Happy Black History Month!
Last year, we spent several weeks in the month of February discussing various topics that are of particular interest to African-Americans—reparations, critical race theory, and what it must be like to be considered only 3/5 of a human being (according to the US Constitution). We were still reeling from the deaths of George Floyd and many others. The Afghan War was winding down about that same time, but the upcoming proxy war in Ukraine was winding up. I held out still some hope the war hawk rhetoric would die down and the Minsk Agreements would keep things peaceful.
One year later, we find ourselves in a world of déjà vu. Critical race theory is under violent attack by right-wing pundits, reparations are still seen as an impossible (or at least a far-off) goal, and the police are killing an average of three ordinary Americans every day, many of them persons of color. (See last week’s blog about some of the latest police caused deaths, Targets On Our Backs.) Hundred of thousands have been left homeless or slaughtered in grueling, needless warfare in Ukraine thanks to a determined lack of diplomacy and billions of dollars of American military-industrial complex weaponry.
The rich got richer. The poor and POC got shot at and beaten up by thugs wearing cop uniforms. Endless warfare for control of fossil fuels continues. The more things change...It is said, “History repeats itself,” but that statement isn’t an imperative. We don’t have to keep repeating ourselves, especially when the event is destructive and immoral. So much of American history is just that—destructive and immoral. I don’t pull punches anymore. There’s no use lying about the filthy propaganda US government officials spew forth from their mouths like volcanoes full of molten shit. There’s no use lying about our blood-soaked history of killing our own and others across the globe simply for the sake of lining the pockets of capitalists who desire ever more blood money.
We don’t need militarized police forces or killer cops—we need social services and Medicare for All. We don’t need to pretend any longer we’re doing anything except money laundering for Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, etc., in a provoked proxy war in Ukraine to knock out Russia’s economy. And we certainly don’t need to pretend that we’re not gunning for another chance at starting World War III by antagonizing China this week over a lost weather balloon.
We’ve been here before. Déjà vu. History repeats itself. Things don’t change for the better for the vast majority of human beings.
I read a couple of articles this past week that opened my eyes and made me think of how history and the present are intertwined. The first article ran in the New Yorker online in July 2020. The Invention of the Police tells the story of what we understand as “police” from ancient times to the present day. We learn how the American system of policing is based upon military practices. The article is well worth the few minutes it takes to read (or listen to) to see how the destructive, immoral patterns we witness in our world today have their roots in a history not worth repeating.
My argument in Targets On Our Backs about how the police in the US are based on the slave patrols is further buttressed with some interesting facts:
In eighteenth-century New York, a person held as a slave could not gather in a group of more than three; could not ride a horse; could not hold a funeral at night; could not be out an hour after sunset without a lantern; and could not sell “Indian corn, peaches, or any other fruit” in any street or market in the city. Stop and frisk, stop and whip, shoot to kill.
Then there were the slave patrols. Armed Spanish bands called hermandades had hunted runaways in Cuba beginning in the fifteen-thirties, a practice that was adopted by the English in Barbados a century later. It had a lot in common with England’s posse comitatus, a band of stout men that a county sheriff could summon to chase down an escaped criminal. South Carolina, founded by slave owners from Barbados, authorized its first slave patrol in 1702; Virginia followed in 1726, North Carolina in 1753. Slave patrols married the watch to the militia: serving on patrol was required of all able-bodied men (often, the patrol was mustered from the militia), and patrollers used the hue and cry to call for anyone within hearing distance to join the chase. Neither the watch nor the militia nor the patrols were “police,” who were French, and considered despotic. In North America, the French city of New Orleans was distinctive in having la police: armed City Guards, who wore military-style uniforms and received wages, an urban slave patrol. (…)
It is also often said that modern American urban policing began in 1838, when the Massachusetts legislature authorized the hiring of police officers in Boston. This, too, ignores the role of slavery in the history of the police. In 1829, a Black abolitionist in Boston named David Walker published “An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World,” calling for violent rebellion: “One good black man can put to death six white men.” Walker was found dead within the year, and Boston thereafter had a series of mob attacks against abolitionists, including an attempt to lynch William Lloyd Garrison, the publisher of The Liberator, in 1835. Walker’s words terrified Southern slave owners. The governor of North Carolina wrote to his state’s senators, “I beg you will lay this matter before the police of your town and invite their prompt attention to the necessity of arresting the circulation of the book.” By “police,” he meant slave patrols: in response to Walker’s “Appeal,” North Carolina formed a statewide “patrol committee.” —Jill Lepore, The Invention of the Police
Eye-opening and thought provoking, isn’t it? What we’ve tricked ourselves into believing—that all police officers are the handsome cops on Law and Order or diligent Detective Joe Friday in the TV series Dragnet—is completely false. We do have an excuse. We’ve been taught to believe these lies all our lives through the clever use of novels and television/movie dramas which paint the police in strictly heroic and positive terms. If there’s ever a racist cop or a crooked cop or a super-violent cop portrayed in fiction, they’re almost always seen as the exception, never the rule.
Jill Lepore’s article demonstrates how destructive this “copaganda” (cop propaganda) truly is. When an organization is based upon protecting the property (that is, enslaved persons) and tasked with maintaining the safety of the ruling elites (that is, to prevent slave uprisings), it will always be a corrupt and violent organization. Poor and powerless persons will undoubtedly suffer and die from this organization’s practices. It’s what our true masters—the super-rich oligarchs—demand of their policing agencies.
