Repost: If It’s a Police Beating, I’d Rather Trust My Eyes

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Immigration, Policing, Race on December 1, 2006 at 11:18 am

Continuing this week’s unplanned theme of police brutality, I found the following article. Although it strays away from the current situation in Queens, it gives a moving look into the writer’s personal experiences as well as a broad look at the topic in general……From Capital Times (Wisconsin) via Common Dreams:

If It’s a Police Beating, I’d Rather Trust My Eyes

by Roberto Rodriguez

The young man is already down, but the blows to William Cardenas’ face from a Los Angeles police officer keep coming. The video is disturbing.

And the flashbacks return. Alicia Sotero, 1996. Rodney King, 1991. And then my mind returns to 1979 and the streets of East Los Angeles. There, a young Mexican man is being pummeled mercilessly. My first instincts are to flee, but the beating by the 10 to 12 deputies is so vicious that I can’t. I take photographs instead and then, shortly, the batons turn on me.

After a barrage of blows, I lay on the cold street in a pool of blood, from a cracked skull, handcuffed and charged with attempting to kill four police officers with a deadly weapon a camera. In the end, I win not one but two trials, but justice is slow as they take seven years.

In the end, there is no end. The memories do go away, but they return every time a new videotaped beating surfaces. I recall the riot sticks, the death threats and the dozens of subsequent arrests. But most of all, what I remember is that for years, nobody pays any attention to me.

More than a generation has passed and the trauma I live with is not strictly about my stirred memories but about why young people (usually of color) continue to be brutalized on U.S. streets. Only on the rare occasion that a videotape surfaces does even the word “justice” enter the conversation. Normally, young victims are beaten, arrested and do time. Many plea-bargain their way out of prison, which forfeits their date in court. This is considered a victory. Most remain anonymous and traumatized for life, without justice.

What society is left with separate from false imprisonments is lots of untreated trauma, resentment and pent-up anger on the streets … with lots of hidden costs, including youngsters who are prone to violence, homicide, suicide and domestic violence. And this is due not strictly to the beatings. It is in the knowledge that the life of a person of color often matters little on the streets and in the courtroom. Our nation’s leaders are reluctant to say this. But that’s the truth and root of the problem.

This is not a new phenomenon. In 2006, society is still carrying on the infamous Bartolomo de las Casas/Juan Gines de Sepulveda religious debates of the late early 1500s: Are they human? That’s what Europeans asked about indigenous peoples upon arrival to this continent. And yes, in a subliminal way, that same question is still being asked with similar results.

The victims are primarily red-brown-black (similar to the U.S. prison population) and there is always a presumption of guilt.

In this case, the police admit that the blows are disturbing, but we are informed that Cardenas is a gang member … therefore, the public is being primed to believe that he must be guilty or at least got what he deserved this before the investigation.

No one deserves to be beaten. Beating someone senseless is always illegal especially if the force is unrelated to a lawful arrest.

But even when we witness a brutal beating, we are told not to believe our eyes. That may explain why it is rare that the victim of police brutality ever sees justice. (Once in a great while family members of dead victims are compensated.)

In the recent video, we are told that we are not seeing the whole incident. That’s what we were told about King and Sotero. Yet, to this day, I still believe my eyes. I trust them. What I don’t trust are public officials who justify horrific beatings and the media that have conditioned the public to find it acceptable.

This situation is virtually a pandemic, but how is the public to know in an era when human rights are meaningless and when the media are preoccupied with fluff? At the root of all this is perhaps what UCLA professor Otto Santa Ana has noted in “Brown Tide Rising” that in this society, human rights seemingly correspond only to human beings. Nothing short of congressional hearings are necessary to finally put an end to this travesty. But what will it take to settle the 500-year-plus debate?

Roberto Rodriguez, who is finishing his Ph.D. in communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the author of “Justice: A Question of Race.”

And below is the video that the writer is referring to:


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