This article appeared in the March 2013 issue of The Portland Radicle.
by Ahjamu Umi
Of course, the Los Angeles Police Department is characterizing Chris Dorner as a rogue cop gone terrorist. They are saying he acted out in retaliation for being legitimately fired for misconduct. On the flip side, some people in society are hailing Dorner as a hero for supposedly standing up to the long-hated LAPD and enacting revenge against them for their decades of racist behavior. Only the most naïve among us would believe anything the LAPD says, but there are also problems with placing Dorner in the position of hero. It’s totally understandable that communities – like the African, Indigenous, Latino, and disaffected White ones – who are accustomed to being beaten down would hunger for a superhero to save the day, but unfortunately Dorner, and his alleged actions, aren’t the answer.
The first thing that must happen for any honest dialogue around this question to take place is the core issues have to be identified. The facts are that by any account, Dorner’s problems with the LAPD emerged only when he himself became victimized. In spite of the fact that his alleged manifesto indicated he was fired because of his report of police brutality, the fundamental question that has to be raised is why would anyone become a police officer in the first place? It’s pretty obvious that police are entities set up to serve as armed patrollers. Who do they patrol for and against? The answer of course – as outlined quite clearly in Kristian William’s outstanding book Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America – is police developed from the organized slave patrols in the South and the so-called city guards in the North. Each of these entities was organized to either capture or harass African people. If you understand this historical fact, then it becomes much easier to grasp why Africans historically – regardless of what city, state, or region – have very poor collective relationships with police. In fact, it is impossible to name one metro area where the police can claim a good relationship with African and/or Indigenous people. The LAPD has always taken this antagonistic relationship a notch higher. This is the department that refused to protect the citizens of South L.A. (popularly known as South Central), from racist gangs like the “Spook Hunters” in the 1940s which led to the forming of self-help African street organizations that later evolved into the Crips and Bloods sets/organizations. This is the department that introduced the first Special Weapons and Tactics unit (SWAT) which was created specifically to terrorize the L.A. chapter of the Black Panther Party. This is documented by the SWAT team’s live violent assault against the Black Panther office on Central Avenue on December 8, 1969, which served as their televised debut to the world. This is the department that made choking – and often killing – Black/Brown men a department policy. Finally, this is the department that beat a drunk and defenseless man, Rodney King, on video and steadfastly maintains to this day the innocence of the officers inflicting the beating, in spite of an international audience that knew different. These things just scratch the surface of the LAPD’s relationship to the community, and it begs the question of how and why anyone African would want to join an organization that has that type of undisputed history terrorizing the African community. Yes, we know, some people will believe Dorner and others join to help by changing it from the inside. Unfortunately, his own comments within his manifesto (assuming he wrote it, but regardless, the following statement follows conventional logic), indicate that Dorner was well aware and – up to reporting the incident that got him in trouble – had always obediently followed and respected the LAPD’s notorious “blue wall of silence” rule. So much for him being an agent of change.
Police exist and operate to protect the moneyed interests (e.g. property and business), and control the working poor – particularly people of color. In order to do this they develop the war ideology required to carry out such barbaric actions. This includes institutional racism, sexism, and all other forms of class oppression. This explains why Dorner would allegedly kill the daughter of one of his enemies on the police force. If Dorner did indeed kill Monica Quan (because again, you can’t really believe anything police say), this would represent the classic example of viewing women as property, and by harming her, her father is harmed in the way you would smash someone’s car with a baseball bat.
Either way, Chris Dorner is no solution. He’s symptomatic of the problem, which is capitalism. All around us people are losing their minds and going off the deep end. Since people are commodities in this society, it’s not a far stretch for alienated people to express their anger through violence, often random in scope. Police are simply capitalism’s armed guards, whether it’s the LAPD or Mayberry RFD. It’s unfortunate, but until enough people wake up and realize these events will continue to take place as manifestations of larger problems, not simple idealistic solutions to complex problems, we will continue to see these types of things take place with no collective advancement for the masses of people. That collective advancement will only occur when people take responsibility for the problems caused by capitalism and their armed guards by deciding to get involved and organize for permanent change. This will include becoming more concerned about organizing for justice than how many points LeBron scored or who you can sleep with this weekend. Since you don’t know when someone will snap and start shooting in the coffee shop, store, or any other place, you have to protect yourself. Because you don’t know when you will be another random victim of racist and/or sexist violence by police or citizens you have to be prepared. There’s no way of knowing when predatory banks or landlords will take advantage of you. It’s critical that you take action. You can’t predict when greedy employers will screw you over, so it’s in your interests to have a plan. The only protection, plan, and action that will solve any of these problems is people getting involved, staying involved, and working seriously – through the frustrations, demoralization, and trauma – to make serious contributions towards fighting for a just society by any means necessary. This is especially important for those who claim to be conscious and already involved in the fight. It’s important that you evaluate your work. How can you help win more hearts and minds over to the side of justice where people and their needs are supreme over capital? Those are the real issues.