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The order of police violence, terrorism, and murder . . . takes place

with a systematic viciousness and savagery comparable to the dehumanizing

sadism of white slave-owners, lynchers, and anti-Black rioters 



Books by Floyd W. Hayes, III

A Turbulent Voyage: Readings in African American Studies / Forty Acres and a Mule: The Rape of Colored Americans

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Urban Police and the Order of Community Terrorism

 By Floyd W. Hayes, III

April 24, 2008


When three Jamaica, Queens, detectives murdered Sean Bell on November 25, 2006, they engaged in a rising tide of police-state terrorism in growing numbers of urban communities throughout the United States of America.  Shooting some 50 bullets at Bell, these cops not only cut short his life, but they also destroyed his plans to wed his fiancée, Nicole Paultre.  And yesterday, April 25, 2008, a judge declared the perpetrators not guilty of any criminal behavior, causing shock, grief, and outrage among family and community members.  I also am outraged by the seemingly common and wanton practice of police violence and murder in this nation’s urban communities, as well as by a judicial system that exonerates killer cops.  Once again, I find myself mentally rehearsing why I have come to resent cops and the (il)legal order of urban community terrorism they enforce. 

Growing to manhood in Los Angeles during the 1950s, I learned to fear and hate the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).  This resulted from a combination of experiences, most notably the constant stories that my father, a Los Angeles County probation officer, told me about how LA cops savagely and brutally beat Black men brought into custody on charges of violating the law.  Since he worked in adult investigations, my father saw first hand the results of police assaults, as he interviewed their victims in his capacity as probation officer.  He heard countless stories of racialized and excessive police violence. 

One reason my father recounted these events was to keep me from loitering on Los Angeles streets and corners with my friends late at night after the curfew.  Another reason was his sense of outrage and resentment that city officials tolerated, and indeed encouraged, such local-state violence against Black men.  So it was that I, like so many other Black and Latino Angelinos, developed a longstanding antagonism toward the LAPD.  At a relatively early age, I learned that although the police, sworn to uphold the criminal law, were often men full of lawless impulses.

At least since the 1960s, Black and Latino communities in big cities across America have complained constantly and publicly about police brutality and repression.  The 1965 Watts uprising, as well as many other urban revolts during the turbulent 1960s, resulted from the abuse of police coercive power.  Yet, wealthy and middle-class white Americans ignored these charges of racialized police terrorism and tyranny until the 1991 videotaped beating of Rodney King by LA’s “gang in blue” revealed to the world how racial injustice actually is practiced in the “City of Angels.”  The American tradition of cultural domination gives currency mainly to white perspectives of social reality while largely silencing Black points of view.  However, the American culture of white supremacy, notwithstanding, there is no essential relationship between whiteness and rightness.

The order of police violence, terrorism, and murder directed at Black Americans today takes place with a systematic viciousness and savagery comparable to the dehumanizing sadism of white slave-owners, lynchers, and anti-Black rioters during the periods of chattel slavery and Jim Crow segregation.  This is because the criminalized image of the Black man as violent and threatening (along with that of his Latino brothers) is so fixed in the white American imagination—the Black man is always already guilty of something—that the most degrading and unwarranted police violence on the Black man’s body is accepted as justifiable.  This accounts for the unrestrained murder of Black men by “gangs in blue” across this nation.  To be sure, elite white media and policy managers also demonize Black females (and their Latina sisters), framing them as prostitutes or morally reprehensible single mothers, undeserving of any societal concern. 

Historically, whites have used negative representations of Blacks to rationalize the most heinous crimes against Black humanity.  In his book, Police in Urban America, 1860-1920, UCLA urban historian Eric Monkkonen demonstrates that as American cities emerged and as chattel slavery declined in the nineteenth century, Blacks made the transition from chattel slaves to being characterized by white elites as members of the “dangerous classes,” who were subjected to the coercive power of a developing white urban police force.  Since an anti-Black society places little or no value on the Black body, cries of racialized injustice largely go unheard.  Therefore, in the face of societal indifference, the incidents of police brutality and murder of Black men and women continue to occur with increasing frequency.

Some years ago, the videotaped incidents of excessive police violence in Inglewood, California, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and New York, New York, demonstrated the growing regularity of anti-Black police murder and terrorism in contemporary American society.  Because of Inglewood’s close proximity to Los Angeles, the legal battle surrounding the police assault on sixteen year old Donovan Jackson captured national attention for a moment.  It incident reminded people of the Rodney King case a decade earlier.  Additionally, what made the Inglewood situation significant was the demographic shift from the 1970s through the 1990, as South Central Los Angeles’ Black population moved further west. 

