RAPROD carriers are convinced that blacks disproportionately carry guns and other contraband.
“Cellphone cameras and access to social media have become a mandatory survival tool like condoms during the HIV/AIDs crisis.”
“Please, please help me. No, I don’t want to put handcuffs on. No! Don’t put handcuffs on! No, I want to stay in school, I just got here. Let go of me. No, please let me go…I don’t wanna go in a police car. No, please give me a second chance!”
— Pleas of 6-year-old Kaia Rolle to arresting officer*
“I can do anything I want. I’m a police officer.”
—Deputy Constable Daryl Jones, white police officer
“There’s an ugly truth in these numbers. It’s not just that minorities are more likely to be stopped—they’re more likely to be stopped without cause.”
–Former New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in 2013.
A Journal of the Plague Years
・January 21, 2020, Muncie, Indiana: A white university professor calls police after Sultan Benson, a black university student, refuses to change his seat during a class.
・June 30, 2019, Freeport, Illinois: 24-year-old Shaquille Dukes, a black hospital patient suffering from double pneumonia is handcuffed and arrested by police as he walks outside the hospital on doctor’s orders tethered to an IV drip and is charged with attempted theft of hospital equipment.
・March 1, 2019, Boulder, Colorado: A cop pulls a gun on 26-year-old black college student Zayd Atkinson who is picking up trash in front of his dormitory.
・November 12, 2019: Indianapolis, Indiana: Black shoppers Aaron Blackwell and Durrell Cunningham are detained by a police officer in a mall parking lot for “acting suspicious.”
・ September 19, 2019, Orlando, Florida: Kaia Rolle, a 6-year-old black girl, is zip-tied and arrested for battery by police after throwing a tantrum at her elementary school. She is taken to a juvenile processing center where she is fingerprinted and her mug shot taken.
・September 19, 2019, La Paz, Arizona: Philip Colbert, a black 22-year old car salesman, is pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy after being tailed for 20 minutes and questioned because an air-freshener was hanging from his rearview mirror. He is then asked at least ten times whether he is in possession of marijuana, even after telling the officer that he never smoked it and does not have any in his car.
・September 12, 2019, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Jahvon Beener, a black 15-year-old high school student, is detained by police while waiting with his friends at a bus stop.
・August 13, 2019, Royal Oak, Michigan: Police stop 20-year-old Devin Myers, a black man, after receiving a call from a white woman who claims he was staring at her “suspiciously.”
・July 4, 2018, Winston-Salem, North Carolina: a white man calls 911 on Jasmine Abhulimen, a black mother, and her son when she refuses his demand to show him an ID to use the community pool.
・May 7, 2018, New Haven, Connecticut: A white female Yale university student calls police on Lolade Siyonbola, a 34-year-old black female graduate student who was napping in the common room of their dorm.
As the above woefully incomplete list of incidents demonstrates, America has another pandemic, one which has existed long before the current one, but which has proven itself equally insidious and fatal. Although RAPROD-∞ (Racial Profiling Disease) sporadically makes headlines, it has festered in this nation for generations.
COVID-19 does not discriminate; RAPROD-∞ does. Despite repeated outbreaks of the disease, no national emergency has been declared. Business goes on as usual. Stocks have not plunged (In fact, private prison stocks have soared to meet expanding demand). No tests have been devised to detect its carriers.
While hand-washing is an effective method of combatting the spread of COVID-19, washing one’s hands of RAPROD-∞ has only made matters worse. Part of the problem has been the minimization of its impact on black America by those who ignore the devastation inflicted by super spreaders like former New York mayor and failed presidential contender Mike Bloomberg who in 2015 asserted:
“95 percent of your murders – murderers and murder victims – fit one MO. You can take the description, Xerox it, pass it out to all the cops. They are male, minorities, 16 to 25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city. That’s where the real crime is. You have to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed. . . .They still have a gun but they leave it at home.”
In doing so, “RAPROD Mikey had taken a page from the playbook of former Education Secretary William Bennett, who in 2005 insisted, perhaps in a bid to become the director of the CBC (Center for Black Control), that to reduce crime: “You could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensive thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.” Ten years later, Bloomberg would contribute his own penultimate solution to the crime problem, apparently under the impression that while aborting black babies en masse is reprehensible, indiscriminately stopping, frisking, and arresting blacks is not.
This should not come as a surprise since one of the symptoms of RAPROD is a propensity of carriers to ignore empirical evidence that contradicts their biases. Bloomberg insisted that blacks have guns. When they don’t, he posited, it is simply because “they leave [them] at home,” a revealing conclusion given that a 2013 New York City Public Advocate Office study of NYPD statistics had already found that white people are more likely to carry weapons and drugs than blacks and Latinos.
Specifically, the office found that:
・The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded a weapon was half that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered a weapon in one out every 49 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 71 stops of Latinos and 93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon.
・The likelihood a stop of an African American New Yorker yielded contraband was one-third less than that of white New Yorkers stopped. The NYPD uncovered contraband in one out every 43 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 57 stops of Latinos and 61 stops of African Americans to find contraband.
・Despite the overall reduction in stops, the proportion involving African-American and Latino New Yorkers has remained unchanged. They continue to constitute 84 percent of all stops, despite comprising only 54 percent of the general population.
