Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why Isn't Anyone Saying the "G" Word?

      Perhaps it's a semantic term relying heavily on sheer numbers. That is, after all, a prerequisite when looking at definitions of the word "genocide" in our most esteemed lexicons. Yet one cannot argue against the definition's expansion on reading the 1944 interpretation of Raphael Lemkin, the Polish Jewish jurist:
By 'genocide' we mean the destruction of an ethnic group... Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.
     Naturally, given the time in which this expansion of genocide's definition is ventured, Lemkin was obviously talking about the Holocaust and the horrors of the Warsaw ghettos. But totalitarian mindsets remain unchanged and eternal even if the victim profile changes every generation or so. And as the unwarranted deaths of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott and now Eric Harris are painting a more and more detailed picture, we need not be talking about 6,000,000 murders of a class of people to use the word genocide.
     It had made the rounds last week that Nate Silver of, while admitting details and specific numbers were lacking, was certain that in 2014 alone more African Americans were killed by police than had perished on 9/11. This is a horrifying enough statistic when one considers African Americans comprise only 12% or so of the national population. What's even more horrifying is that it seems every week brings news of a white cop killing another unarmed African American man, often shooting him in the back.
     As it happened with Eric Harris on April 2nd and Walter Scott a mere two days later.
     Yet, according to police and their invariably white, authoritarian-loving apologists (as long as said authoritarianism doesn't impinge on their "sovereign rights"), every one of these African Americans had it coming to them because they were "thugs" or maybe shouldn't've acted all uppity.
     Yet when one looks at police action in this generation, one sees more than a mere pattern of behavior. One can connect only so many dots before those dots actually begin to form a detailed picture as if it was some pointilist portrait of paranoia.
     James Holmes had murdered 12 people, wounded 58 more and was armed with several automatic weapons when he was taken alive without further incident.
     Jared Lee Loughner had murdered six, including a child and a judge, and nearly assassinated former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and sustained nothing worse than a black eye.
     Jeffery Dahmer had murdered and dismembered at least 17 men and boys and was taken into custody without incident.
     John Wayne Gacy had murdered nearly twice as many men and boys and was also taken into custody without incident.
     The list goes on.
     Now let's look at the other side of the coin, without having to resort to much cherry-picking.
     On New Year's Day 2009, Oscar Grant was shot in the back and killed at Fruitvale Station for a crime he didn't commit while handcuffed and on his stomach. Officer Mehserle claimed he was going to tase the incapacitated Grant yet shot him with his pistol.
     17 year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by self-styled neighborhood watch captain and police groupie George Zimmerman for simply walking back to his father's house from the store after sundown, even after the latter had been advised by the Sanford police to stand down. He was exonerated. Zimmerman, despite subsequent repeated violent offenses, was hailed as a hero while Martin's name was smeared to the point of racists posting supposedly incriminating pictures of other young black males.
     John Crawford III was shot and killed by two police officers at an Ohio Walmart for holding a toy gun after a scared old white woman's call to 911 (Although she did say it was probably a toy gun.)
     12 year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by an unvetted, mentally-unstable Cleveland cop two seconds after his arrival for also holding a toy gun. He was then denied medical assistance and his distraught 14 year-old sister was actually arrested for Grieving While Black.
     19 year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, MO by Darren Wilson for jaywalking. Racists raised over half a million dollars for Wilson on Go Fund Me and sold tee shirts while claiming that cigars that Brown allegedly stole (he did not) alone justified his execution.
     Walter Scott was shot in the back and killed eight days ago in South Carolina for a busted tail light and the cop who shot him, Michael Slager, quickly and calmly planted a taser that Slager alleged was taken from him by Scott as if the planting of evidence is a default tactic in the wake of a racially-motivated shooting. The mainstream media, without double sourcing or vetting, blindly accepted and disseminated the police's version of events, including the alleged "scuffle" until the video emerged. (Yes, the MSM calmly reports that black people can be killed after a "scuffle.")
     In an eerie reprise of Fruitvale Station, Eric Harris was caught in a sting operation in OK on April 2nd and the 73 year-old reserve deputy pulled his gun instead of his taser and shot Harris in the back. When the dying victim gasped he couldn't breathe, one of the cops present said, "Fuck your breath."
     In Miami Gardens last February 15th, police shot and killed 25 year-old Lavall Hall, a mental-ill man, after family had called 911 for medical assistance. He was armed with nothing but a red broom he wasn't even holding at the moment of his execution.
     Last November, Kansas police shot and killed Carlos Davenport for wielding a sword on a second story balcony. As usual, the cops cited fear for their lives.
     Eric Garner was choked to death over a loose cigarette (that he didn't have) on Staten Island July last year by Officer Daniel Pantaleo with a choke hold that had been banned 21 years before. The man who filmed the incident was arrested on a suspicious gun charge and was only recently released from Riker's Island. Despite Mr. Orta's video evidence, Officer Pantaleo, as with Darren Wilson before him, was exonerated by a grand jury.
     Obviously, this is far from an exhaustive list and doesn't even include the countless murders of people of color by white civilians. Yet in virtually every one of these cases we see the same narrative replayed like a broken record: The officers were in "fear for their lives" despite not a single one of the victims being armed. Racists and fair weather police proponents insisting every one of the victims, including 12 year-old Tamir Rice, "had it coming to them."
     And, most inescapably, every single killer was white and every single victim was black.
     Yet, do we hear calls from the law enforcement community for a paradigm shift in attitude and policy in their rapidly deteriorating community relations? Hardly. Instead, we've seen a doubling down of the totalitarian mindset that makes these genocidal acts possible and going largely unpunished. Instead, we hear police chiefs and heads of police unions actually expressing rage that African Americans would dare to peacefully protest the murder of another one of their own with little or no provocation.
     They insist the protesters are muck-raking rioters, looters and are deliberately smearing the police, who are the real victims, further making community-police relations deteriorate. This insistence on portraying themselves as the victims, insisting the African Americans are needlessly inciting public disorder and have no right to protest an execution of one of their own and refusing to defuse volatile situations and that their safety should come before that of the public they're allegedly sworn to protect bespeaks of a mindset that is unmistakably motivated and guided by racism, fascism and paranoia.
     So, yes. Let us freely use the word "genocide" because we have literally come full circle from where we were when the Freedom Riders took to the streets half a century ago.


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