“The Hunger Games”-ification of US Police and the Community

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Police and community exist within a conflict framework.

Marxist criminology posits that police officers are the gatekeepers of status quo and that their sole duty is to control the proletariat or groups marked for control and surveillance. Thus, as the social hierarchy begins to constrict power upward, police violence ensues more rapidly – inevitably leading to Browns, Garners, etc.

Nonetheless, what is perhaps most feared is the possibility that the proletariat will one day rise and rebel against the very social order that has surveilled and repressed them for so long. The shooting of two NYPD officers on Dec 10, 2014, is certainly a symptomatic response to the hyper militarization of police as a result of power being constricted upward to the detriment of the lower classes.

There are many policies (war on drugs, and stop and frisk among others) and crime control industries (private prisons, probation, and security firms) to blame for this upheaval in police and community conflict. Perhaps police officers are victims of a larger power?

There had been other op-ed articles on the illegitimacy of policing, however, what these articles fail to take into account is the extent to which police illegitimacy has long been a factor in the Black community. This tumultuous relationship between police and Blacks does not exist in a vacuum, as so many paint it. In fact, according to many criminologists and police scholars, American policing began in the South with the slave patrols, and yet, today, as then, the response to the outcries of Blacks on this issue is non-acknowledgement and condemnation – on par with the story line of The Hunger Games, no?

The sole duty of the slave patrols was to maintain white supremacy to the detriment of the Africans who were enslaved and denied their humanity. If a discussion is to take place regarding the tumultuous relationship between Blacks and the police, it must begin there. It must start with the fact that much has not changed – that, in fact, when police officers are in communities of color, the feeling is still very much like the slave patrol.

Moreover, today, police resources and power are still disproportionately situated within communities of color; meanwhile criminals in Washington, DC, and on Wall Street – and other corporate criminals – go unnoticed and unaffected by the so-called justice system. This unwillingness to focus police resources on other areas of crime is also observed via the FBI uniform crime report, which seems to purposely focus solely on what may be considered street crime – not white collar or political crime, the crimes that do the most harm to the public.

This concentration of police power within communities of color is on par with the theme of The Hunger Games in the sense that these repressed communities see the cops as the gatekeepers of the elite. They do not recognize the police as a legitimate force there for their protection, and their viewpoints ought to be acknowledged. Thus, the police officer’s job (to them) is to enforce often racist and classist laws (among others) for the sole purpose of maintaining the current alignment. The results of these practices are further used to legitimize the subordination of the affected groups at the behest of the ruling class, which subsequently maintains superiority (see Giuliani’s remarks on Black crime).

In fact, this is the primary reason why victims of state violence are immediately vilified and made to appear as if their death was deserved (e.g., as in the case of Brown, Myers, Garner and countless others).

Official statistics are rarely used to address crime problems forthrightly, but are rather used as mechanisms of justification for majoritarian trickery that masquerades as justice for all. Meanwhile, communities of color are being torn apart by a “justice system” that is obsessed with delivering rigid and unremitting punishment more than anything even remotely related to the word justice. One can walk into any American inner-city and see these results.

Surprisingly, after the Ferguson decision, there seems to have been an uprising in consciousness surrounding the nearly tyrannical power of American police in communities of color and the near illegitimacy and outright silliness of the American justice system.

People from all walks of life are protesting in defense of the notion that #BlackLivesMatter and these protests are disrupting business as usual. These protests have angered police unions across the nation, thus sending the message that certain people do not have the right to protest and exclaim freely in America that they too matter, that the continued murdering of innocent Black lives at the hands of the state should be unacceptable in a free society. Hunger Games-like?

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the murdering and brutalization of Black bodies with impunity is as American as apple pie. America has a history of tolerating such brutality, and this history has yet to be confronted because the ruling elite has decided that it does not matter.

This devaluation of people’s feelings and experiences is what gives rise to Katniss Everdeens (the victor in The Hunger Games). The systematic exclusion of the repressed will almost always lead to conflicts and catastrophe on both sides, as witnessed with the shooting of the two NYPD officers. The question is, how does a civilized society respond to this?

Additionally, the Marxist critique is rooted in histories of physical violence against the marginalized and the utter reckless indifference of the ruling class toward excluded communities since the beginning of American civilization. This hegemonic destruction of marginalized experiences, bodies and voices, disguised as justice and fact, is unhealthy and an affront to democracy and basic human decency.

The current conflict is symbolic of the bottom having had enough. The bottom is reacting to an authoritarian body in ways that describe their lack of hope. Case in point: The man who decided to kill the two NYPD officers was not only acting in his lonesome, but clearly he was a young man without hope, and one affected by police violence.

Society should focus on what created his hopelessness. Or perhaps society should wrestle with the fact that a Black is killed by an officer every 28 hours. Or that since 9/11, there have been more police killings of civilians than soldiers killed in the Iraq War. Hunger Games?

The question that lingers now is whether or not society will respond in a manner on par with the ruling elite in The Hunger Games or a manner consistent with democratic values. The test of America sits before us right now as the world watches in disbelief while the prospect of democracy is steadily torn to pieces due to socially manufactured poisons that this nation has yet to confront. The shooting of the two NYPD officers should be condemned, but it should not hinder the change needed in the American criminal justice system, otherwise there will likely be more casualties.