Black Lives Matter & Policing Reform(s)

Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become a pivotal, and controversial, social movement. Triggered primarily by repeated incidents of black males being killed (murdered) on the streets of America by police officers (particularly white officers) has left a mark that is now indelible and performed in the Floyd Rebellion (street protests). It has not been pretty and disturbs and terrifies many. And, not all people of color agree with the way things have gone down on both sides--the authorities and the rebellion protestors. But lots of good things are also coming from the rubble, you might say.

So I give hats off to the BLM better aspects of liberation and its allies generally for the 'wake up' call; and especially my focus here in this blog is on the positive push of some BLM folks and other sensitive educators and therapists to help get to root causes of racism traumatization (and/or racialized trauma). I use these latter concepts, from a healing and fearlessness perspective or paradigm for social change and transformation. I am less a fan of the politically and ideologically driven 'playing the race card' and 'fanning the race wars' strategies on all sides of the battles today between opponents. Thus, with this distinction of my work and interest, I would argue that nowadays, it is really questionable if the term "racism" or "race" are actually of any value to healing, just like the term "racists" is to me only a way to continue the worst of racism traumatization [1]. The cycle of domination-fear-conflict-violence is hard to break, but I believe breaking the language and making ourselves more aware of emanacipatory and healing language is a good start to the 'rebellion' that all of us could participate in and not just BLM on the streets. 

In this regard, obviously my work is about moving from a culture of fear to a culture of fearlessness, and that ideally would be what BLM is attempting to do. I am not telling BLM what to do nor speaking as if I know all about them and their work. I certainly don't and I am willing to be informed by them as they see fit. I will listen, and I will open up opportunities for healing on their side and my side--and, all the other options of our juxtapositioning as human beings attempting to figure out how to live together well on this fragile planet. I am concerned that forces of tyranny take many forms, and no group is immune. So, to counter the fear-based tyranny movements of all kinds, on all sides of the conflicts in societies, let's take a look at the notion of racism traumatization as a learning and healing process. I have not delved a lot into this field but I have come across a book my life-partner is using for her own liberation via ancestral healing work and is planning to use in a local non-profit organization in the urban setting of the city we live in. The book is by Resmaa Menakem, a person of color and expert on conflict and violence and healing (individual and collective). The title is "My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathways to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies" (2017). It is radical on many fronts, but what it does not do is 'pit one race against another' nor attempt to show any superiority in any group that is innate or given by God, or any other power. Menakem writes with wisdom and compassion and a lot of street smarts about racialized violence and oppression--and, better yet, about racialized trauma work. I have included a couple pages from the book, particularly on Menakem's advice for reforming policing. I have also written a book with two colleagues on this topic but more general on the relationship of fearism to law and criminology [2]. Menakem's work is very pragmatic and I trust you'll find these couple pages useful for knowledge and as potential to take into action in your communities. 







1. Another angle of understanding racism traumatization is through a critical analysis of "white supremacism" and an even more interesting angle is through critical analysis of tribalism-ethnocentricism and their worldviews (e.g., in Spiral Dynamics integral theory). No doubt, societies today and in the future will best be served by multiple angles on the problem of "Race" in America or anywhere in the world. For me, I always have looked with great focus on the problem of fearism-t (toxic form) as the core root of terrorism of all kinds and those are the isms that are articulating the other isms--that is, sexism, racism, classism, adultism, and so on. Oppression is fear-based in an ideology of fearism-t. All that said, my owning responsibility for my white caucasion historical situation and current privilege is well taken as something I have to always look at as part of white supremacism agendas--that is, oppression. 

2. Fisher, R. M., Subba, D., & Kumar, B. M. (2018). Fear, law and criminology: Critical issues in applying the philosophy of fearism. Xlibris.

