Police and Race Relations

Welcome to the Police and Race Relations Blog. This new feature of JusticeAcademy.org is specifically designed to provide a forum where leaders of the profession can address the contemporary issues of the day. This blog is authored by Deputy Chief George D. Little. George’s law and justice career spans over forty years and includes service as Deputy Chief Constable of Bexar County, Texas and as Director of the Texas State University – Institute for Criminal Justice Studies. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Governors for JusticeAcademy.org. You can email him with your comments at [email protected]


2 thoughts on “Police and Race Relations”

  1. Historical Origins and Development of RACISM

    What is “RACISM”? Where does it come from? Historically when one ethnic group historically dominates and seeks to eliminate the other. An ideological basis for explicit racism came to light in the West during the modern period. No clear and unequivocal evidence of racism other than the Romans both B.C. and A.C. has been found in other cultures or in Europe before the Middle Ages. The identification of the Jews with the devil and witchcraft in the popular mind of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was perhaps the first sign of a racist view of the world. Official sanction for such attitudes came in sixteenth century Spain when Jews who had converted to Christianity and their descendants became victims of discrimination and exclusion; to wit one race saw itself dominate and superior to all other races. Here is a startling fact early racism was not against people of color but people of different customs, cultural and ancestral beliefs.

    Look at the origins and rational of enslaving Africans because they were deemed as inferior as compared to other western races in addition to being viewed as savages and heathens practicing racism themselves in respects to other tribes. In fact, Africans were responsible for enslaving other Africans and selling them to Western powers. Add to this smoldering pot a religious take of Africans was of darker color because of sins by relatives of Noah and their punishment was for them to become servants of the servants. In late 1600’s, it was decreed that converted slaves could be kept in bondage, not because they were actual heathens but because they had heathen ancestry, the justification for black servitude was thus changed from religious status to something approaching race/ethnicity barrier, to wit; RACISM. In the late seventeenth century laws were also passed in English North America forbidding marriage between whites and blacks and discriminating against the mixed offspring of informal liaisons. Without clearly saying so, such laws implied that blacks were unalterably alien and inferior race. This included middle-eastern people with dark skin color.

    We must not over-look racism regarding the American Indian tribes that were in what is now known as America and also dating back to prior 8th Century times based on rituals, customs, culture passed on generation to generation. How their country was invaded literally and colonized. However, they too practiced RACISM among the numerous as various tribes.

    During the Enlightenment, a secular or scientific theory of race moved the subject away from the Bible, with its insistence on the essential unity of the human race. Eighteenth century ethnologists began to think of human beings as part of the natural world and subdivided them into three to five races, usually considered as varieties of a single human species. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, however, an increasing number of writers, especially those committed to the defense of slavery maintained that the races constituted separate species.

    The age of emancipation, nationalism, and imperialism—during the 19th century all of which contributed to the growth and intensification of ideological racism in Europe and the United States. Although the emancipation of blacks from slavery and Jews from the ghettoes received most of its support from religious or secular believers in an essential human equality, the consequence of these reforms was to intensify rather than diminish racism. Race relations became less paternalistic and more competitive. The insecurities of a burgeoning industrial capitalism created a need for scapegoats. The Darwinian emphasis on “the struggle for existence” and concern for “the survival of the fittest” was conducive to the development of a new and more credible scientific racism in an era that increasingly viewed race relations as an arena for conflict rather than as a stable hierarchy.

    The growth of nationalism, especially romantic cultural nationalism, encouraged the growth of a culture-coded variant of racist thought, especially in Germany. Beginning in the late 1870s and early 1880s, the coiners of the term “antisemitism” made explicit what some cultural nationalists had previously implied–that to be Jewish in Germany was not simply to adhere to a set of religious beliefs or cultural practices but meant belonging to a race that was the antithesis of the race to which true Germans belonged

    The climax of Western imperialism in the late nineteenth century “scramble for Africa” and parts of Asia and the Pacific represented an assertion of the competitive ethnic nationalism that existed among European nations (and which, as a result of the Spanish-American War came to include the United States). It also constituted a claim, allegedly based on science, that Europeans had the right to rule over Africans and Asians.

    The climax of the history of racism came in the twentieth century in the rise and fall of what might be called overtly racist regimes. In the American South, the passage of racial segregation laws and restrictions on black voting rights reduced African Americans to lower caste status. Extreme racist propaganda, which represented black males as ravening beasts lusting after white women, served to rationalize the practice of lynching. A key feature of the racist regime maintained by state law in the South was a fear of sexual contamination through rape or intermarriage, which led to efforts to prevent the conjugal union of whites with those with any known or discernable African ancestry.

    Racist ideology was eventually of course carried to its extreme in Nazi Germany. It took Hitler and his supporters to attempt the extermination of an entire ethnic group on the basis of a racist ideology. The moral revulsion of people throughout the world against what the Nazis did, reinforced by scientific studies undermining racist genetics (or eugenics), served to discredit the scientific racism that had been respectable and influential in the United States and Europe before the Second World War.

