Thursday, May 10, 2018

White Privilege In Death, And The Rise Of The Police State

All the flags on the main street of Somerset County seat Skowhegan (and there are many) were swapped for pro-police versions for the funeral procession of the first law enforcement officer killed in Maine in 30 years.

The recent killing of a sheriff's deputy here in Maine has resulted in a huge outpouring of sentiment that looks to be gaining momentum as the weeks pass. Corporal Eugene Cole was well-loved, and his compassion and skill at deescalating potentially violent situations are often cited by those remembering him. I experienced this firsthand myself, and I can only imagine how shocking his death has been to family and friends, who have my condolences.

But the uses of Corporal Cole's death are disturbing. The rise of the police state with its many forms of violence against people of color is receiving a haze of righteousness that none dare question in this whitest state of all.

This poster appears in every shop window in Skowhegan, a town a few miles from where Corporal Cole was killed by a drug addict who owned several guns. I wonder how black people see this?

Seeing the town swarming with dress uniformed police from other states makes me look through my white privileged eyes to wonder: how do people of color see the deification of all police as the result of one tragic white on white crime?

Where is the rational response to an opioid epidemic that is ravaging New England and produced the desperate junkie who shot Corporal Cole? My friend and sister peaceworker Mary Beth Sullivan was quoted in this hard-hitting look at the Portland, Maine neighborhood where she works. In the article, a 36 year old military veteran who was homeless for a while describes conditions far worse than any she witnessed in the many other countries she saw while in the Navy.

The focus of the article is the predators who abound among a population with no access to mental health services or drug rehab, but plenty of access to guns.

Instead of a logical response to the conditions that led to Corporal Cole's death, we're swept away in a flood of emotional and sentimental law enforcement worship.

A recent facebook post I saw and now can't find again denigrated Black Lives Matter activists in Portland who "abused" police. That is, they sat down in the street to protest the racist policing of people of color in Maine's largest city. Where is the outpouring of sorrow over the murder of mentally challenged black man Chance David Baker by police in Portland last year? The officer who shot him was cleared of any charges for his death despite the fact that a 911 caller said Baker had a bb gun (in an open carry state) and despite the fact that Baker was killed within minutes of police arriving on the scene. Baker had harmed no one.

Mainer Shay Stewart-Bouley calls out the corporate press for their role in promoting racist treatment of alleged criminals in a post to her blog BlackGirlinMaine: "Black suspects or Black victims? Will someone dig deeper?" Remember we are in a state where the governor infamously said drug traffickers are "these type of guys":

This all leads me to a question that must be asked: Do people of color think Corporal Cole was as good of a cop as the white people do?

Police are so routinely brutal to people of color who are found waiting while black, golfing while black, asking to see the manager while black, that a currently trending article in my social media world spells out what to do instead of calling the police on black people.

I've been arrested in Maine, for calling out the insanity of building nuclear weaponized warships. I was with eight other white people, and we peace protesters got the white treatment by police despite the fact that plans for handling us are deemed inaccessible because they involved planning for "terrorism." No police officers threatened us with bodily harm, or even disrespect. 

A well-known Native activist and ambassador for the Penobscot Nation recently encountered the highly militarized border police coming back home from Canada.

Would my grandmother and I have been treated like this?

Being treated like criminals at the Houlton border crossing coming back into Maine was a bummer. Having my car searched, him yelling at my 79 year old grandmother to keep her hands visible while she looked for her passport, and two tribal officials being spoken to like Colombian drugs lords after I’d been up since 430am really could have made me grouchy.
However my grandmother calling us “Thelma and Louise” made it all better.

No comments: