On Saturday, August 8, 2015, I traveled to nearby Hempstead, Texas, to the site where Sandra Bland was found dead after a routine traffic stop turned ugly. After hacking the Waller County Sheriff’s Department, hacking collective Anonymous called for a “National Day of Rage” in response to Bland’s death and the 1,000+ other officer-involved killings since Michael Brown’s death sparked a national outcry against police brutality. What I witnessed outside the Waller County jail, 364 days after Ferguson became a flashpoint, was certainly not progress.
The protest was scheduled to start at 6pm but by 6:15, the only attendees were a gaggle of photographers and local bloggers. Shortly thereafter we were met by three protesters who claimed to follow the teachings of Malcolm X and the Black Panther party. I started filming and asked how they were doing and if they would mind talking to me about their experiences and why there were here. “Not to a white boy,” I was told. After more comments from the Black Panthers to the press members about how they weren’t “passive negroes from Waller County”, one photographer asked if they also believed in Malcolm X’s teachings of white extermination, to which she responded, “you’re damn right I do.”
I do not write about this not to stir up more controversy or add fuel to the blazing pyre of race-baiting the media and citizens such as these have created. I write instead to show that if this is the face of protests against police brutality, that if the debate continues to be framed as “white versus black” rather than “the people versus the state”, change is further away that it was a year ago.
To make one thing clear; I was not offended by the racism presented to me outside the jail. I can understand it. These protesters are a product of an environment that sees blacks killed by police more than 3 times as often as whites, which is disheartening, but does not tell the full story. Of the 1,083 people killed by police since August 9, 2014, 499 of whom were white. As for Sandra Bland, she was pulled over by a Hispanic officer who was assisted by a black, female deputy. While mainstream headlines about police brutality prioritize race above all, these tactics further inflame race relations and lead protesters such as these to believe it surely is a problem of white supremacy and oppression. This is the real tragedy.
Racism still exists in this country, to be sure. The extent to which it exists, however, is greatly exaggerated by design. As long as the people can fight amongst themselves based on the color of their skin, the State is much more protected. For example, I didn’t go to Waller to antagonize the protesters, but was refused interviews because of my skin color. The State would much rather citizens attempt to fight the racism with more racism, because it distracts from the real problem. Let’s say the Black Panther party were able to make good on their aim to exterminate the white race. What would happen then? The State would have black cops, who would still be killing young black men for no good reason.
Until we as a nation learn that racism cannot be eradicated with more racism; that police brutality and unlawful killings are not just the problem of one class, but of all; that until we come together as People, rather than blacks or whites or Latinos, we can’t make progress; until then, we will continue to regress as a society. White, black or brown, the enemy is not each other. The enemy wears a badge.