Black Faces, White Systems

How Black People Can Uphold Oppressive Systems

According to the Guardian, under the leadership of Mayor Adams, misconduct complaints against the NYPD hit an eleven-year high // Photo from @nycmayor on Instagram.

The political elites are diversifying. But the systems of power they represent are staying the same.

Black people can, and do, act as agents for white supremacy. They should be called out just as fervently.

In the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, the promised defunding of the police from cities including Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Seattle, never really manifested. Rather, even in Mayor London Breed’s San Francisco, police budgets actually increased — to the tune of millions of dollars, largely to implement “reforms.” These measures included mandatory body cameras and civilian review boards; things that don’t address the fact that we’re spending increasing amounts on cops rather than addressing the socio-economic factors that cause crime in the first place.

For example, in New York City, under Mayor Eric Adams, every city agency is facing painful budget cuts. This includes the libraries in America’s largest city, which have had to shut down on Sundays. But by “every city agency,” Adams is of course excluding the police, who will be expanding by 600 officers this year. Lord knows how, given that the ever-expanding force of the NYPD cost the city an additional $100 million in overtime only part way through Fiscal Year 2023.

Of course, a favored solution to police violence is hiring more diverse cops in hopes that a Black cop behind the gun will be less likely to pull the trigger on Black civilians. Here’s the problem: according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, it doesn’t work. Black cops are no less likely to shoot minorities than their white counterparts. In fact, despite all the reforms implemented, 2023 saw a record number of police homicides. Let’s not forget that in Jan. 2023, five Black police officers fatally brutalized 29-year-old Tyre Nichols. Black or not, cops are cops.

That includes former California “Top Cop,” Vice President Kamala Harris. Lauded as the popular, efficient counterpart to Joe Biden’s stale old white man-ness, Harris impressively manages to be neither popular, nor efficient. As of Jan. 2024, Statistica found that 53% of Americans view the vice president unfavorably. Her image is consistently harmed by the fact that nobody seems to know what she’s doing half the time. Her most recent role has been wagging her finger at Israel’s attempted ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. It’s important for the Biden administration to appear like it at least cares a little about the people of Gaza as increasingly important voter demographics like young voters of color identify with the Palestinian struggle. But, as Harris made clear, they’re still going to keep funding Israel’s crimes, no matter what young voters of color think.

The vice president isn’t the only Black face in the Biden administration defending the legitimacy of oppressive systems. Two Black Americans have recently gained notoriety acting as ambassadors to the United Nations: Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Robert Wood. Deputy Ambassador Wood vetoed the UN Security Council resolution on a ceasefire in Gaza, a measure that could’ve stopped the slaughter in early December. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield did the same on Oct. 18. Their votes have garnered international outrage.

It’s especially insulting because of the long history of Black-Palestinian solidarity, which continues today. The Movement 4 Black Lives states on their website, “we remain ever-vigilant in our solidarity with Palestine, knowing the fates and futures of our people are linked. For the Black liberation movement to succeed, the Palestinian freedom struggle must survive.” 

Moreover, much has been said about the plight of the Black billionaire. In 2022, Black Enterprise condemned the fact that out of nearly 3,000 billionaires in the world, only 15 are black. I’m not sure why — it’s not like a more diverse billionaire class has anything to do with the rest of us. The richest Black person in the world is a Nigerian man named Aliko Dangote, the owner of an oil refinery. As a Nigerian-American, trust me, the trade-off the oil industry has made in Nigeria, reaping short-term profits for long-term health risks, environmental devastation and fossilizing systems of neo-colonialism and repression have not been worth it for one more Black billionaire.

However, despite Black people being increasingly allowed into the oppressor class, we’re also still on the ground fighting injustice, just like we’ve always been. The Black communities of Atlanta are still resisting Cop City — a plan to destroy an old growth forest to build a military-style police training center— despite state repression from their Black mayor and district attorney. Afro-Palestinian Lama Jamous is the youngest journalist in Gaza at 9-years-old, raising her voice to advocate for Palestine. Black people in the U.S. are heeding her call. Author Marc Lamont Hill is spearheading the movement for Black churches to oppose the president’s cynical use of a tragic event at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston to launder his reputation among Black folks. 

All over the world, Black activists know which systems are in the way of liberation. Whether it’s Missouri Representative Cori Bush camping out on the steps of the Capitol to extend the eviction moratorium, or South Africa dragging Israel to the International Court of Justice for war crimes and genocide, we won’t let the changing faces of oppression obscure the reality of the fight for freedom.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, Opinion Editor: Chisom Okorkafor

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