violence as a last resort, in self-defense, and for the preservation of the species as a whole.

From the former, the tyrant cop juts his power-tripping head, violently declaring himself free at the expense of the freedom of others. From the latter, the defiant hero rises up, denying the tyrant’s violent oppression, and affirming freedom through the freedom of us all. That’s what Albert Camus meant when he wrote: “I rebel –therefore we exist.”

At the end of the day, our culture of violence must be met with vigilant nonviolent rebellion. This means a vigilant rebellion against oppression, hate, violence, and racism of all kinds. This begins with tackling the problem of violence and racism at the structural level.

The top-down approach to tackling the problem is challenging those with the monopoly on violence (police, who represent the overreaching state). The bottom-up approach to tackling the problem is challenging the very foundation upon which our culture of violence is built (structural violence).

Solving structural racism begins at home. If you can pinpoint and overcome the racism pressed upon you by structural violence, then you might earn the right to help others pinpoint and overcome the racism pressed upon them by structural violence. As Audrey Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”


Image: Fer Gregory/Shutterstock.

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