Between Police Brutality and COVID, We’re Still ‘Under Siege’
On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Toure discuss the barrage of police violence in the wake of the George Floyd case and vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans.
Another week, another police murder: North Carolina man Andrew Brown, Jr., was shot in the back of the head when police stopped him on a drug warrant.
In California, a police officer killed a 26-year-old Hispanic man accused of shoplifting by restraining him with a knee to the back.
As if being Black in America isn’t hard enough, why are so many of us reluctant (or refusing) to take the COVID-19 vaccine?
Just last week, our hosts discussed Derek Chauvin’s conviction for killing George Floyd and the police murder of M'khia Bryant. Now we add Andrew Brown, Jr., to the ever-expanding list of names.
In coastal North Carolina, Andrew was shot in the back of the head while driving –– “and somehow the local police are finding every possible excuse not to put out the body cam footage, which tells me they know it's bad,” says Toure.
“Once again, we are under siege from the police on a day-to-day basis,” he adds. “I feel far more afraid of the police than criminals. Police are taught by each other to behave as warriors. And that's the way they approach us in daily society.”
Danielle feels like “police departments are where fragile white men go to live out their fantasies of being strong. They’ve become a dumping ground for white male fragility.”
That’s exacerbated by “policies, laws and practices based on lies about Black people,” she says. “It’s why we have one kind of conviction for crack and another for cocaine ... because it’s based on tropes about us being dangerous, drug addicts, animals, all of these different things.”
If we don't address those untruths about Black folks being inherently criminal and dangerous, “we are never going to heal,” Danielle argues.
“But we are also more inherently vulnerable than other communities,” Toure notes –– “in terms of politics and economics. Institutions like the police believe that they can attack us and get away with it because we tend to lack the finances and political power that would allow us to fight back in an effective way.”
And that won’t ever happen unless Black people take the damn vaccine. Roll up a sleeve and let’s get into it.
Episode Highlights –– We All Gon’ Die
A warrant isn’t a license to kill
The police department playbook is pretty clear by now: When body cam footage is released right away, the cops want transparency, and that usually happens when it appears as if the victim posed a threat.
“If it looked like Andrew Brown, Jr., was doing something heinous, they would never have halted the video’s release,” says Danielle.
Apparently, the cops were pursuing Andrew Brown on a drug warrant, “so they had to have all of this SWAT combat gear,” she says. But they still claim he was “trying to run over them with his car.”
Yeah, something about that just doesn’t track.
“Show me the receipts,” says Toure. “Show me the video.”
Andrew Brown was shot ‘execution’ style
A local judge ruled to delay releasing the entire body cam video to avoid tainting the jury pool. However, he allowed 20 seconds of the footage to be released to Andrew Brown’s family and lawyers, who called it an “execution.”
A private autopsy showed he was killed with a shot to the back of head by one of five bullets.
The family claims Andrew’s hands were “firmly on the wheel” of his car and attempted to drive away as the shots were fired.
That “teeny sliver” of video proves the police are nervous, says Toure.
“These are people who declared a state of emergency before the video was released, meaning they know they’re about to have another George Floyd situation because they fucked up.”
Danielle is “fucking tired of seeing white male judges tell us what we can and cannot do, what is important and what is not.”
And that argument doesn’t even make sense, considering how widely viewed the George Floyd video was, and yet somehow the prosecution and defense in Chauvin’s trial agreed on 12 jurors and two alternates who were unfamiliar enough with the case to seat. So what’s different here?
A ‘shred of hope’ in the DOJ
Fans of this show know Danielle is not hopeful by nature. But she does have “one shred of hope” now that Merrick Garland’s Justice Department opened investigations into “patterns and practices” at the Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky, police departments.
Based on what they find, the Justice department will make recommendations or demands for change.
But the behavior of police is only one part of the puzzle. The entire criminal justice system needs to treat incidents of police violence differently.
“Police are never going to stop killing us because they're never charged with killing us,” says Danielle. “And if they are, they always get off. Derek Chauvin is a one-in-a-million type of fucking case. Since 2005, only seven police officers have been convicted. Seven.”
Meanwhile, “we can't even keep track of the amount of people that have been killed this fucking month,” she adds.
Another police killing, an eerily similar “restraint”
In Alameda, California, 26-year-old Mario Gonzalez –– so Say His Name –– was killed by police with a knee on his back –– so police are just brazenly doing the same things that put Derek Chauvin in solitary confinement.
It’s wholly unsurprising, considering that thousands of Americans marched coast to coast last summer, but “the police responded to protests against police brutality with brutality,” Toure points out.
“The impunity, the arrogance, the refusal to show any humility –– this is why we talk about defunding the police. They are not willing to be reformed. They are not listening. They are not willing to change.”
Moreover, the current system is “not creating public safety,” he adds. “It’s not stopping crime. Police are generating and clawing revenue from citizens. This is why they're in parking enforcement, pulling us over for tiny things like a traveling bureaucracy.”
We could actually reduce crime by reallocating police funds to invest in job programs, education and anti-poverty initiatives, Toure argues.
“Or mental health, because police can't seem to de-escalate those situations either,” Danielle notes. “They're not trained to do that.”
Traffic stops: policing for profit
These are all reasons why Black people shouldn’t call the police “unless somebody is posing a direct, violent threat to you,” says Toure. “Because they’ll generally make the situation worse.”
Danielle wonders: “In what instance are we calling the police and the outcome is actually good? We used to have the idea of a policeman getting a kitty cat out of a tree or walking an elderly woman home –– all of that propaganda bullshit. But I'm literally thinking: When do we call?”
Most people only ever call the police after a crime is committed, she points out.
“When are they ever stopping anything in progress except someone's breathing? I'm confused about what their purpose is.”
