American policing: A history of racism and white supremacy

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

The year is 1770. The Colonies are near their breaking point with Great Britain. Intense policing by British soldiers has proven unbearable to colony citizens, especially those in Boston. British soldiers walk around with chips on their shoulders, entering any home they please simply because they wear the British flag. They are protected by their position of power. They are the police. 

Then, when an altercation breaks out between an American citizen and a British officer, the soldiers find no issue in opening fire on a crowd. 

The Boston Massacre — a tragedy we learn so much about in our school systems today. British soldiers are painted as malicious, power-hungry monsters who abuse their positions to assault the general public. American civilians are described as innocent victims who reap the abuse of their police. 

Later, we are informed that the American colonies grew tired of the disrespect and took arms against their oppressors. The Revolutionary War — a prized time in American history. Our founding fathers did what is preached to be oh-so American: They fought the power.

So, when Americans take the streets in protest of this same abuse of power against Black Americans, why is it rioting, instead of an American fight against oppression? 

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, has kept most of the nation on edge. Anxious to find out whether justice will be served, the world is watching Minneapolis.

Yet, just 10 miles outside of where Chauvin’s trial was being held, another Minneapolis police officer decided it was a great time to murder yet another unarmed Black man, Daunte Wright. The 20-year-old was shot dead during a traffic stop.

Another day, another dead Black man at the hands of the American police.

I sat there — nauseous as ever — as I forced myself to watch one more Black man lose his life right in front of my eyes. While I appreciate body camera footage that helps shed light on these murders, watching them is just an added form of Black trauma on an already messed-up community. 

I am 20 years old. Wright and I are the same age. His murder strikes so close to home because he was far too young. As I gear up for finals, Wright’s son lives on without his father. It’s sickening that, yet again, I’m here writing about yet another Black life taken by those meant to protect and serve.

But, are the police really meant to protect and serve? No. Not the Black community, at least. The idea of policing in the United States stems from this nation’s undying distaste for its Black citizens. The institution of policing in this nation is just America’s continued attempt at fine-tuning white supremacy. 

Before there were police officers, there were slave patrols in the South. In 1704, the first formal slave patrol was created in the Carolina colonies. These patrols weren’t created to protect the economic prosperity that came from slavery in the South. Slave patrols would capture any runaway slaves and help prevent any slave revolts that were to ensue. 

After the Civil War, Southern states fell into an economic depression due to the lack of free slave labor. In this Reconstruction era, these states took the teachings of slave patrols and began implementing them into their police stations. They enforced many forms of segregation and perpetuated the oppression of Black civilians.

It became abundantly clear that policing was more racially charged than it was centered on justice. Police officers began arresting Black Americans and incarcerating them in an effort to re-elevate the economic status of the South. Since the 13th Amendment legalized slavery in the case of incarceration, Black people were shoved into prisons and effectively taken back to the days of slavery. 

You see, policing in this nation has never been about justice. Sure, it enforces what is right and punishes what is wrong; but, in this case, white is right and Black is wrong.

The history of policing in the United States has always held a negative connotation to the Black community because it was established in retaliation to the same community. 

Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks, Donovon Lynch, Daniel Prude and every other Black person dead at the hands of the police are simply the proper execution of what the police system is meant for.

American history prides this nation on its earned freedom from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. They celebrate their unshackling from the British officers who endlessly harassed them. They praise their ability to defeat their oppressive regime. What they don’t realize is that they have become what they hated most.

5 Comments

  1. There are millions and millions of people in america of all cultures- the population is over 300 million. The numbers simply dont bear out systematic racusm. This narrative is a fraud.

  2. “So, when Americans take the streets in protest of this same abuse of power against Black Americans, why is it rioting, instead of an American fight against oppression?”

    Your article is so full of lies. The police doesn’t just open fire on crowds of people like YOU LIED is done here like what the British did. And you LIED there is abuse of power against “Black Americans”, which is a lie because you are LYING they are not violating the law. You LIE enforcing the law is “abuse of power” just because the criminals are Black. What, liars, white people are never apprehended for crimes? How about they, the Black American criminals OBEY THE LAW, you Leftist anarchists, instead. Sorry, it’s not abuse of power to enforce the law against those COMMITTING CRIMES which you LIE they are not doing.

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