Blame the Cops
Who Is Responsible for America’s Killing Fields?
By John W. Whitehead
could never again raise my voice against the
violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without
having first spoken clearly to
the greatest purveyor of violence in the world
today: my own government. For the sake of
those boys, for the sake of this government, for
the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling
under our violence, I cannot be silent.”—Martin
Luther King Jr.
- The latest shootings—in Texas, Minnesota,
Louisiana, Illinois, New York, Missouri and every
other state in the nation—are symptomatic of a
psychotic outbreak by a nation that has been waging
a war against its own citizens for too long.
long since passed the stage at which a
government of wolves would give rise to a nation
of sheep. As I point out in my book
Battlefield America: The War on the American
People, what we now have is a government of
psychopaths that is actively breeding a nation of
getting distracted, people.
focusing our ire on the architects of the American
police state, who are responsible for
turning the streets into mini-war zones, we’re
getting distracted by the many voices eager to play
the blame game by pointing their fingers at someone
Police groups are blaming President
Obama and the Justice Department
for failing to prosecute “cop killers.”
Texas Republicans are blaming the Black Lives Matter
movement for fomenting a “war on cops” mindset.
Gun control advocates are blaming “gun lovers and
their mouthpieces at the National Rifle Association”
for America’s gun violence, reasoning that if all
Americans were unarmed, police would not have to
treat them as potential threats.
outlets such as
Rolling Stone and Mother Jones
have concluded that
racial bias is to blame for the
“disproportionately high number of African-Americans
among police shooting victims.” The Drug Enforcement
Administration has suggested that
illegal steroid use could be responsible for
“police officers who exhibit rage, aggression and/or
poor judgment (all symptoms of possible steroid
abuse) in confrontations with citizens.”
Human Rights Watch blames police
misconduct and excessive use of force on a systemic
lack of accountability
within law enforcement agencies and the criminal
justice system. And
civil rights advocates are blaming police
militarization and the abundance of laws
(overcriminalization) pushed by lawmakers for
the nation’s over-policing, over-jailing and
Yet in the
midst of all this finger pointing, no one is
stepping forward to take responsibility for the
violence that is tearing the nation apart, deepening
racial tensions, heightening police tensions,
justifying all manner of civil liberties abuses, and
pushing us ever closer to a state of lockdown.
President Obama for not taking personal
responsibility for the blowback resulting from
America’s endless wars abroad, the militarization of
local police, and the ramifications of allowing
police to use battlefield equipment such as drones,
assault weapons, tanks, etc. How telling that the
first domestic killing of an American citizen by a
drone (in this case, a bomb-equipped police
robot) should be carried out during the final term
of a president whose
targeted drone killings abroad have resulted in the
deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.
Congress and the countless federal and state
policy-making bodies for not taking responsibility
overabundance of laws that have turned
law-abiding citizens into criminals and police into
the inflexible enforcers of a legal code that
benefits the corporate elite at the expense of the
Corporate America, particularly the military
industrial complex, for not taking responsibility
for having militarized America’s police forces and
subjected its citizenry to the tyranny of a heavily
armed police state.
the various government agencies, from the FDA and
Social Security Administration to the Department of
Education, for not taking responsibility for
ratcheting up tensions by using military firepower
to advance their bureaucratic agendas.
Republicans and Democrats for not taking
responsibility for having sidelined legitimate
matters of concern such as police misconduct in
favor of party politics and campaign contributions
from special interest groups and unions.
the courts for not taking responsibility for
allowing government agents to hide behind the shield
of qualified immunity, rather than being held
accountable for their actions.
law enforcement agencies for advancing the notion
that the lives—and rights—of police should be valued
more than citizens. Shame on them for not taking
responsibility for allowing blind allegiance to the
so-called “thin, blue line” to trump the
constitutional rights afforded to every American
communities for not taking responsibility for using
SWAT teams that are armed to the teeth and ready for
action to deliver mere search warrants, terrorizing
and killing American citizens.
