American Skin (41 Shots)
June 16 2000
Is it a gun? /Is it a knife? /Is it a wallet? /This is your life /It ain’t no secret /It ain’t no secret my friend /You can get killed just for living in your American skin /41 shots /41 shots /41 shots /41 shots…
Opening up a 10-night stand at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Bruce Springsteen unveiled his new song again after an Atlanta show on June 4, which details how and why an unarmed black man was killed by 19 bullets of 41 shots fired by four New York cops.
Lyrics of his another song “Point Blank” and telling the story of a mother warning her child about the dangers of the street have ruffled the feathers of Mayor and Police Union labeling Mr. Springsteen a “fucking dirtbag” who tried to make money off our backs
The show was a sold-out performance, despite the powerful police union called for the boycott, and half way through the song a minor commotion erupted when 40-ish, lone, well-dressed man tried to approach the stage flipping the double birds.
Promise me if an officer stops you’ll always polite /Never run away and promise mama you keep your hands in sight…
Well, they shot you point blank/ You been shot in the back.
The New York City is the most economically polarized city in the United States and the social tensions among highly diversified residents are extremely high.
Rudolph Giuliani, the police, the Wall Street robber barons, the liberal establishment and media exist in one world; Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima (the Haitian sodomized with a toilet plunger by cops in the police station in 1997) Patrick Dorismond (a 26-year-old black security guard shot to death in March this year in confrontation with a band of plainclothes cops) and millions of working class and poor people live in another world.
The following article was posted in many digital forums after the Amadou Diallo trial has ended with not guilty verdict.
Brutal Verdict: It is a crime to be poor
March 2, 2000
A young black African American was coming home from his work in Harlem, the New York City, with his brother, when an unmarked police car rolled up to them, a squad of the plainclothes cops barged in on them with guns out, and yelled at them: Hit the floor!
They put their face on the floor obediently as if the dog used to follow the master’s order.
At first, he has had this clenched feeling in his stomach when he and his brother were searched and frisked by a bunch of swaggering white cops and then let go home without any charges or apology, but gradually, he has gotten used to dealing with the everyday indignity of simply being either colored or indigent and treated as the perp thrown up against the wall.
**I would like to ask everyone to place oneself into this black man’s shoes for a few moments and continue to read my article.
1. the Amadou Diallo case
Four white cops from the Street Crime Unit of New York Police were acquitted of all charges on the shooting death of 22-year-old unarmed black immigrant who was killed in the vestibule of his residence a year ago. He was shot at with a fusillade of 41 bullets hitting him 19 times like a firing squad-style execution. Two cops released all of 16 bullets from his handguns and other two cops 5 and 6 each, and it appeared that they had kept the shooting while the target was already collapsed on the floor.
The only reason this college-bound young black man was killed like a dog was apparent that he had lived in the crime-infested area as a black, ventured out to buy some snack in the middle of the night, and the four cops who were following the standard police procedure that was sanctioned by the authority had reasonable doubts that he was armed, dangerous and taking out his gun from the back pocket.
The jury verdict was based on the assumption that the police had acted on self-defense and did not intend to kill the man accepting the testimonies from the tear-jerking policemen. However, the total exoneration would land on pratfall in the realm of the social justice when you take into account the universal reality of the urban life in the United States that there are rampant criminalization of the poor and racial profiling of black and Hispanic group by the law enforcement agencies. The history of abuse and the brutalization of black people by police and other law enforcement authorities are as old as the United States.
Suppose Mr. Diallo were a fair-skinned resident in the white-dominant neighborhood for nightly promenade, no cops would dare to intervene his leisure of nightly constitutional…that is, the definition of the reasonable doubt turns 180 degree opposite direction from where black Diallo would face in the Harlem or at worst scenario he might be charged for loitering (misdemeanor).
Even though one could not ignore the fact that cops had used the excessive, reckless and deadly forces on an unarmed man, the basic problem here is the policing philosophy of the Juiliani Administration’s zero-tolerance movement against any crime from graffiti artists, fare-jumpers to homeless person.
The hair-trigger cops armed with high-powered 16-round weapons are hired, paid, trained, encouraged, and ordered by the ruling establishment to sic on the poor, black and Hispanic minorities in order to defend its system and privileges. The police commissioner, Mayor and other political establishment could have been labeled un-indicted co-conspirators if these cops were found guilty because they were simply carrying out the job as the members of street crime unit.
The 40,000 forces of NYPD are well aware that they, as the gatekeepers of the society, would be protected from the prosecution when they follow the standard police procedure they were told and the verdict of acquittal has proved its validity.
