TheGrio Daily

Are all police racist?

Episode 4

Michael Harriot explores the history of policing in America and how that history affects Black people today.

“Farmers farm. Writers write. Police hunt Black people.”

Full Transcript Below:

Michael Harriot [00:00:04] Hello and welcome back to theGrio Daily. The only podcast that’s soliciting season salt to be an official sponsored. Lawrys, Call me. We’ll be here every morning to give you a little perspective on what’s going on in our village. And if you’re in this village, you probably heard about this little racist institution called the police. Now, of course, when you call the police racist, you’ll get the same pushback that you hear when you talk about any kind of racism. I mean, you know what I’m talking about, right? 

News Reporter [00:00:31] Do you believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement? 

William Barr [00:00:36] I think there’s racism in the United States still, but I don’t think that the, uh, Law enforcement system is systemically racist. 

Larry Kudlow [00:00:43] We have come a long way in this country now. I will grant you, there are some people who may be racist. I will also grant you and the police there are some bad apples. But my view has always been folks have good hearts in this country and folks do not work on the basis of discrimination. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:03] And I know they sound like some crazy old white dude. But in the interview, you know, Tim Scott, who is a Republican, but he is Black, he once told me. 

Tim Scott [00:01:11] I think there are racial outcomes in policing, even though I don’t think police by and large are racist. I think that we have pockets of racism within the police department. I think most people who become cops do so for the right reasons. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:25] So so let’s get into this. I’m Michael Harriot. We’re all famous wypipologist, and this is theGrio Daily. Are all police racist? Is every single police officer racist? You know, what exactly are we saying when we say the police are racist or are we talking about every single police officer? Right. Is it racist as the institution? Is every single person who has a badge racist? Whoever was ever will be, I mean, what exactly are we talking about? So first, we’re going to have to set some parameters and, you know, start at the beginning. So let’s start with a few facts. Now, according to 2017 data from the US Sentencing Commission, Black male offenders receive sentences that are on average 19.1% longer than white male offenders. Now that’s the federal government and those white male offenders, they compared people who commit the same crimes and have the same criminal history and criminal background. So it’s not like, you know, you’re comparing us ten times felon with a two time felon. According to another fact, police are twice as likely to use force on Black people versus white people, according to a 2015 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Now, it is a like with some activist people, these are actual government entities, according to the survey on American mental health. White people use and sell illegal drugs at higher rates than Black people, but Black people are six and a half times more likely to be arrested and convicted for drugs or drug possession. And the Stanford Open Policing Project analyzed data from more than 200 million traffic stops. That’s a lot of people who got tickets and they found that Black people are two and a half times more likely to be stopped and four times more likely to be searched than white officers. But like it is, this is the thing that I always point out. White drivers are more likely to have something illegal in their car when they’re stopped. I know it’s crazy, but I mean, it’s the facts. Here’s another interesting fact. Over the course of their lifetime, Black men are about two and a half times more likely to be killed by a cop than white men and Black women are about 1.4 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than white women. A study by the National Registry of Exoneration found that African-Americans are 13% of the population, but they constitute 47% of the 1900 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations. As of 2016, it could be more now. And the other great majority of more than 1800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large scale police scandals and later cleared in quote unquote group exonerations. And that’s the end of that quote, which is Crazy. There ain’t no doubt that the way Black people in America are policed is undeniably racist. But I mean, whose fault is this? Who should we blame? Should we blame every single police officer? Is it Tim Scott’s fault? Like, I would like to, but now we can’t do that. The question is, why are we even talking about this? Like this? Like racism is the only subject that we talk about in these terms. Like when we say the troops defend our freedom. We’re not talking about the dudes in the Coast Guard checking fishing boats or the soldiers doing the paperwork. We’re talking about the institution of the armed forces. Or like when the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship, we still gave credit to the people on the Golden State who didn’t score a single point. Like because we know like Steph Curry and them, they do most of the scoring. But other people, they still got a championship ring because they are Golden State Warriors. They on the team. They on the institution of that team. Or like when McDonald’s messes up your burger, we don’t judge the dude on fries. Right. Well, we don’t think he had anything to do with it. But you still say, “man, McDonald’s messed up, my burger.” But when we talk about racism, we always are required to say, not all white people. And if you don’t say it, white people will soon chime in. This will be like Tarzan and say, but not all white people, white people, all. We just say something about white people on Twitter right now and see how many not all white people should get so many different kinds of versions. I was raised by my parents to not see race. Not me though I’m a little different. But we always get a version of not all white people. So here’s something you need to remember. Nothing is ever all. If you say, cars need gas. You know I’m not talking about electric cars or cars that run on like water or solar energy. When they say, you know, birds fly, we know penguins can’t fly. But still, it is true that birds fly because the vast majority in the species fly. So when we say white people, we’re talking about statistically proven majorities of white people. And the white supremacy embedded in the national criminal justice system existed long before any police officer in America was ever born. We’re not talking about all police officers. We’re not talking about every Black person who was ever convicted. We’re saying the police are demonstrably racist and that predates William Barr or George Floyd or even and I know this is hard to believe even Donald Trump, they didn’t build it. They are simply the caretakers of white supremacy. And so police officers didn’t create the laws they enforce. However, they do enforce existing statutes in a way that disproportionately harm Black people. It’s not racist to arrest people who have dope in their pockets. But if you target Black people, even though white people are buying and using all of the drugs, then it’s racist. It doesn’t matter how you intended it to be and the intent of the police doesn’t matter because they enforce the law in a racist manner. You know, let’s go deeper. First, we got to remember how our girl Merriam Webster defined racist. 

