This post was originally published under another blog series Unfamiliar Faces: Lost to History. Due the current climate I have revised this post and re-categorized it under Black History Fun Facts.
Originally Published: July 14, 2015
Revised May 29, 2020
The tragic murder of George Floyd, who sadly joins the ranks of several unarmed black men killed by the police, has sparked outrage, protests, and unrest. Images and footage of the officer, Derek Chauvin (who had 18 prior complaints against him according to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs), kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeated the too familiar phrase, “I can’t breathe!” is both horrifying and heartbreaking.
In response to the looting taking place by protesters of Floyd’s death, American President Donald Trump went on to call the looters “Thugs,” commenting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase comes from a 1967 quote used by Miami’s police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967, when he addressed his department’s “crackdown on … slum hoodlums,” according to a United Press International article from the time.
From the killing of Emmett Till in 1955 that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killing those four little girls in Birmingham Alabama in 1963 (Addie Mae Collins, 14, Cynthia Wesley, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Carol Denise McNair, 11). From the 1965 Watts Riots that broke out over Marquette Frye, to the police officers who beat Rodney King in 1991 and the riots that broke out over their acquittal. From the killing of Trayvon Martin, Micheal Brown, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and many others, Black people are frustrated and crying out for redemption.
Today, we look at the racists’ roots in American policing.
Slave Patrols had three functions: to chase, apprehend, and return the enslaved who had run away to their “owners,” to organize terror to deter slave-revolts and to maintain discipline for slave-workers who were subject to violence if they broke plantation rules. These organizations evolved into southern police departments whose job was to control the freed slaves who were now working as laborers and to enforce the Jim Crow segregation laws that denied freed people certain human rights.
“Early American police departments shared two primary characteristics: they were notoriously corrupt and flagrantly brutal. This should come as no surprise in that police were under the control of local politicians. The local political party ward leader in most cities appointed the police executive in charge of the ward leader’s neighborhood. The ward leader, also, most often was the neighborhood tavern owner, sometimes the neighborhood purveyor of gambling and prostitution, and usually the controlling influence over neighborhood youth gangs who were used to get out the vote and intimidate opposition party voters. In this system of vice, organized violence and political corruption it is inconceivable that the police could be anything but corrupt (Walker 1996).” – Dr. Gary Potter
Slave Patrollers were white men who rode around on horseback carrying guns, rope, and whips, ready to capture the enslaved. Their job was also to enforce the pass system, a pass, or ticket, signed by the slave master that authorized the enslaved to travel. Without this pass, an enslaved person could be beaten, and beatings sometimes happened even when the person had a pass, eerily similar to black men and women who are beaten, choked, gunned down, and stepped on even when they have done nothing wrong.
In her book, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, Sally Hadden writes, “a mounted man presents an awesome figure, and the power and majesty of a group of men on horseback, at night, could terrify slaves into submission.” Many members of the black community still refer to large police vehicles as “patty-wagons,” a play on the former “paddyrollers,” which was also a nickname for Slave Patrols.
Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you, Run, nigger, run, almost dawn. Run, nigger, run; the pateroller catch you, Run, nigger, run, almost dawn.
As K. B. Turner , David Giacopassi & Margaret Vandiver remark in Ignoring the Past: Coverage of Slavery and Slave Patrols in Criminal Justice Texts, “the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”
Policing, in general, has a long history. So, it is not historically accurate to claim that policing came from slave patrols in and of itself.
“Policing—enforcing the law, preventing crime, apprehending criminals—has a very long tradition of existence. I don’t know where it started, but for our purposes, we can note that Augustus Caesar, born in 27 B.C., created the cohortes urbanae near the end of his reign to police Ancient Rome. Policing in England takes rudimentary form with Henry II’s proclamation of the Assize of Arms of 1181. In the 1600s, England established constables and justices of the peace to oversee them. The Metropolitan Police Act created the first recognizable police force in the U.K. in 1829.” – Jonah Goldberg
On its face, the idea of policing is not a bad thing, and we can even go so far as to say it is needed. Whether we refer to it as policing or not, communities need people who can protect them from people wishing to do them harm. The problem occurs when the laws being enforced are also laws that dehumanize certain groups of people or when the crimes being prevented are humans rebelling against unjust systems and when the criminals being apprehended are murdered in the process. The need for just policing is not the argument. The argument here is that modern American practices of policing are similar to the activities of slave patrollers.
