We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Sunday, December 7, 2014

When People Are Property

Click here to access article by Raven Rakia from Medium. 

I think that this article contributes much to the understanding of the now widespread awareness of racialized police practices that have resulted in many recent killings of African-Americans by police whom the "justice" system refuses to prosecute.
The title of the article refers to a theory on deteriorating property that is not tended to: “one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows cost nothing.” The idea is that a broken window should therefore be replaced or fixed. Wilson and Kelling then apply this theory about damaged property to living and breathing human beings: “the unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window.”
Here is a condensation of the longer article:
In 1982, George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson introduced the Broken Windows Theory to a national audience with an article published in The Atlantic Monthly. Theorizing about policing in low-income, inner-city, and predominantly black neighborhoods, Kelling and Wilson put forth an argument that cracking down on public disturbances and petty crimes with foot patrol officers would stop larger, more violent crimes from occurring. The essay [was]...funded by the Police Foundation — created by the Ford Foundation in 1970.
.... Over the years, police departments have given it different names: quality of life policing, community policing, hot spot policing, stop and frisk, neighborhood policing, and zero tolerance policing, to name a few. In the comfort of criminal justice classes and textbooks, these descriptions each have a specific definition. However, in practice over the past 30 years, these tactics mirror one another in their reliance on racial profiling and cracking down on petty crimes and ‘disorder’ to yield the same result: criminalizing the poor, black and brown.
If you really want to understand one version of a racialized police practice--"stop and frisk", I suggest you read this brief article entitled "NYPD Stop And Frisks: 15 Shocking Facts About A Controversial Program" before proceeding.  
.... Conveniently, both stop and frisk and the broken windows theory call for the policing of young, black people. For stop and frisk, they claim they’re looking for guns; for broken windows, they claim they’re keeping the order. After Mayor De Blasio was elected on his anti-stop and frisk stance, he appointed William Bratton as police commissioner at the beginning of the year and Bratton returned to his old job.
.... Thirty years later, the power of broken windows policing to sustain mass incarceration and preserve the system of control and ownership indefinitely is harrowing. Michelle Alexander conceived the term “the invisible cage” to describe the life that a person convicted of a felony lives once out of prison:
“the unique set of criminal sanctions that are imposed on individuals after they step outside of the prison gates…These laws operate collectively to ensure the vast majority of convicted offenders will never integrate into mainstream, white society. They will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives — denied employment, housing, education and public benefits. Unable to surmount these obstacles most will eventually return to prison and then be released again, caught in a closed circuit of perpetual marginality.”
furthermore, those on probation and parole,
“are at increased risk of arrest because their lives are governed by additional rules that do not apply to everyone else. Myriad restrictions on their travel and behavior (such as prohibition on associating with other felons), as well as various requirements of probation and parole (such as paying fines and meeting with probation officers), create opportunities for arrest. Violation of these special rules [can result in a warrant issued for one’s arrest and] can land someone right back in prison.”