    Explicit racism also came under devastating attack from the new nations resulting from the decolonization of Africa and Asia and their representatives in the United Nations. The Civil Rights movement in the United States, which succeeded in outlawing legalized racial segregation and discrimination in the 1960s drew crucial support from the growing sense that national interests were threatened when blacks in the United States were mistreated and abused. In the competition with the Soviet Union for “the hearts and minds” of independent Africans and Asians, Jim Crow and the ideology that sustained it became a national embarrassment with possible strategic consequences.

    The one racist regime that survived the Second World War and the Cold War was the South African in 1948. The laws passed banning all marriage and sexual relations between different “population groups” and requiring separate residential areas for people of mixed race (“Coloreds”), as well as for Africans, signified the same obsession with “race purity” that characterized the other racist regimes. However, the climate of world opinion in the wake of the Holocaust induced apologists for apartheid to avoid, for the most part, straightforward biological racism and rest their case for “separate development” mainly on cultural rather than physical differences.

    The defeat of Nazi Germany, the desegregation of the American South in the 1960s, and the establishment of majority rule in South Africa suggest that regimes based on biological racism or its cultural essentialist equivalent are a thing of the past. But racism does not require the full and explicit support of the state and the law. Nor does it require an ideology centered on the concept of biological inequality.

    Discrimination by institutions and individuals against those perceived as racially different can long persist and even flourish under the illusion of non-racism, as historians of Brazil have recently discovered. The use of allegedly deep-seated cultural differences as a justification for hostility and discrimination against newcomers from the Third World in several European countries has led to allegations of a new “cultural racism.” Recent examples of a functionally racist cultural determinism are not in fact unprecedented. They rather represent a reversion to the way that the differences between groups could be made to seem indelible and unbridgeable before the articulation of a scientific or naturalistic conception of race in the eighteenth century.
    We will next delve into the late 1950’s through 1960-s

  2. I would like to begin a series of articles designed to address a very sensitive issue, Law Enforcement & Race Relations. In fact, I will be addressing issues more commonly referred to as “RACISM”. In a world of politically correctness I must address this as Law Enforcement Race Relations but the surreal effects can only be addressed by calling it what is really is “RACISM” and add a disclaimer that my position, theories and practical experiences are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the Justice Academy.

    I will start from as far back as I can and work through the years to where we are today. A historical fact finding endeavor that hopefully will give us all and insight we need to address the problems. If we can truly understand the problem, we can develop a solution that will benefit our profession as well as mankind.

    Let me give you some background. I grew up in Memphis Tennessee where my mother (100% Cherokee Indian by birth) was a Memphis Policewoman and my father was a Sergeant with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (50% Cherokee Indian by birth). I was raised in retrospect in a all-white area of Memphis (Frayser) and was looked after during the day (when parents were working) by our maid Susie Ranson (one of the finest black women I have ever met), despite the fact she disciplined me as I were her own child for inappropriate behavior, she was more like family that just a maid. Never any discussion about racism in my family.

    I remember a family trip-vacation during 1963 I was about 11 or 12 years of age) to a place called Geer’s Ferry Lake when on the way there I (my family) saw a black man hanging from a tree on the roadside. I remember my dad and mother took immediate action to see if he was still alive, he was not. We did not have cell phone back then so my dad stayed and secured the scene while my mother, sister and I went to nearest gas station to notify local law enforcement. I ask my dad and mom why, their reply was there were evil people in the world and people with hatred in their hearts for their fellow man because of his/her color.

    Then Dr. Martin Luther King a civil rights activist came to Memphis Tennessee to participate in a sanitation workers strike and was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee at the Lorraine Motel on April 4th, 1968 just after 6:00pm (1800hrs), now I was 16-years of age. My father and mother were both caught-up in the aftermath of riots as law enforcement officers. I remember one morning my dad told my mother, little sister and I that he was riding in a 4-man tact unit patrol vehicle when a bullet entered just in front of the driver crossing the interior of their patrol vehicle and grazed my dad’s right leg as it exited through the bottom of the passenger’s side of the vehicle. In addition, to watching firsthand accounts of the media reports of the assassination as well as subsequent riots and burnings of the black suburbs and downtown areas of Memphis.

    My mother was killed by a drunk driver December 1st, 1968. I did not learn about racism until I entered the U.S. Army and there were mandated classes on the subject during 1974 while I was stationed in Germany. In addition to some race issues between black and Hispanic soldiers.

    If any of you have any input please submit your factual and collaborated information via our blog, once vetted it will be shared on this website. It is a historical fact that one man can make changes; imagine what we could do if we all worked together to develop a positive solution that will benefit our profession as well as, potential to once and for all eliminate this plaguing problem. I believe that together everyone achieves more.

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