I have a lot to say so this is only part one as there were multiple dynamics to this film.
WARNING: THIS POST HAS SPOILERS. IF YOU DIDN’T SEE THE MOVIE YET, GO SEE IT AND THEN COME BACK TO THIS POST 🙂
What is Blackkklansman about? First, we should know that the story is based off a true story and a memoir. From Rotten Tomatoes:
“From visionary filmmaker Spike Lee comes the incredible true story of an American hero. It’s the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. The young detective soon recruits a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), into the undercover investigation of a lifetime. Together, they team up to take down the extremist hate group as the organization aims to sanitize its violent rhetoric to appeal to the mainstream. Produced by the team behind the Academy-Award (R) winning Get Out.”
“Why do you talk like that?”
I was in the backseat of my cousin’s friend’s car. He was dropping me off at a family members house when his question came.
“Talk like what?” I asked, confused.
“Like that. Proper. You say everything right.”
I frowned, “What?”
I start with this experience because stereotypes concerning language is the foundation of this movie. It is the stereotype concerning Blacks and the English language or the “King’s English,” that makes the plot possible. In social psychology, a stereotype is an over-generalized belief. Stereotypes are generalized because one assumes that the stereotype is true with no real basis or evidence of the belief. There’s no such thing as talking black or talking white. How a person communicates is determined by his upbringing, education or environment, not by his or her race or nationality. But some black people who articulate words well have been teased for years for “trying to talk white.” They have been deemed Uncle Tom’s, sell-outs or simply made fun of and mocked.
In Blackkklansman, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) uses this language barrier or stereotype to his advantage. Ron speaks proper, to the extent that (according to general thought), he sounds just like a typical European. Ron pretends to be a white guy on the phone who is interested in joining the Klu Klux Klan and mistakenly uses his real name. The person on the other end of the phone invites him down for a meeting except Ron can’t go, obviously. Ron is not white.
Stallworth can’t show up in person as a Black guy so in comes Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a Jewish man who pretends to be Ron in person. Because of the stereotype surrounding language, Ron can infiltrate a white racist organization with nothing more than a proper English accent.
Language stereotypes have their roots in Scientific Racism. Scientific Racism is the belief there is scientific proof to justify racism. Examples of such thought is Blacks are related to monkeys, their brains are smaller than other races, and they are less intelligent than other races. In the event someone Black is intelligent, surely it is not of his own doing. He is almost always certainly trying to be like someone else.
Nineteenth-Century scientists were convinced the white race was superior to other races and this superiority can be found in Darwinian Theory. Coined by the cousin of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, Eugenics comes from the Greek word eugenes, meaning “well-born.” It is a racist scientific process set out to prove, through alleged psychological and medical evidence, the inferiority of Blacks. Eugenics was put into practice by eliminating those born without “well born genes” from the population. From 1924 to 1936, thirteen states in the U.S. utilized eugenics programs that ranged from isolating those deemed “feeble-minded” from the general population to forced sterilization.
Because of Scientific Racism even among blacks, there is a common misconception that if you are a black person who speaks intelligently, proper, enunciate words correctly, or have an extensive vocabulary, you are “talking white.” This belief exists because of the stereotype in many circles that only “white” people can speak intelligently.
Does speaking a certain language and the enunciation of words define a person’s allegiance to a certain group of people? Am I a sellout, coon, or Uncle Tom because I like to read and speak a certain way? Because of Scientific Racism and stereotypes concerning language and intelligence, Ron Stallworth joined the Klan without even showing his face.
The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews
The headline I am using, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews is inspired by a book released in 1991 by the Nation of Islam by the same name that asserts Jews dominated the Atlantic slave trade and has been widely criticized for being antisemitic. (Another book to read is The Thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koestler as well as Jews Selling Blacks also by The Nation of Islam detailing slave sale advertising by American Jews.) But, Jews involvement in the Slave Trade is not the secret relationship to which I am referring.
In Blackkklansman, Ron is a Black guy, but he cannot show up at KKK meetings as a Black guy. So, he recruits the help of Flip Zimmerman who would pretend to be him in person. As it stands today, 2018, Jews are known and recognized as the chosen people of “God.” Their heritage and identity are said to go back to that of the ancient Israelites and the land of Israel /Jerusalem is known and recognized as their land. But there are several historical occurrences that makes this inaccurate.