Nonetheless, RAPROD carriers are convinced that blacks disproportionately carry guns and other contraband. When they do carry guns, RAPROD carriers, many of whom are rabid defenders of the Second Amendment, assume those arms have been obtained illegally and believe that their owners should be dealt with proactively. Such attitudes can prove fatal, as in the case of Philando Castile whom police shot to death after he informed them that he was in legal possession of a firearm, ensuring that there would be one less black to inevitably contribute to the crime rate. Before he was killed, police had previously stopped Castile for minor traffic violations 52 times, leaving little doubt that like the nation as a whole the Minneapolis police department has succumbed to RAPROD.
Hate in the Time of RAPROD
But police are not the only group afflicted with RAPROD; the civilian population, particularly white women (BBQ Becky, Cornerstore Caroline, Golfcart Gail, Keyfob Kelly, and Permit Patty), are also at high risk, though white males (Coupon Carl, ID Adam, Jogger Joe, Pool Patrol Paul) have also been identified, the affected communities that have had to deal with them dubbing both with an alphabet soup of satiric sobriquets that poke fun at the malevolent stupidity of their actions and serve as a psychological prophylactic against daily traumas.
The Arizona sheriff’s deputy who stopped Philip Colbert accused him of being “deceptive” because he was shaking and looked “nervous”; the cop who detained Jahvon Beener in his police wagon for being shirtless on an 87-degree day eventually released him after smirkingly demanding he tell the students who had been waiting at the bus stop with him that “you were shaking in the car in the police car.” According to Beener, before he was released, the officer had asked him why he was shaking and shirtless. When Beener told him it was “because it was hot outside” the officer “acted like he didn’t believe me. He let me out and I felt humiliated and hurt.” Beener had good reason to shake: “I was scared for my life,” he told a reporter, a reasonable fear given law enforcement’s habitual lack of regard for black lives.
Similar fears were expressed by Sultan Benson: “I’m from the Southside of Chicago. I wasn’t supposed to make it to college…I made it to college, and I got the police called on me for being in the classroom…You know what’s going to happen in that 20 seconds. If I hadn’t kept my composure, I could have been riddled with bullets, tased, beaten down, handcuffed – there’s no telling.”
Young children are especially vulnerable to psychological ravages of RAPROD. “I felt humiliated,” said 9-year-old Jeremiah Harvey, whom Cornerstore Caroline had wrongly accused of grabbing her butt when his backpack accidently brushed her in a Brooklyn bodega. “It’s still hard because I have this lately on my mind,” he said, “I can’t think of nothing more but this.”
Untreated, RAPROD is often fatal – not to those who have contracted it but to those exposed to them. The disease is rarely lethal to carriers. At worst, they resign their jobs, are fired or suspended, suspend their presidential campaigns, or become the object of fleeting social media notoriety. This is not the case for those who are exposed to the disease by virtue of their blackness and who can never regain their stolen innocence.
In the three months since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been daily, detailed data dumps on the number of victims it has claimed, as well as how to cope with the psychological, sociological, and economic toll of the crisis. This has not been the case with RAPROD. There is little mention of the number of blacks and browns who have lost their jobs and their lives because of spurious 911 calls and jittery, trigger-happy cops, and nervous neighbors, storeowners, teachers, and shoppers who feel threatened by anyone of any age with a tincture of melanin.
At least with COVID-19, social distancing has helped alleviate the impact of the pandemic. Not so RAPROD. Carriers of the disease such as Keyfob Kelly and ID Adam have physically blocked blacks from entering their own homes. In fact, Kelly was so “uncomfortable” with one black male resident entering “my building” that not only did she unsuccessfully try to block him from entering, she followed him inside, rode the elevator alone with him to his floor, and followed him down the corridor to the door of his apartment until he entered and self-isolated.
At worst, blacks may suffer the fate of Atatiana Jefferson, who was killed by police in her Fort Worth, Texas home in 2019, or of Botham Jean, another Texas casualty who was murdered in his own apartment by a white female police officer who mistook it for hers. Mentally ill blacks are particularly vulnerable. In New York in 2011, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old former Marine was tased, shot with bean-bags, and ultimately fatally shot by police when they broke into him home after he accidentally triggering his medical alert device.
The Penultimate Solution
Despite these outbreaks of RAPROD, the pandemic has not risen to the level of a national emergency, perhaps because those most affected by it constitute a powerless minority. National statistics are not kept on the number of carriers and their victims, and containment strategies have yet to be seriously discussed. In response to the crisis, cellphone cameras and access to social media have become a mandatory survival tool like condoms during the HIV/AIDs crisis. Black families have developed “the Talk” to prepare their children for how to deal with police in particular and racially paranoid whites in general. But how young should such discussions start? With 6- and 7-year-olds who act out in class? Eight-year-olds who have the police called on them by licensed cannabis entrepreneurs for selling bottled water without a permit? Twelve-year-olds who have police sicced on them for mowing lawns? (In Florida alone, over the past five years, 5% of all juvenile arrests have involved elementary-aged children.)
Or taking a hint from Bennett, should they be prepared in utero for the post-natal, societal abortion that awaits them?
* [In a hostage situation] try to humanize the victims by using their names.
—FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
John G. Russell is a cultural anthropologist based in Japan.
This article previously appeared in Counterpunch.
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