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The politics of policing the protectors who become the assassins

No, it’s not a new story. Too often we’ve heard that the bodyguard, babysitter, or guardian for the elderly, has gone way off the reservation and become the danger from […]


No, it’s not a new story. Too often we’ve heard that the bodyguard, babysitter, or guardian for the elderly, has gone way off the reservation and become the danger from which they were supposed to be protecting.

No, it is not, and will not, be the last report we have of brutal police work and assaults on the public.

And absolutely this will not be the last time that we hear of Black folks brutalizing other Black folks based on some confused logic or poisoning of the spirit. But really…this is a bit much. The Protectors having become the murderous assailants. So as our house is being attacked from without, brick by brick, keeping us nervous and pinned down, a group of those inside the house with us in concert against the danger without, suddenly shapeshifts into the enemy inside !!!

Is there no peace, no protection, no safety? Nobody protects Black folks, not even other Black folks? Now that’s really changing the odds—No way, no escape, no help !! As a famous Black author said, We’re always outmanned, always outgunned and probably always will be.

And from the beginnings through the end of antebellum slavery in this country, we have—all of us– never accepted the extremities of Black enslavement in the same way. More times than we would like to admit, small cadres of Black folk have regularly counseled with and joined forces with the enslavers, spying on other Blacks for the masters and turning in recalcitrant and rebellious Black folk (how many slave rebellions were squashed by slaves turning in other slaves?), and some becoming overseers and slave catchers to help keep Black folks in bondage.

David Walker, the well-known Black author who was also legally a freeman, because his mother was a free woman, described in his great work, “David Walker’s Appeal,” in the section, ARTICLE II. OUR WRETCHEDNESS IN CONSEQUENCE OF IGNORANCE,  how some Blacks spent all their days and nights at the stage coach and railway stations, spying on other Black folk, reporting who was trying to escape or foment rebellion, etc.

These wretches Mr. Walker called the worst and most miserable of slaves—those who did not recognize that their own lot could not and would not be bettered by harming others who looked like them. Arming themselves sometimes with whips and guns, and shouting like overseers, pretending and hoping to be what they were not and would not ever be, did not stop the disdain and disgust the whites held against them, no matter how much some Blacks tried to curry favor in order to get a better deal. Their payment was always even less respect and consideration among other Blacks. And they were more often seen as untrustworthy and cowardly to the Whites they were reporting to.

Being traitors to the race, as some have always been called, would not earn a pass from the degradation of Blackness and enslavement. It did not work then, and it does not work now.

We cannot and will not save ourselves by Blacks killing Blacks. That is a lesson that has not changed, no matter the uniforms we wear. The human tragedy in Memphis the past few days is yet another example of that same lesson. Assuming for yourself the depravity of the master’s policing is not a choice leading to  freedom and respect for Black people.

We don’t need more debasement or depravity in our Black lives, no matter the source.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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