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  • As one email correspondent wrote me (they are a career police officer): 
    Here are my thoughts on what you referred to about BLM Vs Police Behaviour in the light of two pages extracted from Menakem’s book. 
    It is a pertinent issue which Resmaa Menakem raised with regard to whether the police officers are merely being trained to be of technical expertise as mechanical beings without empathy and sympathy or how come they are not conditioned to be humane. The author has a great concern towards the matter and as an ex-police officer I am extremely thankful for that but I would like to make my point that there are good officers also. I would like to present some documented and related behavioural patterns among the people in general including the police personnel in order to support the view that generalisation could affect holistic solutions.
    It is true that people usually form their negative opinions based on some sensational police violations which appear in the media, whether social or mainstream. But it is also a fact that much of police good work goes unnoticed by the public since such news often does not interest the print or electronic media.
    As far as training aspect is concerned, I can say that the scenario in my own country is pretty much the same case with America and elsewhere. Training is of two years usually; one year institutional and one year practical (in the field under law enforcement officers as mentors). Curriculum includes wide ranging inputs encompassing law, public order, human relations, ethics, behavioural sciences, social service, first aid, handling arms etc. But all the recruits don’t turn out to be good and humane officers after training period is over even though some would get metamorphosed into the exceptionally good hearted. The reason being that the police officers are also drawn from the same society where we find both good and bad. 
    Normally a person’s attitudes and traits are shaped during formative years of childhood and adolescence to a considerable extent. Father of behaviourism John B. Watson challenged in 1930’s that he could mould any infant into a person of desired behaviour; for example to be a doctor or lawyer or even a thief or beggar. A study done by Cambridge University’s Wikstrom and others in 2009 found that the most crime-prone persons are the ones who spent their adolescence unsupervised, hence they situationally become vulnerable to opportunities for committing crimes. But the crime averse people are situationally resistant to indulge in criminal behaviour because they were brought up in ethical environment since childhood. These illustrations infer that a police officer’s personality has also already been formed by the time he or she gets inducted in the police department. Some might be bad tempered and some prejudiced initially but when they undergo training, a few of them are likely to be transformed into gentlemen officers but some elements would remain as bad as earlier and hence the punitive measures in the department as well as by the courts.
    Same is the case with doctors. They are also drawn from the same society like the police officers. Now and then, if not frequently, we hear about bad lot among the medical fraternity like the news of Dr. Death killing his patients or a monster nurse injecting fatal doses sadistically to her gullible bed ridden patients. There are many corporate hospitals in developing countries like India where some doctors hardly show humanitarian attitude towards the poor patients for want of exorbitant fees. For most of them, profits matter at cost of human lives.
    Hence it is high time that the society ( nation) must change to be good as a whole so that its inhabitants get habituated to do good. Simon Anholt, a British educator formulated the concept of good countries. The idea is that a nation shall do good to other nations besides being good to its own people. 
    In addition to socioeconomic and psychological factors, there are political reasons such as gun control policies and the like which impact the psyche of police officers. As regards BLM in the backdrop of recent unfortunate scenes in  America, I attribute one of the factors of high-handedness on the part of some white police officers to their being armed with guns. Leonard Berkowitz of Wisconsin University found in his study that positive environment will boost positive personality and negative environments, negative personalities. Learning disability coupled with negative environment will play havoc with individual. When there is an option between choosing a firearm or tennis racquet, learning disability coupled with negative environment propels one to go for firearm, the object of destruction. He remarked, ‘it is not the finger that pulls the trigger but the trigger which pulls the finger.’ 
    There are also some studies which prove the connection between junk food and stress hormones causing violent behaviour. Trans fatty foods, sugary drinks etc trigger the rise of stress hormonal secretions that in turn lead to aggressive behaviour. Recent research shows that even the polluted air makes one aggressive. All these factors can be also be applied to school shooting instances where the boys of tender age get aggressive with guns. Ultimately, the main cause behind the combative moods of certain police officers (for that matter, even the people in general) could be traced to fear for survival. The fundamental instinct of human being is to survive by hook or crook, especially when the environment is gravely uncertain and insecure. As and when aggressive element joins the survival instinct during uncertain chaotic law enforcement situations or otherwise based on personal prejudices, a police officer’s behaviour tends to violate the rights of opposite person.  
    Therefore, I feel that we may need to look into various aspects holistically apart from training and residency, while framing policies to humanise police conduct so as to help law enforcement officers safeguard human rights to the best of public confidence and aspirations.
  • Yes, these kinds of accidents are happening different parts of world. At same time, when George Floyd accident had happened in Minnesota, in remote village of Nepal, murdered six boys in the name of caste supremacy. Naw Raj a young boy had fallen in love with higher caste girl, they were happy. When parents of girl knew about it, they killed NawRaj Bk.and his 5 friends. We have written a book, "India, A Nation of Fear and Prejudice" (Kumar, Fisher, Subba, 2019) mentioning such issues. Marxism has raised it in superstructure. People are living in false consciousness. Superstructure is basically in super fear structure. In the name of religion, race, color, culture, myth, system some people are exploiter and some exploited. With out super fear structure it is hard to do so. Superfearstructure is established in the society since begening of civilization. It is constantly running in various incarnations.  

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