Hence, formerly middle and working class white areas, like Westchester and Inglewood, now contain predominantly middle and working class Black populations.  As with Los Angeles during the years of Mayor Thomas Bradley’s regime, Inglewood’s political managers are Black, but the police force remains largely white.  Similar to inner city residents throughout America, large numbers of Blacks in Los Angeles and Inglewood regard cops as a violent and repressive occupying force.  This reality is reminiscent of James Baldwin’s comments about the New York Police Department’s structure of domination in Nobody Knows My Name:

The only way to police a ghetto is to be oppressive….They represent the force of the white world, and that world’s criminal profit and ease, to keep the Black man corralled up here, in his place.  The badge, the gun in the holster, and the swinging club make vivid what will happen should his rebellion become overt….He moves through Harlem, therefore, like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country, which is precisely what, and where he is, and is the reason he walks in twos and threes.

Alternatively, when police savagely attack or murder Black people—for example, the well-known 1997 torture of Abner Louima and 1999 murder of Amadou Diallo by the NYPD—cops and their defenders immediately deny any racist motivation and cynically characterize each event as an “isolated incident.”  When Black cops are involved, as in the Inglewood assault and the murder of Sean Bell, the denial of racism’s existence is even louder, as if these cops, as adherents of the police code, could not also view the Black body as possessing little value.  Public officials (judges, politicians, and police) then legitimize or rationalize police misconduct. 

In the face of public resentment and outrage, former LAPD chief Daryl Gates—whose regime largely, but unofficially, encouraged lawless and racist police behavior—often sought to rationalize unrestrained police violence in Black communities as the actions of a few bad cops.  According to him, such conduct was an aberration.  This has become the common response of city officials.  But how should we really view the dramatically increasing numbers of savage attacks on urban Black residents and the cops who perpetrate them—as isolated incidents or as systemic repression?

The effort to construct big city police violence against Blacks as an aberration or as the behavior of rogue cops masks the culture of racism and tyranny that historically has characterized the policing of Black and poor communities in America.  Los Angeles is a prime example.  Under a political regime established by LA’s good government reform movement at the turn of the twentieth century, the mayor does not appoint the police chief.  Rather, a mayor-appointed police commission selects the chief of police.  Over the years, the police chief appropriated mounting managerial, political, and coercive power, which came to rival the mayor’s authority.   In the 1980s, this often conflicting dynamic became visible during the leadership of Thomas Bradley, LA’s first Black mayor and a former cop himself, when police czar Daryl Gates sought to challenge his authority.

Police power and its concomitant order of violence reached their zenith under one of Daryl Gates’ predecessors, Bill Parker, who in the 1960s established LA’s system of police terrorism that became the model for urban police departments throughout America.  As Joe Domanick reveals in his book, To Protect and Serve: The LAPD’s Century of War in the City of Dreams, it was the iron-fisted police chief Bill Parker who built the LAPD into a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant apparatus of organized male chauvinism that, in judgment-call situations, had a license to kill.  Significantly, the introduction of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams in 1966 set in motion the increasing militarization of the LA police force, as Christian Parenti details in Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis.

Taking over as police commissar in 1978, Gates continued and expanded the essential Parker philosophy and practice of policing Los Angeles: Give no slack and take no shit from anyone.  Confront and command.  Control the streets at all times.  Always be aggressive.  Stop crimes before they happen.  Seek them out.  Shake them down.  Make that arrest.  Never admit that the department has done anything wrong.  As LA’s cultural, racial, and class transformation occurred after the 1960s, the LAPD’s code of (mis)conduct took on an increasingly militaristic, racist, and repressive character.

It is against this background that we need to view the present and mounting incidents of police brutality and murder of urban Black residents throughout America.  Significantly, the order of police violence is neither an aberration nor the commission by rogue cops.  As numerous videotapes have demonstrated over the years, cops do not operate alone and in isolation.  Rather, they work in a largely autonomous institution that sanctions, and even encourages, racialized injustice and terrorism.  Many cops in large urban centers across America are representative of the kind of decadence that often characterizes vicious police behavior; cops literally hate and fear the Blacks and Latinos inhabiting the communities they seek to control.  As the videotaped incidents of vicious police assaults on Blacks have shown, cops are willing to do anything in their twisted conception of power to dehumanize Blacks and other people of color, and to deny them the equal protection of the law.

William Muir observes in Police: Streetcorner Politicians that the use of coercive power often corrupts urban cops.  Big city police forces are infected with a culture of racism and violence that historically has sanctioned the savage and brutal treatment of Black people, other people of color, and the poor.  In short, the increasing incidents of wanton police brutality and murder of Blacks are by no stretch of the imagination “isolated incidents.”  Rather, in contemporary urban America, excessive cop violence and terrorism take place with increasing regularity!

