“F—k the police!’ was the anthem shouted by Compton Calif. rap group N.W.A. during the late 1980s and early ’90s.
That sentiment still echoes in inner cities where cries of torture linger and wrongly accused people get set free after spending years in prison. Drug dealers are not the only people who reinforce a policy of “stop snitching.” Certain members of the police department turn a blind eye to the ills of second-class citizens and live by the “blue code of silence.”
The conviction of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge last week only validates the unjust corporate culture of the Chicago Police Department. Black folk in the ghetto are targeted, labeled and bunched together as menaces to society.
Initially, the U.S. Constitution did not guarantee the rights of blacks, and even after “Emancipation,” there was a systematic attack on the welfare of former slaves through Jim Crow. This code of second-class citizenship adopted by the rank-and-file of police departments across America reaffirms racism and stereotypes. This blatant abuse by Burge was tolerated, commended and encouraged by others. Burge is not alone.
I have witnessed police telling grown men to take their pants down in the middle of the street to conduct strip searches. I have stood by when an officer has punched someone they handcuffed. I have suffered some of this abuse of power, and I believe that the mental consequences have far more implications than what some choose to believe.
DWB (driving while black), WWB (walking while black) and “fitting the description” are all justified reasons for unwarranted searches and detainment. In the black community, we dignify this treatment with defensive laughs and silently protest among ourselves. These are all pride-, ego- and masculinity-tampering methods of psychological control.
Some whites believe that we are overreacting or exaggerating circumstances of profiling or harassment. But they have never had to deal with social issues that the underclass black citizen confronts daily. The frustration with the justice system was there long before N.W.A., and it has not ceased to exist because of a black president.
The conviction of Burge was a small victory, part of a systematic problem that needs to be addressed in order for community-police relations to improve.
Until it is addressed holistically, N.W.A.’s theme will loiter on the corners with both law-abiding and law-breaking citizens.