Merriam Webster [00:07:38] Hey, y’all, it’s your girl Merriam Webster and I’m here with a dope definition. Now, today’s word is racism. Racism is the belief that race is the fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities. It says racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Mmm. Ain’t that somethin’ 

Michael Harriot [00:08:08] Do police fit that definition? Let’s go back to South Carolina. You know, that’s where I’m from. Let’s go back to 1663. It’s like a couple of years before I was born when a dude named John Locke wrote the fundamental Constitution of South Carolina. Now, John Locke, you probably heard of him in your social studies class, like in the sixth grade. He’s the guy that first came up with the phrase that, you know, Thomas Jefferson stole. You know, that think about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Like that was John Locke. Like, you know, Thomas Jefferson was a bad biter. And the fundamental constitution of South Carolina, Locke included a crazy little line. It said Every Freeman of Carolina. So have the absolute power and authority over his Negro slaves of what opinion, what religion so ever. Now, that’s just like a little throwaway sentence, because the fundamental constitution is just like a really long document. It laid out everything how they were going to divide up the land, everything. But remember, there wasn’t a United States of America yet. So this was like the law of the land. And to enforce this, in 1704, the Carolinas created slave patrols like you had to swear in and everything. And if you were over 18 and you weren’t a minister because like ministers can be excused because some of them actually objected to slavery. But if you were over 18 and you weren’t a minister, you had to take part in this thing called the slave patrol. And if you didn’t, they find you 40 shillings. Now, I would tell you, you know, convert the shillings to dollars, but I don’t know, like 16th century or 17th century math. In 1739, there was this dude in Charleston, South Carolina. There was this dude named Jimmy, and he was just tired. Right. So one. Morning, early before daybreak, him and like a couple dozen of his homeboys got together near the Stono River in Charleston, South Carolina, and they just went ham. First they went to this armory, right. It was like a store that sold guns. You know, you probably never heard of guns stores because, like America don’t do that anymore, right? Right. Oh, we still do. Well, anyway, there was this store where these white guys, you know, sold guns and candy and stuff, and they broke into the store, attacked the white guys and took all the guns and they handed them out to the slaves. And then they started marching through Charleston. And I mean, there’s no delicate way to put this. They started killing every white person they saw. And when they got to a riverbank, they got about three miles. They decided to go to sleep. But one guy saw them and he ran away, got away on his horse. And that guy just happened to be named William Bull, the lieutenant governor of South Carolina. He came back while the slaves was sleep and he brought the militia and they just started slaughtering them. Now, people think that they killed them all, but a few of them actually got away. But regardless of who got away and who lasted the next year, in 1740, South Carolina passed the Negro Act of 1740. It forbid slaves from rioting, gathering in groups of three or more. It told you, told them even what kind of clothes they could wear. They had to wear white clothes and it allowed slave masters to kill their slaves. Why is the Negro Act of 1740 important? Why am I going to all this whole story? And do I just want to tell you about when Black people try to kill white people, not see every law subsequent to the governing of slaves all the way through the Black codes after slavery to Jim Crow. They are based on that Negro act of 1740. 12 states passed similar laws and their state’s Supreme Courts and colonies Supreme Courts upheld those laws based on the Negro Act of 1740. Now, you might say, well, well, that’s how the police used to be. That’s not what they are anymore. Can you name any other institution that began with the purpose of doing that thing and reformed itself? But it doesn’t do the thing that they created anymore. Like we made a million changes to fire departments. For instance, like fire departments used our forces and had ringers. Big bell. But now we’ve got cars, we got sirens. But they still fulfill their initial purpose. They put out fires. Can you name the institution that was like. Like for instance, like there are segregated institutions that are now desegregated, but they are still schools, they still educated people. They still complete their primary mission. And why do we think that police don’t still fulfill their primary mission? Their primary mission was always to get and keep Black people in check. And you cannot reform the primary mission. You can reform the institution. But they will always fulfill the primary mission. No one is saying that every single police officer is racist. We’re saying that every single police officer works for an institution that was founded, founded in the beginning to oppress Black people to the social, political and economic advantage of white people. Does that does that sound familiar? That’s the goal barium. And that is racism. Since 1704, there has never been a single year that police officers haven’t disproportionately arrested, killed and incarcerated Black people. Frederick Douglass complained about it. Harriet Tubman complained about it. It’s why Martin Luther King said, in that same speech, that they always talk about, you know, little Black girls and little Black boys and little white girls holding hands like they love that part. But they don’t ever mention the part where he said, we can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. So if you love Martin Luther King, you know that Black people can’t be satisfied until the police stop being racist. And that’s why the police are racist, because Black people said, so. 

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Music Courtesy of Transitions Music Corporation