A colonial mentality, rooted in chattel slavery and imperialism, has structured the entire history of policing in urban America.  That kind of thinking and practice needs to be overturned.  An assortment of policy ideas has been advanced in order to reform police (mis)behavior, including community-based policing, racially balanced police forces, and more educated cops.  In my judgment, these reforms, even if implemented, are pipe dreams.  For a number of reasons, I am not optimistic about positive alternatives to an increasing order of police terrorism in urban America.  Rather, I see a growing prison-garrison state in which urban residents will become the targets of mounting police murder and incarceration.  First, the so-called war on drugs during the 1980s and 1990s resulted in the incarceration of massive numbers of young Black and Latino men and woman. 

Of course, largely denied was the US government’s involvement in the urban drug epidemic in the first place, as Gary Webb exposed in his important book, Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.  Second, the 9/11 attack forced the American polity to realize its vulnerability to international assault, leading governmental elites to set in motion the militarization of American society.  Third, the public exposure of corporate elite greed, corruption, and fraud is resulting in a crisis of confidence in America’s managerial capitalist political economy.  Finally, under increasing media scrutiny of past corporate activities and present political leadership arrogance and incompetence, the George W. Bush regime is being plagued by a deepening public crisis of credibility.  Clearly, these dynamics do not constitute a political framework necessary for overturning the structure and practice of urban police violence and terrorism.

Therefore, how will the American people respond to these developments?  Cultural nihilism and social anarchy continue to mount as the exploited and disenfranchised masses of American workers turn their anger and resentment on the managers of corporate and governmental power and exploitation.  Fed up with increasing rates police brutality, murder, and terrorism, urban residents may have no alternative but to undertake new strategies of political protest and popular resistance.  Otherwise, an increasingly bankrupt American social order seems doomed to continue its slide down the slippery slope of nihilism, decadence, hopelessness, chaos, and breakdown.

Floyd W. Hayes, III, coordinator of programs and undergraduate studies, is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Center for Africana Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

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Three Detectives Acquitted in Bell Shooting—Three detectives were found not guilty Friday morning on all charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a club in Jamaica, Queens. Justice Arthur J. Cooperman, who delivered the verdict, said many of the prosecution's witnesses, including Mr. Bell's friends and the two wounded victims, were simply not believable. "The testimony of those witnesses just didn't make sense," he said.

Detective Gescard Isnora

Detective Marc Cooper

Detective Michael Oliver

His verdict prompted several supporters of Mr. Bell to storm out of the courtroom, and screams could be heard in the hallway moments later. The three detectives were escorted out of a side doorway. Outside, a crowd gathered behind police barricades, occasionally shouting, amid a veritable sea of police officers.

The verdict comes 17 months to the day since the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, Queens, hours before Mr. Bell was to be married.

It was delivered in a packed courtroom and was heard by, among others, the slain man's parents and his fiancée. The seven-week trial, which ended April 14, was heard by Justice Cooperman in State Supreme Court in Queens after the defendants - Detectives Gescard F. Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper - waived their right to a jury, a strategy some lawyers called risky at the time. But it clearly paid off with Friday's verdict.

Before rendering his verdict, Justice Cooperman ran through a narrative of the evening, and concluded "the police response with respect to each defendant was not found to be criminal."

"The people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt" that each defendant was not justified in shooting, he said, before quickly saying the men were not guilty of all of the eight counts, five felonies and three misdemeanors, against them. Mr. Bell's family sat silently as Justice Cooperman spoke from the bench. Behind them, a woman was heard to ask, "Did he just say, 'Not guilty?' " TruthOut

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Another View: Sean Bell Verdict: It May Be Legal But It's Not Right

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The right verdict in Mehserle case—Involuntary manslaughter might seem an unsatisfying outcome for the killing of the unarmed Oscar Grant on Jan. 1, 2009, but it was consistent with the evidence that could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt against former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle. Anything less would have been an injustice. Anything more would have required conclusions about Mehserle's state of mind that were not sufficiently supported in trial. .  .  .  Mehserle, 28, claimed it was an accident, that he thought he was firing a Taser instead of a handgun at the detainee. The explanation stretched the bounds of plausibility, given the difference in weight, feel - and position on his holster - between the nonlethal weapon intended to immobilize and the Sig Sauer P226 pistol that is used to kill. He clearly was negligent. It was a crime, not an accident.

The other two conviction options available to the jury - second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter - would have required the jury to find that Mehserle meant to kill Grant. The evidence indicated the officer's state of mind was contradictory at best. His reaction immediately after the shooting suggested disbelief at what he had done. Yet his explanation of having mistaken his gun for a Taser did not emerge for several days. In other words, there was reasonable doubt about his intent, which was the standard the jury needed to overcome, even if that will not fly in the court of public opinion. SFGate

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Africa Makes Some Noise—Documentary on contemporary music from Africa

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country's race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury's claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington's political outlook on race. The group's respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.Publishers Weekly  / Economist Glenn Loury 

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 12 May 2008 




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Related files: Notes from the Occupied Territories  Urban Police and the Order of Community Terrorism   Parable of July 4, 1910  Oakland, Toward Radical Spirituality