Essay:How are we going to talk about police/vigilante violence and power?

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Essay.svg This essay is an original work by Rand0.
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Note: This essay is ready to be read, yet it remains a work in progress. Therefore, it is:

  • (1) not complete in the content department.
    • (1.1) very focused on the United States for now. Future versions may or may not take more countries' situations and histories into account.
  • (2) not very eloquent, unified, or possessing a proper sequential flow yet. This will likely hopefully change. Please focus on my content, for now.
    • (2.1) full of cliches.

First and foremost, let me say that the root problems as regards most (there are exceptions and I'll get to them later) police violence has little to do with the police themselves. The root problems are the class system and economic inequality, racism and white supremacy, hypermasculinity and male supremacy, government policy, sometimes even heterosexism (for example, police brutality that lead to the Stonewall riots), and, in my very biased leftist view, the system of private property. When police beat the crap out of protestors, enforce a home foreclosure (which are themselves more often illegal than legal), or murder unarmed people who didn't even threaten anyone, yes the individual police are responsible for their actions. However, their legal empowerment and imperative to do evil does not originate from the chief of police.

With that acknowledged, throughout America's post-Civil War history, police forces might collectively have been the most violent organization within the United States, aside from the U. S. Military as the war on First Nations still went on for a while after the Civil War. Sure, the Pinkertons injured, paralyzed, rendered brain-dead, and killed a bunch of innocent people. Sure, the KKK did the same and probably raped a bunch of people too. And sometimes, the white men of a town got drunk as all get out and pillaged a neighboring majority-black town or carried out pogroms of the black population of their own town. But in any given time period after Wounded Knee, America's police forces have carried out more violence than any other group. Part of this is that they have always been more numerous than any other organized violent group. Another part of this is that they have always been more powerful than any other violent group, except in Colorado for the brief period when the KKK took the state government (incidentally, I think that was before Wounded Knee).

At present (around the year 2015), the police we must deal with are militarized, have been trained by Blackwater, have been trained by IDF,[1] have tear gas units, etc. We also are dealing with racial profiling, the war on drugs, and the most incarcerated population in the world. Now, most of us understand that the incarceration rate is a direct consequence of the War on Drugs. Here's the thing: we untrained observers (and I say we because I'm one of them; maybe not everyone at RW is, though) tend to think that police militarization is a consequence of post-9/11 authoritarianism, and 9/11 obviously sped up and intensified police militarization, but militarization's origins lay in the War on Drugs just like mass incarceration. So let's not treat police militarization and the WoD as separate, just like how we don't treat mass incarceration and the WoD as separate. Now, if we get technical, police militarization in the United States predates even the WoD, but the WoD is the driving force of the incredible degree of the current problem.

As to the issue of racial profiling, everyone at RW knows that it long, long, long, long, long, long predates the WoD. Therefore, let's always treat it as the virtually ancient practice that it is. We're also dealing with things like police intimidation, cruelty to the homeless, and a whole host of other things that have been sanction by the state forever. Our writing about police wrongdoings should also reflect the fact that many of our urban police departments have had cultures of brutality for generations, not just been brutal.

Moreover, some of the vile and repugnant things police do are not sanctioned by the state, like the Chicago Police Department torturing people, especially black men, in the 1970s and 80s, and perhaps at other times. We need to write more about this.

As well, vigilantes are NOT police. Technically, vigilantism is illegal. But it's done anyway, and vigilante murderers are not that different from police murderers because both do it claiming to be working for the greater good and both are ludicrously racist (usually). We need to write more about this.

Just like we are very sensitive to the issue of victim-blaming when it comes to rape, we need to be vigilant[2] to avoid victim-blaming and victim-focusing when it comes to all injustices, including police and vigilante violence.

Given the greater attention that police and vigilantes have received in American society in recent years, and given that we have new created articles on the matter thanks to our attentions being so directed, and given that we have quite a lot more to write on the subject, I would like to propose the creation of a WikiProject on police and vigilantes.


  1. I happen to agree with leftist Israelis who believe that Palestine is a laboratory for authoritarianism and that's one of the reasons that the governments of the world allow the Israeli occupation to continue.
  2. Why does that word have to look like that?