The Racist History Of Policing In America

The Racist History Of Policing In America

Understanding the origin of the police.
1378
views

Presently, in the United States of America, the police force serves as a necessary function to promote order and protect citizens. The police department is an institution that is integrated in the very fabric of American society. Unfortunately, not everyone in American society views the police as the beneficial establishment they are supposed to be. It's no secret that the police force has never had the best relationship with communities of color. In recent years, the American public has been reminded of the brutality that has been forced against people of color since the inception of this country. The question to ask should be, "Why is there such a difference in experience with police between White Americans and Black Americans?" In my opinion, the answer to that question is simple.

Black Americans have an overall different experience than White Americans because of another institution called racism. The truth is that the United States was founded on racism. Many times to understand how anything functions you have to go back to the beginning. According to The Rebel Press, "As an instrument of oppression and control, modern police departments are deeply rooted in some of the most racist and repressive colonial institutions in the United States". Policing dates back to colonial times in the United States. "As Southern colonies developed an agricultural economic system, slave trade became indispensable to keep the economy running." "African slaves soon outnumbered whites in some colonies and fear of insurrections and riots led to the establishment of organized groups of vigilantes to keep them under control".

According to Therebelpress.com , "All white men aged six to sixty, were required to enlist and conduct armed patrols every night which consisted of: searching slave residences, breaking up slave gatherings, and protecting communities by patrolling the road". So, as early as colonial times, an organized policing force was created to continue the oppression of the enslaved Africans. The policing force was just an extension of the brutality the enslaved Africans already faced in early America. So the institution of policing in colonial America revolved around racism. Think of America as a tree. Racism is integrated into the roots of this tree and trickles up into the trunk of the tree and the branches. The police force is a branch on this tree. It is simply an extension of the racist institution America is. Rebel Press states, "Rather than punishing, the primary purpose of this racially focused law enforcement was to prevent mischief before it happened". "Racial profiling became the fundamental principle of policing and the definition of law enforcement came to be white- and whitewashed- patrolmen watching, detaining, arresting, and beating up people of color".

So the function of the earliest policing forces in America was to control people of color. So for those people who argue communities of color are often filled with more crime than white communities, and therefore attract more cops, it's not that simple. The function of these first policing forces in America was to keep the enslaved African subservient and comply to the will of the state. Racism was the law of the land. Eventually, these slave patrols would evolve into what would become the modern day police departments. Rebel Press informs, "Establishing the exact date to mark the beginning of modern policing in the United States since the evolution of older systems like Night Watches, and slave patrol into "new police" were slow". "However, we can take the mid 1800s as the years in which the present system of law enforcement dependent on a permanent agency with full-time paid officers were first conceived."

Rebel Press says, "Among the first cities to create such agencies were Boston in 1838, New York in 1845, Chicago in 1851 and St Louis in 1855; and again the motive behind the creation of these "peacekeeping" forces was the need to control the "unruly" classes as the emerging industrial economy and new Victorian standards of "morals" demanded it". In short, a policing force was needed to control the economic inequality, as well as racial inequality faced in the United States". "Starting in the early 1830s, a chain of riots triggered by race, religious, and labor disputes, swept across various cities in the northern region of the country and authorities responded by assigning their Night Watch patrols, the riot control function, but they soon learned that a volunteer watch system was ineffective". "Day Watches also proved to be useless. "Full- time police officers were needed.

Organized policing forces were created to suppress riots from people of color, but also the working class population. Once the United States entered an era of industrialization, the economic gap deepened and authorities were concerned they wouldn't be able to control the dissatisfaction already brewing within the states. Rebel Press states, "The concept of a professional police force was copied from London's Metropolitan Police Department, which had been established in 1829". "These "peace" agents were called Peelers or Bobbies, after Sir Robert Peel, founder of the institution". The American version of these agents were known as coppers, because they wore copper stars as badges on their uniforms. "They were available 24/7, carried guns and were "trained to think of themselves as better than the working class they were recruited from".