Their primary purpose is to generate revenue, says Toure.
“They are very bad at stopping violent crime, and it’s less than 5% of what they do. They’re bad at solving murders and other major crimes, too. That's why they focus more on war on drugs, on civil-asset forfeitures, on zero tolerance –– you went through a red light on your bicycle; you changed lanes without signaling … and they give you a $50 or $100 ticket.”
It’s gotten worse over the past 20 or 30 years, as citizens have railed against local tax increases –– but they want the same amount of services.
“So how does a city, especially a small city, make up the difference? They usually rely on the police force,” Toure says. “And people don't realize this sort of regressive taxation, this for-profit policing, is happening all over the country.”
Defund white supremacy
Defund is a “complicated, sensitive word,” says Toure.
“But we're going to have to have a complete restructuring of the way we police in America. Because it's not about good apples and bad apples. It's about a system of policing that incentivizes and motivates them to arrest people, especially Black people, and to be violent while they do it.”
And they know they will not face retribution or accountability for that violence.
As long as these incentives exist, the injustice will continue.
Plus, “the FBI has told us we have a significant number of white supremacists who work on purpose in order to perpetuate their dominance, their rules and their culture,” Toure says.
“We don't even know how many … but they’re coming from the Klan, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers. The leadership of these groups is telling their members to join police forces. And some of them –– many of them –– are getting in.”
That cultural shift can affect us all, Toure adds.
“If you get stopped for driving 65 in a 63 and a cop comes over to your car, he could be a Klansman and you would never know.”
“You may not be alive to tell the story,” Danielle replies. “But you'll fucking know.”
The not-so-secret history of NASCAR
Danielle wonders if defunding the police is the right terminology.
“Should it be –– end for-profit policing?” she asks.
“We want more than that,” Toure replies. “We want more than just the end of for-profit policing or the militarization of the police. We want money to be taken from the budgets of police so we can shrink the police force to have a far smaller number of officers with guns.”
Toure thinks that if we really want to combat crime, marijuana should be legal across the country.
“That would go a very long way,” he says. “There's no way to destroy the underground market without creating an above-ground market. And you can't run an underground market when you have legal competition.”
In the early 20th century, prohibition led to an illegal alcohol market: think speakeasies and moonshine.
“That’s part of what the Dukes of Hazzard was all about,” Toure explains. “It’s part of the roots of NASCAR –– people made very fast cars so they could outrun the police while bootlegging. … That ended when alcohol was re-legalized, so there's nobody making business off of illegal alcohol now.”
Legal weed: ‘tax it out the ass’
Danielle thinks the chief reason why New York just legalized marijuana is because New Jersey did it first. So all anyone in the NYC area needs to do is “cross a bridge or go through a fucking tunnel or go down I-95 South in order to access their now above-ground market.”
New York, like many states across the country, is in debt due to the economic effects of COVID, and is looking for “the quickest way to fill the financial gap,” she says.
Seventeen other states have already legalized recreational cannabis because it’s “a thing people want, and then taxed it out the ass. There will be a 13.75% tax on marijuana in New York. That is ridiculous unless … we see it show up in New York City public schools' budget.”
Toure gave up smoking years ago so he’s curious about the price differential between legal and underground-market goods.
But, as he notes, the underground market pays its own form of taxes “we may not historically refer to as taxes,” like payouts to police, a certain amount of product that inevitably gets lost in the smuggling process but is the cost of doing business.
The Tuskegee experiment: not relevant here
As April winds down, the Biden administration ends its first 100 days having vaccinated more than 32% of U.S. adults. But now it appears that “America has reached a maximum density in terms of the number of people who really want to be vaccinated,” says Toure, noting that almost everybody who did already “happily and enthusiastically rolled up their sleeves.”
And in many places throughout the country, you don't even need an appointment to get the vaccine. But “lots and lots of Americans, especially our fellow brothers and sisters are refusing to,” he adds.
“They're saying things like I don't know what's in it, even though they eat fast food. It was rushed, even though it was not. I don't want to be a guinea pig, even though 200 million people have already gotten it. I can't trust the government. Like, Tuskegee.”
Toure has “never heard the name Tuskegee thrown around more” than he has in the last month.
“And in the wrong wrong fucking way,” says Danielle.
Just to reiterate, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment was on “a small group of people over a long period of time, an evil study that withheld medicine.”
But now, countries around the globe are giving COVID vaccines to “everyone, not just Black people,” says Toure. “White people are getting pricked like a motherfucker. Asian people, Hispanic people. Everybody's getting it.”
We’re ‘more vaccine-skeptical than COVID-afraid’
Black people have been more vaccine-skeptical than any other group of Americans from the beginning of the pandemic. But “why are we more vaccine-skeptical than COVID-afraid?” Toure asks.
“Don't we all know people who had it? Don't we know people who died? It's hit our community so hard.”
However, many folks “are getting their information from podcasters,,rappers … everybody except actual doctors and scientists,“ he adds.
Danielle is particularly troubled by “pastors who are saying this hot shit, who we know have presided over –– how many funerals? … Come on, guys. Be smarter than that.”
“I want my people to get the vaccine so we can survive,” says Toure. “Because people are like, well, a vaccine is the first thing you see in a futuristic horror film.”
“You know what else we don't see in the future?” he asks.
“Black people,” Danielle replies.
On that note, “take the damn vaccine,” says Toure. “Join us next week –– if there's still a country.”
“Just keep hanging on,” Danielle says, “because between COVID and the police and your fuckery, we all gon' die.”
Check out the frustration, rage and absurdity that was the 2020 election on democracy-ishas Danielle Moodie and Toure discuss the current state of the political climate and our country from a Black perspective.