A corrupt, violent organization must hire and train only those who are willing to do the job they’ve been tasked with, which is to keep us the poor and struggling workers, persons of color, and unwanted immigrants in their proper place, planted firmly beneath the heels of the ruling capitalist elite.
Are you starting to see why
history should never be allowed to repeat itself in regards
to the police? The
time of rounding up “property” in order to keep the capitalist class safe and
wealthy is over. At least, it should be.
Even very recent history should never be repeated. This is noted well in Caitlin Johnstone’s article US Surrounds China With War Machinery While Freaking Out About Balloons:
So everyone's losing their minds over a balloon that in all probability would be mostly worthless for spying, even while everyone knows the US spies on China at every possible opportunity. US officials have complained to the press that American spies are having a much harder time conducting operations and recruiting assets in China than they used to because of measures the Chinese government has taken to thwart them, and in 2001 a US spy plane caused a major international incident when it collided with a Chinese military jet on China's coastline, killing the pilot.
The US considers it its sovereign right to spy on any nation it chooses, and the average American tends more or less to see it the same way. This is highlighted in controversies around domestic versus foreign surveillance, for example; Americans were outraged over the Edward Snowden revelations not because spy agencies were conducting surveillance, but because they were conducting surveillance on American citizens. It's just taken as a given that spying on foreigners is fine, so it's a bit silly to react melodramatically when foreigners return the favor.
But, of course, the US is acting melodramatically over a lost weather balloon. They are attempting to provoke the Chinese into a “shoot first” situation, such as they did to Russia in February 2022 when, under the auspices of the NATO, they completely forgot about the Minsk Agreements and armed Ukraine to fight a proxy war. Yet again we are all living under the imminent threat of nuclear war.
We’ve been here before. Déjà vu. History repeats itself. Things don’t change for the better for anybody.
Why are we repeating history like this on a yearly basis? Isn’t the military-industrial complex making enough money from armaments sales? Arms manufacturers' stock prices have skyrocketed on Wall Street. The idea that the US/NATO bloc can take on two nuclear powers at the same time is utterly insane. But here we are again, repeating history, attempting to provoke another super-power, while simultaneously riling up the American public’s emotions with over-the-top propaganda about a lost weather balloon.
For example, my husband turned on ABC News Friday night. We rarely, if ever, watch mainstream media outlets, and he’d turned off the sound, but I noticed the first story was about the lost weather balloon. I went into the kitchen and a few minutes later I came back and noticed that the same video clip of the weather balloon was still plastered on the screen. I turned on the sound and heard nothing but hysterical “The Chinese are invading!” commentary. I promptly hit the mute button. Five minutes later, the weather balloon was still on the screen and “experts” were all screaming about how this lost weather balloon means war. ABC spent the entirety of its half hour newscast spewing inflammatory nonsense, probably at the behest of the Biden Administration. War propaganda bears repeating, apparently.
All Americans can learn something from celebrating Black History Month. That feeling of “We’ve been here before. Déjà vu. History repeats itself. Things don’t change for the better for the vast majority of human beings,” is real. It proves that our gut feeling is correct. The ruling elite will do whatever it takes to get the results they want.
If the elite want to keep their enslaved workers from running away, they’ll equip and arm a slave patrol. If they want to corner the LNG market in Europe, make huge profits from selling arms, and destroy Russia’s and possibly China’s economies, they’ll rev up the propaganda machine of the mainstream media (90% of which are owned by just six corporations) to create the necessity for a war in order to do so.
The US is still the only industrialized country on Earth without a single-payer (Medicare For All) health care system, free education pre-K through college, and a Universal Basic Income because these programs have been deemed unnecessary by our masters. We breath polluted air, drink water full of plastic particles, and eat cheap processed food infused with high fructose corn syrup because its all we can afford. If we should ever act out because of these injustices and protest, the elite's "slave patrols" stand ready to put us back into our place, swiftly and violently, if they deem necessary.
Whatever the ruling capitalist elite want
they will have it. They will
have their way, and they won’t
lose any sleep over how many are starved, killed, or maimed in the process. You can be sure about that, as history repeats itself.
Happy Black History Month, America. Our sordid history doesn't need to keep repeating itself. Abolitionist David Walker had the right idea for a rebellion, don’t you think? Watch out for those slave patrols.
Teach Black History--Don't Ban It https://scheerpost.com/2023/02/04/teach-black-history-dont-ban-it/
New Advanced Placement African American Studies Course is Watered Down Version of Itself https://scheerpost.com/2023/02/03/new-advanced-placement-african-american-studies-course-is-watered-down-version-of-itself/
The Invention of the Police https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/07/20/the-invention-of-the-police
US Surrounds China with War Machinery While Freaking Out About Balloons https://scheerpost.com/2023/02/03/caitlin-johnstone-us-surrounds-china-with-war-machinery-while-freaking-out-about-balloons/
The Pentagon's Balloon Floats On https://scheerpost.com/2023/02/05/patrick-lawrence-the-pentagons-balloon-floats-on/
Why Not Reparations? https://continuousrev.blogspot.com/2022/02/why-not-reparations.html
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