Socialist Worker

Challenge the system to fight for black lives

Issue No. 2719

Black Lives Matter protesters have forced institutional racism onto the political agenda

Black Lives Matter protesters have forced institutional racism onto the political agenda (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Fury against murderous police racism has burst onto the US streets after the shootings of two black men this week.

Trayford Pellerin was murdered by the police last Friday in Lafayette, Louisiana. The state’s American Civil Liberties Union condemned what it described as a “horrific and deadly incident of police violence”.

Protesters in the city defied curfew and blocked the roads in response to his death.

And in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blake was shot by the police in the back seven times at point-blank range. He was trying to enter his vehicle where his children, aged three, five and eight, were seated in the back.

Blake was in a serious condition in hospital as Socialist Worker went to press.

The state’s governor mobilised the National Guard in an effort to intimidate protesters off the streets. But they defiantly marched for justice.

“I am tired of being scared of the police killing me. Tonight they are going to listen,” said one protester.

Three months since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police triggered mass protests, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has forced institutional racism onto the political agenda and shaken the establishment.

The events in the US confirm it was right to point the finger at systematic racism—and also show the need to keep going.

The shootings are two more examples in a long list, showing how the US state metes out violence and racism.

Black men and boys are 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die after coming into contact with the cops.

The US police are headed to exceed 1,000 killings for the sixth year in a row. The Washington Post newspaper has recorded 651 fatal shootings so far this year.

And Britain is not innocent.

Fresh figures show that police stop and searches rose by 40 percent in London during the height of the lockdown.

And fewer of the searches led to an arrest. The Metropolitan Police used stop and search 104,914 times between April and June—which amounts to more than 1,100 times a day.

Only one in five of those led to an arrest, fine or caution.

Black people were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched in England and Wales in 2017-18, according to the government’s own statistics. And that’s when the police were only using their regular powers.

Black people were 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched when police used Section 60.

Authorise

This allows them to authorise stop and search—without “reasonable grounds” of suspicion—across a whole area.

The BLM movement has won real gains. In the US, it has forced some cities to cut police budgets, reduce the scope of police powers or repurpose prisons.

But the police cannot be reformed to be non-racist. Their institutional racism flows from their role within capitalist society.

They aren’t there to protect ordinary people or solve crime.

The British police, for instance, developed out of colonialism abroad and a rising working class movement at home.

Their role is to police working class people and help the smooth running of the system.

The ruling class pushes racism in order to keep ordinary people divided. These racist ideas run through the police, who target black people.

Young black and Asian people in particular are presented as potential criminals, muggers and members of violent gangs.

To uproot institutional racism we need to uproot the capitalist society that gives rise to it.

The BLM movement should inspire us to fight for a reckoning with the system.


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