Another Hate Crime
Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner are names known common to all this past year. White-on-black crime is taking the forefront in the media, our lives, and our thoughts. Seemingly, these crimes are “finally” getting the media they deserve, yet still white officers and public officials are sponging off of the normative hierarchal institutions our culture has established in which the white male stands on top. In November of 2014, an unarmed Akai Gurley was shot and killed in a dark stairway due to an officers “jitters”. Gurley and his girlfriend took the stairs where Peter Liang fired a shot 14 steps below which ricocheted off the wall and into Gurley’s chest. This shot was a supposed accident. However, he then proceeded to text his union representative and wait over six minutes to radio for help and respond to his commanding officer. Liang was charged with six counts; second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct. Liang’s court date was February 11th and he turned himself in that day. However, he pleaded not guilty, was released and does not have to pay bond. But don’t worry; if Liang is convicted of manslaughter again he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. This sparked a huge controversy in New York, including protests. More on this conviction can be found here.
Meanwhile, thousands of people are arrested everyday for simple misdemeanors and are expected to post bail of at least $500. Often times, these people cannot afford this and they are incarcerated. All the while, taxpayers are paying $9 billion to imprison these defendants who held on bail.
Gurley’s girlfriend, Ballinger, has said, “We’ll keep fighting until justice is served”. Peterson, Gurley’s uncle, was quoted, “What happened to Akai is just egregious. There is no explanation for it,” he said. “We’d like to see justice, and we’d like a change to police policy.” He continues, “There’s an over-policing in communities like ours,” he said. “We are not against police officers. They are following a policy, an egregious policy, and we’re trying to bring attention to that.”
Gurley’s uncle’s comment particularly interests me. He argues that their population is over policed. What is interesting is that Waquant states that the recent hyper-ghetto is more dangerous which is not naturally associated with “too many” police. He says it has lost its buffer and is more dangerous and less protected. To interpret this in the context of Waquant, I read this statement as public authorities trying to regulate ghetto crime and essentially keep it in place. My guess is that in relation to this article, the police are acting in a way that contains the crime rate in this designated “black” area rather than preventing it. This consolidates racial differences into a dichotomy, which organizes color lines into main divisions because of hegemonic institutions. Racial projects allow for objectification and break down and organizes race. It might be able to be said that the police use objectification as their racial project to contain the “black community” within their community (Omni and Winant).
While the rate of media attention is being drawn to black and white hate crime, I still believe it is astounding how hierarchical the system seems. Our institutions prevent social mobility due to the lack of resources for education, lack of jobs available for financial stability, etc. In essence, how racial formation is created, inhabited and transformed is due to our hierarchical institutions. It’s baffling to me what one can get away with because of something as subjective as your class status or skin color.
I also found the fact that Liang was released without bond interesting. Today, according to Waquant, prisons are racialized and have become like a ghetto. More than half of the prison population is black. I thought this situation displayed perfectly reasons why this is the case. One could argue (though obviously not guaranteed) Liang was released due to his status. Many white males and females are released because of the stereotypical institutions that are associated with their race. However, often times, blacks are not allowed that luxury. The stigma and racial category does not give them credibility often in the courts eyes. Also, due to the lack of social mobility and the efforts to “contain” the ghetto community, they are not afforded the opportunity of a stronger education or work options and thus, crime becomes more natural.
I understand I am taking a hard stance on a subject that only has three witnesses. It is the word of two officers and a woman who lost the man she loved. Because of this I realize that it is difficult to truly indict someone. I understand that this could easily be argued as an example but even so, it is impossible to ignore the rising problems or crimes that happen just like Liang’s. However, I think this situation highlights our recent class discussions well.
I would definitely be interested in others thoughts!