Race, class and police murder in America

Date Written:  2016-07-11
Publisher:  World Socialist Web Site
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19645

In the aftermath of the mass shooting of police officers in Dallas, Texas on July 7, 2016, the American media and political establishment has sought to portray the police killings of unarmed people and widespread protests against police violence as proof of deepening and unbridgeable racial divisions in the United States.



What is taking place in America is not a race war, but rather public protest against police violence in a country where more than a thousand people a year are executed without trial by police forces run amok.

Racism, of course, exists and it may be a factor in many police killings. Blacks are targeted for police attack in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population. But the facts themselves demonstrate that the scourge of police violence and murder is not limited to blacks or minorities, but extends to working people and youth of all races and ethnicities, especially the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the working class.

According to a database compiled by the Guardian, through July 9, 571 people had been killed so far this year by police in the US. The dead included 88 Hispanics and 138 African-Americans, but nearly half—281 people—were white. Last year 1,146 people were killed by the police, of which the majority, 586, were white.

Many of the cops who carry out these murders are themselves members of minority groups. Three of the six officers charged in the April 2015 killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, an outrage that sparked nationwide demonstrations, were African-American. In that city, as in many others where police brutality is rampant, both the mayor and the police chief were black.

Even the government seems unable to rein in the police. When New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made comments deemed sympathetic to protests against police violence, following the police killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island, he faced a virtual insurrection by New York City police.

The claim, made without either factual substantiation or historical explanation, that the United States is suddenly convulsed by sectarian hatred, is a falsehood that does not withstand any serious analysis. It is being promoted as part of a narrative that serves definite political interests.

This presentation conceals the nature of the state and distracts attention from the fundamental questions of social class that are at the root of the relentless exercise of police brutality and murder. The wave of state violence takes place under specific conditions: a deepening economic and social crisis, an immense growth of social inequality, mounting signs of a resurgence of class struggle and a broad process of political radicalization within the American working class.

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