Furthermore, this isn't an anti-cop article. To understand any institution, you have to go back to its roots. The modern-day police departments we see started with slave patrols in colonial America and evolved into the federally authorized organizations we see today. Many people ask, "Are the police racist?" and fail to understand that the function of the institution from the very beginning has been to harass people of color. So the next time a person of color is brutalized by the police department in America, do not say it is a coincidence. I'm not saying every cop out there has the worst intentions for a person of color. I am saying begin to doubt a institution that has a history of brutalizing certain people. Communities of color aren't crazy or misled for not trusting the police a lot of times. They understand that the police, from the very beginning, has not had their best interest at heart. Many times a person of color is killed and people say, "Well , what did they do wrong?" instead of asking was it absolutely necessary to take a person's life. Obviously, police brutality in communities of color isn't a new problem. In fact, it's a problem older than the United States of America. Reform is certainly necessary in police departments.



Cover Image Credit: Google

Popular Right Now

To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything
160703
views

I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

To my music teacher

You are so much more than a director

133
views

I still remember the day that we first met. I knew next to nothing about my instrument, let alone music. The only thing that rang through my mind while I sat in the last chair in a room full of experienced musicians was, "I can't do this." I went home crying that day because I really wanted to learn about music, but felt like it was going to be impossible. My mom even came with me the next day to tell you that I couldn't do it- it just seemed impossible to the both of us. But then, you looked me in the eye and asked me to do one thing, "Please trust me. You can do this."


I spent two years under your direction. Every morning I came to school and the first thing I got to do was be in your class. I spent some of the best times of my life in that class. You taught me some of the greatest lessons I have come across, and the application of those lessons is something I do every day. Here are some of my favorite things you have taught me.


If you work hard, you will see progress

I never thought I would be able to play anything off of my D and A strings on that first day, let alone be able to sight read an entire piece and actually sound half decent. But, you worked with me, had a lot of patience with me, and encouraged me to keep going. After two years, I was able to sight read-the goal that I set for myself at the beginning of this whole experience.

The hard work you put into your craft carries over to other parts in your life

Because of the structure I had in practicing my music, I found myself gaining structure in other parts for my life. My grades were the best when they were in your class, my relationships were strong, and I began to come into my own under your supervision.

You can find spiritual growth anywhere

You took the time to foster my spiritual growth- the best thing a teacher has ever done for me. You were not shy about who you were, or to whom you belonged. You were unapologetic about your love for Jesus in a place that doesn't always accept him. This witness served as an inspiration to me then and still does to this day.

You do not have to fit the stereotype to be a success

You taught me that people will look past the person who is performing. You took the time to introduce us to awesome musicians who did not fit the mold, but captivated their audience because of their proficiency in their craft.

You taught me to trust and believe in myself

I never had someone call out my self doubts and cast them aside for me like you did. Whenever I said "I can't" you would show me how I could. There was never a time you were wrong either.

Balling on a budget is a real thing

The two trips that I took with our orchestra under your direction were extremely memorable. Not only did we do well as an orchestra, but we all had the times of our lives. The first trip I went on, I didn't have to worry about money. However, the next year, my parents were dealing with a job loss, and it was the first time I ever experienced not having the funds to participate in a school program. You showed me how to budget, save, fundraise, and scrimp to put myself on that bus up to New York. I can't express to you how important that experience was for me and how much it still impacts me to this day.

Always take care of yourself

You made an effort to show us how you were caring for yourself. How you were eating well, going to the gym, going to church, getting involved in your community, taking time with your husband and kids, AND pursuing your Masters degree. I have yet to see someone work to better themselves like you do.

Follow your dreams

You had me make a vision board for our classroom after seeing that Gaby Douglas had made one on her journey to Olympic gold. You also encouraged me to make one and frequently asked me what my goals were. Whenever I would start to explain that my dreams were too big, you would cast that doubt out of my head.

Learning about different cultures is the best way to be respectful of them

For our final in your class, you had us do research on the country of our origin to prove how diverse our classroom was. We discussed the different musical traditions from each region, and how they all blended together into what we play today. You also had us cook a meal from our country and share it with the class!

Don’t be afraid to take action

You jokingly told us multiple times "Better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission" whenever someone felt like they needed your approval to get something done in the classroom. That joke was probably the most transformative thing I have ever seen though. I saw students go from timid children to musicians on a mission whenever we would say it. It helped us get a lot done in your class period!

Thank you for working as hard as you do. You have made a tremendous difference on my life and so many others. Thank you for being your true authentic self!

Cover Image Credit:

Allison Mallory

Related Content

Facebook Comments