those who embrace violence as an answer to what ails
America for not taking responsibility for their part
in contributing to an environment that is growing
increasingly tense with every new shooting. It’s a
vicious cycle in which the police are becoming more
hypersensitive, twitchy and quick to shoot at the
slightest provocation, and the populace is growing
more fearful, outraged and unconvinced that if they
“just obey,” all will be fine.
the religious community for not taking
responsibility for its deafening silence in the face
of what can only be termed evil, despite its
historic lineage of dissenters such as Jesus,
Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. who dared to speak
truth to power.
white Americans, black Americans, brown Americans
and every other skin tone in between for not taking
responsibility for their part in allowing racism,
prejudice and bigotry to dictate justice in America.
on so-called “patriotic” Americans who equate good
citizenship with blind obedience to government
authority and adulation of the military for not
taking responsibility for holding their government
officials accountable to the nation’s founding
principles. Remember, “we the people” were entrusted
with the power to make and unmake the government
whenever it ran afoul of its primary purpose, which
is to protect our lives, freedoms and property.
there’s more than enough blame to go around, but the
real question is what can “we the people” do about
it? What can average Americans do to stay alive and
counter the violence being inflicted on our
communities? What can you do to push back against
the power of the police state?
starters, let’s all agree that violence can never be
the answer. Violence will only give rise to more
into the “us vs. them” rhetoric being pushed by
politicians, police unions and those who use the
race card as a justification for bloodshed. No
matter what color your skin is, what politics you
subscribe to, how much money you’ve got, whom you
love, where you live, whom you worship, what school
you attend, where you work, or any other superficial
label that is used to divide us: we all bleed red.
prejudices behind you and stop dealing in
stereotypes. Not all police are bloodthirsty. Not
all young black men are thugs. Not all people who
challenge government authority want anarchy.
In a police
state, you’re either the one with your hand on the
trigger or you’re staring down the barrel of a
loaded down. In other words, we’re all in this
together. The oppression and injustice—be it in the
form of shootings, surveillance, fines, asset
forfeiture, prison terms, roadside searches,
etc.—will come to all of us eventually.
allowing yourself the luxury of distraction and the
sin of neutrality. These things happen—the madness
and the mayhem—because good people stood by and did
real power we have to push back against the police
state is as a unified body.
So what can
you do on a practical level?
starters, find common ground on the issue of gun
control, especially as it pertains to government
agents. Demilitarize the police.
It’s worked in other countries.
police be held
financially responsible for official misconduct.
taxpayer dollars to work for you instead of against
you for a change. Tell your elected representatives
to stop investing in militarization, wars and
weaponry that will only be used against you
eventually. Instead, apply the same funds being
wasted on endless wars abroad on badly needed
infrastructure here at home. By putting more
Americans to work rebuilding our communities and our
economy, we’ll also strike at the heart of the
poverty that drives crime.
informed about the workings of government. Get
outraged about the corruption that has rotted our
republic from the core. Get vocal about the need for
transparency, accountability and reform. There are
so many issues in need of attention. Pick just one
to start with and raise hell about it. For instance,
why has the government been
spending three times more on jails and prisons than
schools for the past 30 years?
take it upon yourself to interfere. Pay attention to
what’s going on around you. Use those cell phones
that are never far from your side and record police
interactions in order to hold them accountable to
playing by our rules, the rules of the
Constitution. Most important of all, take a stand
for freedom and humanity. “Neutrality,” as Holocaust
survivor Elie Wiesel reminded us, “helps the
oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the
tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must
interfere. When human lives are endangered, when
human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and
sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and
women are persecuted because of their race,
religion, or political views, that place must - at
that moment - become the center of the universe.”
Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written,
debated and practiced widely in the area of
constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's
concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in
1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a
nonprofit civil liberties and human rights
organization whose international headquarters are
located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Whitehead
serves as the Institute’s president and
spokesperson, in addition to writing a weekly
commentary that is posted on The Rutherford
Institute’s website (www.rutherford.org),
Copyright 2016 © The Rutherford Institute