According to the biblical table of Nations (Gen. 10), the earth was repopulated after the flood by Noah’s three sons and their wives. Shem (Shemites), Ham (Hamites) Japheth (Japhites). According to the bible, the Israelites lineage goes back to Shem but Ashkenaz is the descendant of Noah’s son Japheth.
Ashkenaz is the first-born son of Gomer, again, descendant of Japheth. History traces the descendants of Japheth back to the European nations.
Ashkenaz in Hebrew means German. This means that Asheknazi Jew literally translates, “German Jew.”
Gomer, the first born of Japheth, has been traced back to the Celtics, Goths, Hungarians, Sloths, the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland.
Javan, fourth son of Japheth, has been traced back to the Greeks and Magog has been traced back to the Russians.
According to the bible, the Israelites will be returned to their land by the messiah. This is not how the Jews entered the land of Israel. The British Empire conquered Jerusalem and had a mandate of the land from the Turkish Empire. They gave it to the Jews after the 2nd World War when the Jews said they needed their own land because of the Holocaust. This was done by way of The Balfour Declaration of 1948.
The parts of the earth inhabited by Shem were the territory of Assyria and Persia east of the Tigris River, the eastern part of Syria and parts of the Arabian Peninsula. All the children of Shem were black.
Abraham, father of the Hebrew-Israelite and Arab nation was black.
The Arab nation is made up of black Hamite / Egyptian mothers and black Shemite fathers. Hagar, the black Egyptian is mother of Abraham’s son Ishmael. Ishmael married black Egyptian women and gave birth to 12 sons who became 12 tribes. They inhabited the region from the Euphrates to the Red Sea in the Arabian Peninsula and they were black.
Joseph was second in command in Egypt when the famine drove the eleven sons of Jacob to Canaan to buy food. Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him. First, he had grown into a man since they last seen him and secondly, they could not distinguish him from the black Egyptians because he was black also.
After Pharaoh commanded that all the Hebrew babies be killed by way of his “Birth Control” mandate, Moses passed as the pharaoh’s black grandson for 40 years. This could not happen if Moses, the Israelite “Jew” was not also black.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the 12 tribes were all black.
Due to the mountain of evidence concerning the identity of the ancient Shemites and Japhethites, it is my belief that the so-called African American, Negro, Black, Colored person, are the original “Jews” and true children of Israel and that the Jews we know today are instead the European nations.
With this understanding, the fact that Zimmerman, a Jew, is pretending to be Ron, a black man, in this movie is revealing and I wonder if Spike Lee and Jordan Peele did this on purpose. After all, it wouldn’t be Spike Lee’s first time doing this.
In his movie Bamboozled, a satire of network television’s pitfalls and prejudices and a humorous look at how race, ratings and the pursuit of power lead to a television writer’s rise and tragic downfall, Pierre Delacroix (played by Damon Wayans) is in a room with the writers for his sitcom and a Jewish man is wearing an Afro. Pierre jokes about blacks always being late or on “CP Time” (“Colored People Time”). He then pauses and looks at the Jew with the Afro and his words are: “And no. That Afro does not qualify you my young Jewish friend.” He meant, that Afro does not make you black. (Lee also uses the language stereotype in this movie. More on this in part 2 when we explore the caricature of the Uncle Tom.) This happens all the time in Hollywood where blacks and Jews are jokingly intertwined with one another.
In Blackkklansman, Zimmerman is not really Ron, a black man, just as the Jews are not really the children of Israel, who are black. The secret relationship between Blacks and Jews is that Blacks are the original “Jews,” and everyone knows it but black people. (That’s why it’s a secret).
The Klan and Police Force Connection
In Blackkklansman, Ron is a Black police officer who sincerely believes that justice can take place from within the system. He befriends a young lady named Patrice, an Angela Davis character, working for the Black Panthers as part of Stokely Carmichael’s team. While their relationship attempts to take a romantic turn, her problem with him is his connection to the force (she eventually discovers he’s an undercover cop). At the end of the movie he confirms that while he has turned in his Klan membership, he is not ready to turn in his allegiance to the police force. Her response: “I can’t sleep with the enemy.”
Why did she consider him an enemy for being a police officer?
