Weekend Reading

Link-readers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your Weekend Reading.

There is no doubt the cops feel betrayed – a rage that has been building in synch with the growth of a nationwide movement that challenges the legitimacy of the Mass Black Incarceration State, of which they are the frontline troops, the “heroes” in the war to criminalize and contain an entire people. The chants and placards are an insult and an indictment of THEM, and of their centrality to the racist project that has been an organizing principle of the nation for more than two generations. How is it that cops can be compelled to “protect and serve” marchers whose purpose is anathema to the American policing mission: to beat down, lock up, and extrajudicially execute dissident, disorderly, uppity or merely inconvenient Black people?

The cops understand the law, and that the law is conditional, based on place, race and wealth, and that in the end there is only force, the use of which is their sacred monopoly. It’s what gives them a status that union paychecks cannot buy; what makes blue collar guys and gals “somebody” in society. Most of all, they know who is nobody: the beatable, friskable, disposable, killable folks who would be prey on any other day, but have lately been allowed to repeatedly parade down the most protected streets of the richest island in the country, screaming defamations.

The body cameras point at civilians, giving the police’s perspective of the interaction. In many videos released from officer body cameras, the police officer has their gun drawn but it cannot be seen in the shot. “Body cameras on police [are] fundamentally the opposite of cop watch,” Andrew Padilla argued. “Body cameras on police…record civilians. In cop watch, you record police.”

Other New York cop watchers, like Julien Terrell, worry about who will have authority over the recordings, and argue that the recordings should go to an independent body “with teeth” and should not be handled internally within the NYPD. Dennis Flores, who has experience with officers attempting to withhold and tamper with video and recording evidence told The Nation, “The NYPD already uses cameras [referring to TARU and CCTV surveillance cameras], and we don’t have any access to them. There’s no oversight. There’s no way for anyone to force them to release that type of footage. It’s at the police department’s discretion and the city’s law department. So they hold evidence when they know that you’re innocent. I expect the same thing with these body cameras.”

A Fusion investigation found that “the way body cameras are used usually serve police more than citizens charging misconduct. And in the data from two cities provided to Fusion, there was little evidence police body cameras reduced police involved shootings or use-of-force incidents.” Fusion determined the main reason body cameras tend to help police more than civilians: turning the camera on and off is at the officers’ discretion. In Albuquerque and New Orleans, during high profile police shootings, the police officer’s camera was off while they killed an unarmed civilian. And in New Orleans, cameras were off for 60 percent of use-of-force incidents. Although body cameras are advertised as a tool that helps keep police misconduct down, the reality is a little more complicated. The investigation shows that body cameras are not likely to lower use of force by police officers but more likely to absolve police officers of wrongdoing.

The Devil as darkness had long been part of Christianity, but only as metaphor. In the New World, darkness was realized literally on the frontier wilderness, on the shadowy edges of Puritan towns, in the forests, and on the dusky faces of Native Americans. As early as 1662, in Michael Wigglesworth’s long Puritan poem “God’s Controversy With New-England,” the New World was “A waste and howling wilderness, / Where none inhabited / But hellish fiends, and brutish men / That Devils worshipped.” The “dark and dismal western woods” were the “Devils den.”

[…]

Come the nineteenth century, in the wake of the major American religious movement known as the “Second Great Awakening,” New York Baptist preacher William Miller added his own spin to biblical literalism. He basically declared the Bible, especially the prophetic books, an eschatological math problem waiting to be solved. His solution: “in these days of darkness,” the world will end on October 22, 1844. Miller was wrong. But his tens—some say hundreds—of thousands of followers eventually split into several still-active sects of American-born Christianities, including the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. My people.

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