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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Walley

IN DEFENSE OF OUR FUTURE

The following commentary from Comrade, Wylie Rogers, will ad in the context for this Sunday's class, focusing on the State through the lens of the George Floyd verdict, its impact on class struggle, and what should be the response of revolutionaries from a tactical as well as a strategic perspective.


More news and info can be found in the current Weekly DISPATCH, including statements from Maureen Taylor (Michigan Welfare Rights Organization) & DETROIT WILL BREATHE.


IN DEFENSE OF OUR FUTURE

The police killing of 16 year old Makia Bryant,13 year old Adam Toledo, and 20 year old Daunte Wright, each in a matter of seconds and all occurring during the trial of George Floyd’s killer attests to the barbarism that we as a people are sinking into. It is difficult to draw any other conclusion in a nation that by far leads the world in the incarceration (2 million) and police killings (over one thousand in 2020) of its citizens. No amount of parsing the details of each incident can explain away the disturbing trends disclosed by these statistics.


As a social worker with 40 years of experience in child welfare and mental health, I have been involved in numerous situations similar in threat level to that resulting in Bryant’s death. I vividly recall one incident in which I and a colleague spent two hours deescalating a situation where a 15-year-old threatened to kill herself after we had persuaded her to not harm another girl she had threatened to stab in a dispute over a boy.


As a mental health worker, I have had numerous life-threatening encounters with patients rendered dangerous due to paranoid thoughts, delusions of persecution, command hallucinations, and other forms of psychiatric distress.


In all the above encounters, which I estimate to 20 or so over 25 years in mental health work, only one resulted in loss of life and that was due to my failure to fully discharge my responsibility to a patient threatening suicide. She succeeded because I failed to arrange for follow up suicide prevention monitoring.


I emphasize that the success I experienced was not unusual. Thousands of social workers and other helping professionals achieve similar results in their crisis intervention work. It is a deep and unflagging commitment to help, to relieve suffering, to do no harm that accounts for our success. And we do what we do without guns.


I do not minimize the dangers inherent in such encounters. However, in most instances, this danger can be managed and mitigated by competent professional intervention. In any crisis there exists the possibility of a bad outcome, but the frequency of such outcomes in police involved encounters, especially with people of color cannot be justified.


What explains the difference in outcomes? I attribute it to diametrically opposed approaches in ideological orientation that informs training and shapes attitudes and perceptions in encounters with the public. As a social worker, I was taught to value and respect humanity and that my mission was the preservation of life and the enhancement of its quality. Such an outlook informed and guided my day-to-day practice and produced the results I allude to above. By contrast, the police are ideologically conditioned and trained to shoot to terminate what they perceive to be a threat to themselves and presumably to others. “Terminate” in essence means to kill as police are trained to shoot into the “center mass” of the body. “Threat” is treated as imminent danger requiring stress laden, split second “fight or flight” response, resulting in lethal outcomes.


What we have here is a militarized ideology to complement the military hardware provided to police departments by the Pentagon. Under the influence of such an ideology the marginalized and racialized civilian population becomes the enemy, their communities enemy territory to be occupied and controlled. Confrontation with the “enemy” is reduced to a deadly “us versus them” mentality in which the use of lethal force is dictated by the laws of war.


And it does not stop here. This militarized and overtly terroristic approach to social control is justified and rationalized in the media and codified in public policy and civil law. It must be recognized that laws empowering the police to respond lethally to perceived threats is, in fact, a license to kill with impunity.


What we are experiencing today are the horrible human costs of the dismantling of the social welfare safety net over the past several decades. The fact is that despite their unqualified success in the resolution of child welfare, domestic, and mental health crises, social and mental health services were gutted, and the skeletal remains of their functions handed over to the police leading to the disastrous consequences confronting us today.


Who are we? What are we If we collectively fail to rise to the defense of our children? What must be done to prevent the inevitable increase in the tragedies we have thus far witnessed?


Clearly, at the spiritual level we must commit to a moral revival, the resurrection of the core values of civility and mutual respect, and the re-assertion of belief in the sanctity of human life. At the practical level, there is the urgent need to simultaneously rebuild our social welfare infrastructure and demilitarize the police.


Wylie Rogers, Ph D, Chicago, wrogers14@gmail.com




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