Was racism a factor in police shooting?
Worker's World COMMENTARY
By Monica Moorehead
Published Jun 4, 2009 8:14 PM
Black, Latina/o and Indigenous communities inside the U.S. live under a 24-hour occupation. Who are these occupiers? The armed police, whether they are in uniform or undercover. The main function of the police under capitalism is to protect the private interests of the “haves”—the transnational corporations and banks—first and foremost. The police, therefore, are trained to view the “have nots”—workers and the oppressed—as a class to be kept under social control with various tactics such as racial profiling.
The police are majority white in the U.S. but there exists a significant number of Black, Latina/o and Asian police officers. Racism and national oppression permeate every social institution in U.S. capitalist society, including the police. Officers of color have issued complaints against white officers for racist behavior, along with having to live under the constant fear of being “mistakenly” shot.
This reality was brought home once again within the notorious New York Police Department. The list of police killings of Black and Latina/o victims by the NYPD is all too long and well-documented, from Sean Bell to Anthony Baez to Eleanor Bumpurs. But this past May 28, it was a 25-year-old police officer, Omar Edwards, who was fatally shot by a fellow officer, Andrew Dunton. Edwards was Black and Dunton is white.
Edwards, who was off-duty and in plainclothes, was shot in the chest and arm while chasing a Latino man in East Harlem with his gun drawn. According to news reports, it is only after Edwards had been shot and was lying on the pavement bleeding to death that Dunton and two other white officers discovered, once they had handcuffed him, that he was an officer.
As of now, Dunton has not been relieved of his duties, which begs the question: Would the reaction of the big-business media and authorities have been the same if Edwards had killed a white officer?
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly are trying to play down that “race” was a factor in the death of Edwards, community leaders are not silent on the issue.
The Rev. Al Sharpton stated that he was “concerned of a growing pattern of black officers being killed with the assumption that they are the criminals.” (New York Times, May 29)
Congressperson Charles Rangel was viciously attacked by the corporate media for saying, in response to Barack and Michelle Obama’s recent social visit to New York, “Make sure he doesn’t run around East Harlem unidentified.” (ny1.com, May 30)
The Rev. Sharpton, City Councilperson Charles Barron and State Assemblyperson Inez Barron helped lead a march in Harlem on May 30 to protest Edwards’ death.
Rickford Burke, president of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy, stated: “The NYPD officer who intentionally shot and killed officer Omar Edwards must be charged with murder. I am sick and weary of white rough cops roaming the streets of New York City, shooting at Black young men, with intention to kill, with impunity. NYPD policies facilitate a malignant culture of coded silence, cover-ups and lies whenever these crimes occur.” (caribbeanamericanforum.com,May 29)
Edwards is not the first officer of color to be killed by white police and most likely will not be the last. Some will say that Edwards was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the truth of the matter is that Edwards lost his life like so many, many others because he was a Black man, cop or no cop, living in a thoroughly racist society.
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