Sara Ali, Karibu News, September 16, 2015
Kristian Williams is an anarchist author who focuses on exposing and fighting against the state and police brutality. He is widely known for his books “Our Enemies in Blue” and “Fire the Cops.”
I had the chance to talk to Williams before he makes his way to Buffalo. We discussed the role of the police and what New Americans ought to know about the police as they begin to settle in their new home.
“If you want to understand what the police do, you’re better off thinking of it not in terms of law, or justice, or public safety. You’re better off thinking of it in terms of existing inequalities. In general, the police behave in ways that reinforce existing power. They keep powerful people powerful and keep powerless people powerless and marginalized,” he said.
Williams said the two main inequalities are class and race; this is a special implication for immigrants throughout the history of this country.
He said people who come to this country have typically been of the working class. Although some immigrants are now perceived as “white,” historically they have been racially or ethnically considered foreign or “other.”
“In the last dozen or so years, the police have also become formally more entwined in the federal enforcement of immigrant law. In 1996, Congress passed a law that authorized local police to do immigration enforcements. No jurisdiction took up on that until 2002, but now it is very common,” he said.
Williams argued that dialing 911 has never done what folks wish it would do in the first place. According to him, we have a romanticized notion of police work. In a crisis, we have thoughts of the good guy showing up and punishing the bad guy. However, this seldom is the case. Usually, the call comes after the incident has occurred and the “justice” doesn’t come for weeks or months later.
“This does very little to repair the harm that has been done.”
In a video regarding the history of the police, Williams said the police evolved from a previous institution called the slave patrols, which was intended to control the black, especially the slave, population in the south.
When mechanisms for slave trade began to change, the slave patrols developed the characteristics of the modern police force, and “historically we can see how it evolved with that aim in mind, and with crime control as a secondary feature.”
Williams uses historical incidents to further his point, referencing police actions during the civil rights movement.
“When there was legal segregation, the police behaved in ways that reinforced segregation. In the period after legal segregation, the police still behaved in ways that reinforced de facto segregation.”
Williams goes on to posit that the discriminatory practice by law enforcement known as racial profiling has proven to have no crime-fighting benefits. However, it has functioned in order to keep people of color out of certain areas, in subordinate positions and under the surveillance of the criminal justice system.
Williams will return to Buffalo next Thursday, September 24 at 7 p.m. at Burning Books on Connecticut St. to talk about the police.