Control and resistance: An Afrocentric analysis of the historical and current relationship between African Americans and the police
When the March 3rd, 1991 beating of unarmed motorist Rodney King was caught on videotape in Los Angeles, California the rest of the United States was exposed to a reality that many African Americans were all too familiar with. The grotesque scenes of a defenseless Black man being clubbed, nearly to death, by the Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D) may have seemed like an isolated incident to some, but for many it was a personification of the psychological anguish that has plagued this nation dating back to the era of Enslavement. On that day, Rodney King's struggle became that of African Americans across the country.
After nearly a year of national media attention, courtroom drama, and a host of legal fiascos, L.A.P.D. Officers Laurence Powell, Stacey Koon, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy Wind were acquitted of felony assault charges associated with the King case. And although officers Powell and Koon were sentenced to 30 months for violating Rodney King's civil rights, the decision by that Los Angeles jury to ignore the obvious gang-style beat-down resulted in the city being set ablaze by a community that was angered, terrified, and disgusted by the conditions under which they had been forced to live. The rioting began on April 29, 1992 and did not subside until a week later.
In the academic discipline of Black Studies it is often argued that actions such as the rioting and "looting" that took place in Los Angeles are reactionary and rarely facilitate meaningful change. Of course this study concedes the assertion that revolution is paramount to reaction in this type of situation, understanding that the measure of effectiveness between the two lies in magnitude of positive change. Importantly, this study also finds value in the idea that rioting is a form of social resistance and historically, when African Americans have been faced with the element of control, rioting (not only in Los Angeles, but also Boston, Detroit, and Chicago amongst other cities) has at the very least brought attention to national crises. Certainly, the control of Blacks in the United States goes far beyond the issue of police brutality; accordingly, this study includes an examination of the historical realities which have influenced the relationship between African Americans and the police.
Essentially, Afrocentricity serves as the methodological approach that guides this study, so the data that is reflected in the Literature Review, along with the historical and current issues revolving around the topic, are analyzed through the Afrocentric lens. Various theoretical perspectives from the academic field of Criminal Justice are utilized as well to provide necessary balance and to account for the history of policing and police politics. Interestingly it is through the rigorous study of Black History in this country coupled with the study of policing that uncovers the disturbing fact that the desire to control Blacks is actually what led to the creation of modern-day policing in the United States. In this study, the main focus is on the various methods of resistance that Blacks have utilized, with special attention paid to alternatives to the behavior of control by police departments.
0631: Ethnic studies