“KILLER” POLICE—EARLY 20th CENTURY (29)

                     “KILLER” POLICE—EARLY 20th CENTURY (29)

At the end of C19–especially from 1890 to 1910–many ex-Slaves started migrating “up North”. Yet, sanctuaries were lacking in the Northern cities since they, too, often perpetuated systems and attitudes to keep African Americans classified as inferior citizens. Northern Whites, also showing outrageous Projection (labeling Black People with their own “Dark Side” features), believed African-American migrants were criminal by nature. Cities used this to justify why they did not offer assistance needed by the new migrants.  Then White scientists manipulated data around imprisonment + around creatively fantasized arrest reports by racist police so as to equate “Blackness” with criminality. Both served as warning signals about African Americans moving to northern cities from the South. As the C20 dawned in a rapidly industrializing, urbanizing, and demographically shifting America, “Blackness” was refashioned through crime statistics. … Northern Black crime statistics and migration trends were woven together into a cautionary tale about the exceptional threat Black People posed to modern society. In the Windy City, in the City of Brotherly Love, and in the nation’s Capital of Commerce this tale was told, infused with symbolic references to American civilization, to American modernity, and to the fictive promised land of unending opportunity for all who, regardless of race or class or nationality, sought their fortunes. Black and some White social scientists tried fighting off these evil characterizations. But, still branding Blacks as criminals prevailed—and to the extent of some distinguished African-American thinkers subtly adopting it. To illustrate, in the 1930s a quote from Frederick Douglass’s grandson, Haley Douglass, was: “the failure of large cities to provide adequate bathing and recreational facilities has placed upon us the burden of protecting our property from roving trespassers whose ignorance or lack of self-respect permits them uninvited to impose upon residents who bought their homes for the benefit of their own families and friends.” Haley was developing a beachfront oasis, of sorts, in coastal Maryland for elite African Americans seeking refuge from what they considered the criminal element of Black folks.

If aggressors have any morals at all—and “Killer” police and Satanists do not–their moral disengagement involves eight socio-cognitive mechanisms which function at three levels of social processing (Wood, Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 2014). The first level allows inhumane acts (e.g. violence) to be reinterpreted. Socio-cognitive mechanisms at this level include: (1) moral justification (behavior is in a worthy cause—that it can further police gang status); (2) euphemistic language (a sanitizing description of harm—e.g. violence may be described as “police business”), and (3) advantageous comparisons where individual behavior is favorably compared with others’ worse behavior (e.g. our group only assaults, others kill). The second level enables (4) the displacement of responsibility onto authority figures (individual behavior stems from authority figures’ directives, so personal responsibility is negated); (5) diffusion of responsibility for the harm done is shared by several perpetrators, thus absolving guilty individuals from blame, and (6) distorting the consequences of harm (ignoring, minimizing, or disbelieving that any harm has been done). The third level distorts the way the victim is viewed and denies them victim status via (7) dehumanization processes (the victim is considered to be subhuman and devoid of accepted human qualities—and White’s qualities are the highest in human evolution); and victim (8) blaming (they got what they deserved) or Projection.

Meanwhile, the 1890s saw the creation of two anti-lynching organizations, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and The National Afro-American Council. In 1909, the just-founded National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) joined the fight against lynching. Despite repeated efforts to pass federal legislation, all failed. Attempts to use the legal system to combat lynching proved ineffective and public opposition to lynching continued to grow. But that movement–operating through speeches, demonstrations, plays, films and journalistic exposés—eventually made lynching a moral anathema (a curse). As lynching and police killings of African-Americans was increasingly defined as a national shame, it gradually declined. jabaileymd.com