During the institution of chattel slavery, controlling the actions and whereabouts of slaves was of vital importance. As nothing more than a commodity, slaves were worth hundreds and thousands of dollars. Big feet, for example, may indicate to a slave owner that his slave may be strong and a stout one day while his “skin and bones” appearance may bring down a hopeful price. “Through care and discipline, slaves’ bodies were physically incorporated with their owners’ standards of measure.” (Walter Johnson, Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market)
If a slave approached the auction block with two fingers cut off, for example, both of which were done in the slave’s desperate attempt to escape chains–choosing rather to go about with eight fingers than to become a slave–the true manner of his disablement would be concealed for the time being. Basically, the fact that this slave cut his own fingers off would be a secret for now. The owner would instead lie about the enslaved man’s attempted escape. Maybe a doctor cut off one of his fingers due to illness and the slave, to comply with the doctor’s orders, cut off the other one.
In such case the slave is seen as so stupid and imitative that he would mutilate himself because it’s what the doctor did. For the auctioneer, this increased his chances of selling this slave. Showing stupidity for obedience was better than showing rebellion, which would decrease the auctioneer’s chances of selling the slave.
These kinds of situations, and the constant running away of slaves, caused for serious security over the slave’s whereabouts and required a policing of them known as Slave Patrols.
Slave patrols were organized groups of white men who monitored and enforced discipline upon black slaves during chattel slavery in the U.S. The slave patrols’ function was to police slaves, especially runaways and defiant slaves. These patrols were formed by county courts and state militias and were the closest enforcers of codes governing slaves throughout the South.
Overseers – On large plantations, the person who directed the daily work of the slaves was the overseer, a white man OR an enslaved black man (driver) promoted to the position by his master. Some plantations had both a white overseer and a black driver, especially in the deep South or on plantations where the master was often absent. The overseer had special privileges. He may get to ride around on a horse instead of pick cotton in the fields. He may live in a brick house instead of a slave cabin, and he may get to sit at the masters’ table on special occasions and eat with him.
Many people assert the word “officer” is a direct relation to “overseer,” which is taken to mean that the overseer of slave plantations have become police officers. I don’t know about the name correlation, but I do know that black cops are often teased and accused of being “overseers” by other blacks who have come to distrust the system of American policing overall. For many, police cars have replaced horses and badges have replaced hoods.
This may be because modern-day police enforce the laws of the land and are the most brutal force toward African Americans and black related crimes in this day as well as back in the day. Patrice considered Ron an enemy because Slave Patrols, Night Watches, and Overseers were designed for managing slaves in the same way that modern day Police Departments manage black related crimes. As David Giacopassi and Margaret Vandiver state in Ignoring the Past: Coverage of Slavery and Slave Patrols in Criminal Justice (2006:186) remark:
“the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.”
And the National Humanity Center, Slave Drivers, Overseer, Enslavement:
“How did black drivers relate to their masters, and to their fellow slaves over whom they held authority? How did they adapt to the vulnerable position between master and slave.”
These are questions many blacks have for black police officers. How does a black police officer, aware of the racist practices of his job, relate to the people of his race who are being mistreated and over whom he has authority? How does he balance this allegiance? For women like Patrice and many in the African American community, there is no balance.
I thought the movie was decent. It didn’t wow me. It was just okay. I loved all the connections and messages of the movie and the history. I just thought the movie would do more with those connections. I loved listening to the powerful speech of Kwame Ture or Stokely Carmichael as played by Corey Hawkins, who did an AMAZING job!
Obviously, I did not read the book before seeing this movie so I did not know how it would end. While I don’t believe every officer is evil (just like I don’t believe all blacks are illiterate and ghetto, not all Mexicans are criminals who got to the U.S. illegally, and not all white people are racists), I thought Ron would get more involved with the politics of the Black Panthers and less involved with the police force with all the information he now had. I thought with all the connections, subtle or otherwise, this would lead Ron to leave the force and the movie was going to take a turn similar to Sam Green’s The Spook Who Sat By the Door. This book (so controversial it was removed from shelves) is a fictional account turned movie in the 60s about the first black CIA agent who, after quitting, takes all he has learned from the agency and trains his brothers in the inner-city how to fight. A movie was made of the book in 1973. (There was also a movie released in 1966 called Black Klansman where a light-skinned black man (Richard Gilden) infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan to avenge his daughters murder after she is killed in a church bombing.)