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Kristian Williams on Our Enemies in Ferguson

program date: 
Tue, 08/26/2014

Bill Resnick interviews Kristian Williams about policing in Ferguson. Williams is the author of several books on state violence, including Our Enemies in Blue , which argues that the role of the police is to enforce social inequality. Noting that Michael Brown's killing by a police officer is sadly typical, Williams traces to the social protests of the 1960s both the the militarization of the police and the corollary development of community policing, meant to develop networks in neighborhoods so as to rely less on violence and more on alliances with community leaders. He notes that the military now looks at domestic policing as a model for counterinsurgency overseas. He describes the broken windows theory of policing, which assumes small infractions are precursors to more serious crime or social disorder, and treats them as opportunities for police to assert their full authority. In practice this creates in disempowered communities a reservoir of underlying grievances and resentment of police and what they stand for, but authorities find it easier to police those who are less likely to fight back with lawsuits. Thus policing preserves inequality through structural as well as ideological racism and class power. They discuss Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's essay "The Coming Race War Won't Be About Race,"  and consider the usefulness for the ruling class to divide the oppressed, pitting the middle class against the poor, and in other ways fracturing the potential solidarity of dominated groups.

 

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