Words by: Mark McGaugh
Cover Photo Courtesy of Newsweek
Who would have guessed an 18-year-old poet named Ice Cube would coin a phrase that would transcend generations and express the attitude of a whole race?
On August 9, 1988, the slogan “F*ck tha Police” ignited air waves as Cube and super-group N.W.A released their debut album, “Straight Outta Compton.” Regarded by many as a classic composition, much of the album detailed the group’s experiences with racist and violent police. Today’s social climate is arguably the direct product of such experiences.
In the wake of the “justified” deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, FAMU graduate Jonathan Ferrell, Sandra Bland and countless other minorities, racial tension between citizens and police has reached a new boiling point.
Within the last year, there have been dozens of protests against police brutality around the nation, the most publicized of which took place in Baltimore, New York and Ferguson.
Much like N.W.A’s “F*ck tha Police,” the Black Lives Matter movement has emerged as a result of on-going frustrations with police brutality and the American justice system. As seen in the Baltimore riots, the line between peaceful demonstration and chaos is often blurred and frustration sometimes leads to violence.
Such violence has caused several politicians to criticize the Black Lives Matter movement, some even going as far as calling it a terrorist organization.
Brad Blakeman, the former deputy assistant to former President George W. Bush, shared his concerns about the group with Fox News.
“This is a militant organization that wants to use this election cycle to be disruptive,” said Blakeman. “It’s wrong and the more Democrats cower to them, the worse it gets.”
In a recent article in the Washington Times, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was extremely critical of the Black Lives Matter movement saying, “I think they’re trouble… I think they’re looking for trouble.”
The idea that a term like “Black Lives Matter” could be trouble is very indicative of America’s extremely racist roots. While it is noted that some followers of the movement may go to the extreme, the movement itself is only the result of countless injustices. The history of racism by police is well-documented, and the role it plays in the situation cannot be ignored.
In 1992, just four years after “Straight Outta Compton” debuted, Los Angeles experienced its worst riots ever after the officers involved in the brutal beating of Rodney King were found not guilty of using excessive force. That verdict came despite a substantial amount of incriminating evidence, including a very graphic video of the beating.
Although “F*ck tha Police” marked one of the first times the issue was addressed within pop culture, racism by police existed long before the release of N.W.A’s controversial track.
According to an article written by Victor E. Kappeler, professor at Eastern Kentucky University, American policing is deeply rooted in the institution of slavery.
“[The] institution of slavery and the control of minorities were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing,” Kappeler wrote. “Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities.”
James D. Comey, the director of the FBI, also acknowledged law enforcement’s past with racist tactics.
“First, all of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty,” wrote Comey in a letter published on the FBI’s website. “At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.”
While both sides may agree that there is a problem, finding a solution would be virtually impossible without fully addressing the root of the issue, a deeply ingrained culture of white supremacy.