by Stanley Howard
HERE WE GO AGAIN! Another Black person (this time it’s Tyre Nichols in Memphis) is brutally tased, kicked and beaten to death by cops.
The world is “shocked” yet again that such cruelty could and continues to happen in America like an old disturbing re-run, e.g. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, LaQuan McDonald, Reka Boyds, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others.
Let’s be clear. No one should be “shocked” by the revelations of how Blacks, especially Black men, are treated by law enforcement and the entire criminal legal system in this country.
The geneses of these problems could be traced back hundreds of years to the treaties, customs and laws enacted during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (“Black Codes”) by the Portuguese, Spanish, French and English colonials. The savagery and inhumane treatment of Blacks carried on for centuries, and continued during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War with the birth of White Extremist hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Law enforcement were undoubtably either friends with members of these groups, supported their hateful ideologies or were members themselves. They were viewed as one of the same because both were terrorizing the Black community.
For the next hundred years, Blacks lived in America under Jim Crow laws designed to oppress, humiliate and “keep Blacks in line.” Beatings, lynching and even throwing Blacks into fires like raw meat on an open flame was nothing unusual in America. In fact, in some cases, they were celebratory events like family outings and picnics which were condoned or orchestrated by local cops.
Blacks were prohibited from testifying against Whites and cops, and excluded from serving on juries. They never had any rights that Whites or law enforcement had to respect.
Overtime, some cops became indoctrinated and psychologically hardwired into knowing they could do anything to anyone in the Black community and get away with it.
Yes, the U.S. Government supported and promoted state sponsored violence against Blacks for so long that it became part of the structure of its society and police culture.
We see this state sponsored violence on full display during the Civil Rights movement when cops used attack-dogs, fire hoses, and nightsticks on peaceful protestors in an effect to maintain America’s racist status quo. We see it when Rodney King had the audacity to be driving while Black, and the “not guilty” jury verdicts for the cops who beat him mercilessly.
It was under this horrific atmosphere that allowed the Chicago Police Torture Scandal – one of the largest police corruption scandals in U.S. history – to thrive through-out the 1970s and 1980s. A group of White cops literally tortured over 180 Black men and women to obtain false and coerced confessions, sending most of them to prison or death row.
The torture consisted of beatings and kickings, suffocations with plastic bags, Russian roulette, electric shocks to the genitals and other body parts with a hand-powered generator and a cattle prod, and other forms of torture.
This group of racist cops were permitted to torment the Black community, causing so much pain and suffering, all while Chicago prosecutors, judges, high-ranking politicians and the police department either looked the other way or endeavored to cover it up.
The only difference between today and yester-year is the wide-spread usage of video technology. America and the world are finally seeing with their own eyes what the Black community has been complaining about for generations and generations.
When Colin Kaepernick took a knee to draw attention to police brutality, the star quarterback was tarred, feathered and ran out of the NFL. When Trayvon Martin was murdered, which ushered in the Black Lives Matter movement, the pushback was furious. “White Lives Matter!” “Blue Lives Matter!” Facts that are already common knowledge in America. When George Flyod suffered a long, agonizing death, there was expressed outrage all over the world. Instead of joining the call for change, the status quo amplified their call to “Support the Police” as though the police were the victims.
As a Chicago police Torture Victim, I was extremely naive and misinformed, for decades, for believing the policing system was broken. It’s not!!! It’s working exactly how the ruling class and White society wanted and how it’s been working for centuries.
The roots of this problem run historically deep. It’s going to take more than Band-Aids like body cameras, training in de-escalation and diversity, red flag laws to track “repeat abusers,” annual mental health assessments, and more funding to close this gaping wound.
It’s said that “the great majority of police officers do their job with honor and respect.” With that in mind, things may change some if we start giving so called Good Cops incentives to report and stop shielding and lying for Bad Cops – ending the Culture of Silence.
We need Good Cops to start holding Bad Cops accountable and stop allowing the so called few dangerous bad apples to sour the whole bunch.
But nothing is going to change as long as America continues its long history of demonizing, dehumanizing, and criminalizing Black men. This problem has made us targets and worthy of enslavement, brutality, torture, mass incarceration, and even death.
It was Tyre Nichols this time. And unfortunately, the clock is ticking yet again.
Author, TORTURED BY BLUE: The Chicago Police Torture Story
Stanley Howard spend over a decade on Illinois’ death row after being tortured by cops to confess to a crime he did not commit. He was exonerated by former Governor George Ryan.