Be Careful What You Ask For...

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by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

I am sure by now that many of you have asked yourselves how it could be that a nominally Black led government, which presides over a majority Black police force, and which is located in Detroit, a majority Black city, could be the number #1 city in the nation for police murders of civilians, again the majority of whom are Black. It seems to go against "conventional wisdom," I am sure many would say. But don't be so sure.

Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

I remember in the 1960's when all things "Black" were deemed automatically "good" by so many in our community, that the call began to go forward for "Black Power" in government. Now, admittedly "Black faces in high places" was not what we had in mind, but we were tired of being segregated against, beaten and robbed, even murdered by the white man represented by the Mayors of cities and their police, and had the naive idea along the lines of "what could a brother do that was worse? If it's a mess, it'll be a Black mess this time!"

Before Detroit got this unenviable reputation as the police murder capital, I remember how, years ago, all this happened in Atlanta, and it offers the lesson for us here.

It was 1973, and that Dixie city had never had a Black Mayor, and the winds of political change were in the air. Ivan Allen, a Jewish progressive, was in office, along with his Black Vice Mayor, Maynard Jackson, who had political ambitions of his own. That year Atlanta led the entire world in the number of fatal police shootings of civilians,(33) the majority Black. Every week a cop pumped somebody full of lead. It seemed that they would never stop, and we knew it was the white power structure out to intimidate the Black community with racist cops.

In some of the more middle class "civil rights" circles, the call began to go up for the election of a Black Mayor, and "more Black police officers and commanders". One would hear this on the news media, and it was also the chant at the weekly vigils in front of city hall, not to demand justice for the victims, but more Black politicians and cops in office.

As irony would have it, they got their wish, vice-mayor Jackson broke away and began a campaign against Allen, and with the support of the civil rights and labor communities handily whipped him at the polls. But one of the first acts of the new mayor was to *turn* on his new "allies" only weeks after taking office.

A bitter garbage workers strike had broken out, and when union and civil rights leaders came to city hall to remind Jackson of his "debt" to them, he repaid it in a cruel fashion. He called upon the hundreds of newly-hired Black police officers to act as an employer's army to brutally beat the workers and drive them forcefully out of city hall. These same Black officers they had loudly screamed for the city to hire, were now bloodying their heads as brutally as any white cop!

Jackson went on to use the police to totally break the strike and tried to even break the AFSCME union, which represented city garbage workers.

Oh, as time went by, he "modernized" police operations, by bringing in a variety of college-trained Black police administrators, even hired more women and gay officers, and he removed the hated white officials like Police Chief John Inman, and publicly at least he denounced police excesses by *white* officers. In addition to Chief Inman, he even got rid of many of the old line white southern officers. It's only now we know that police brutality and murder did not end, even if it was driven underground for years. The fact that "one of our own" was in power excited some in the black community more than social justice of any sort, as long as the hand on the levers of power was Black. To this day, Atlanta still has a large number of police murders of civilians. And it's still easier for a Black mayor to get away with it.

So if you want to know how Dennis Archer got in office, it's important to know that the Black community *elected* him there. Of course, the white bankers and businessmen love him, and he is also a darling of the national Democratic party, and as far as they are concerned can do no wrong. But the Black community gave him his political career, and he has given a free hand to the polic, without tragic results.

It used to be said that a Black police officer was "not nearly as brutal" as a white one. We should now know this is not true, about 50 dead in Detroit since 1995. Since Archer was been Mayor his predominately-Black police force has declared war on the community, and Detroit is #1, not in job or housing development, but killing civilians. Why was he elected in the first place?

By this time, you are probably saying to yourselves, "why is Lorenzo talking about all this?"

Well, after yet another police brutality incident on January 13th at the Detroit Auto show, which resulted in the beating of several young blacks by Detroit PD officers, Greg Bowens, Mayor Archer's press secretary, in the Mayor's defense, stated: "To even suggest that the Mayor as a Black man would order the cops to beat up another Black man is insulting, insensitive and ridiculous!" Well, all I can say is, be careful what you ask for, you just may get it!

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