2. Federal Civil Rights Prosecution
The black activists called for the intervention of the Federal Government on Mr.Diallo case that the police have violated the civil rights of the victim, and many people would bring forth the Rodney King case in Los Angeles a few years ago.
First of all, the Feds do not bring the charge of civil right violation unless there is strong evidence to win the conviction and the defendants ‘willfully’ deprived a person of a right protected by the Constitution. And in Mr. Diallo case, there is not enough evidence that the police went out to kill him intently and willfully as in Rodney King case the cops were openly admitting the beating after the state trial, and most importantly the prosecution had the videotapes of the police brutality.
Also the Feds had no choice but to file the civil right charge on King case because the riot broke out after the not guilty verdict of the state trial.
Time has changed since L.A riot and other insurrection against the establishment by the black militant organizations and some activists, and they were marginalized and uprooted from their urban communities and one in three black men between ages of 20 and 29 were under some form of criminal justice control (in prison, jail, parole or probation) in recent year.
The black activists in New York area are fully aware that the police have been ready to harshly deal with any unlawful demonstration or disturbance and no black men except some hotheads could afford to lose their day’s wages being in the clink, and therefore they are going to Washington D.C to bring political pressure on Mrs. Clinton who’s campaigning for the Senate seat in the New York State. Nevertheless, the chances of Feds involvement are very slim because she can not afford to lose the support of powerful police union and their Irish members’ votes in the region.
3. The Criminalization of the Poor, Black and Hispanic minorities
According to official figures, the United States already has the highest number of inmates in the world, followed by China and Russia. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the US has a quarter of all prisoners, 2 million out of 8 million. In addition, another 3.6 million Americans are currently on probation or parole.
The US incarceration rate, 672 out of every 100,000 is second only to Russia. By comparison, France imprisons 90 people for every 100,000.
It should be noted specifically that there has been sharp and disproportionate increase in the prison inmates of black youths from the inner cities, even though blacks make up only 13 percent of the US population, the half of 1.2 million state and federal prisoners are blacks.
What the majority of the 2 million prisoners have in common is that they come from the working class and the poorest sections of society.
The fact that 2 million Americans are behind bars is not a major concern for some law and order people in Washington, but rather it is a sign of progress. They attribute the high prison population to falling crime rates and the principal reasons for punishment is deterrence supporting more tough sentencing laws, such as three strikes and you are out, the trying of juveniles as adults, and death penalty.
When you are poor and black or Hispanic charged with the capital crime, you are mostly getting the death sentence because you end up with young, inexperienced and overworked public defender who often dozes at the trial. Nevertheless, when you were a celebrity, entertainer, athlete, or affluent (OJ factors), a fleet of high-powered lawyers gets you off the hook handily even though you are black or Hispanic.
Since the Supreme Court has reinstated the death penalty in 1976, more than 600 inmates have been put to death in the United States while about 3,000 inmates are waiting on the death row, and 85 people have been found to be innocent and released from the death row. Only 38 states among 50 states have the death penalty on the law books and polls show that a strong majority of Americans still favors it.
In the state of Illinois, the governor recently halted all executions in the state, the first such moratorium in the nation citing that 13 men has been sentenced to death since 1977 for crimes they did not commit, and the Bills that would halt executions are pending in 12 states citing concerns of racial disparity in sentencing. Florida reversed 18 death row sentencing, and in Texas where Governor Death (GW Bush) have signed over 100 death warrants since his inauguration and there are 458 inmates awaiting execution, a Federal judge ordered the release of a death row inmate who’s conviction was thrown out of the court last year.
It is everybody’s guess how many innocent people were put to death in the US history and take a few moment imaging that you were one of them waiting to be hanged because you can not afford to hire Mr. Alan M Dershowitz.
In the democratic society, every man has the right to expect the police are protecting him and not shooting at him, as one of the black activists made the Diallo case in plain and simple language.
When the police, as in a classic example of one hand giving and other taking away, entertain the affluent community with the environment of physical safety while brutalizing the indigent minority people with beating, torture and shooting in order to maintain such safety of the communities, there would be no community relationships in the society and each group starts to erect the wall with barbed wire and the gate with the private security guards.
And the ambience that furnishes to bifurcate the American society is already prevalent in everywhere, as in New York region the poor coop up in several pockets of cockroach-infested Harlem, Bronx and Brooklyn and the affluent build the fortified gated villages in the suburbs of long Island, upstate and the beaches in the vicinity.
The study based on the most recent Census Bureau data demonstrates that the United States are riven by class divisions between the low-income and high-income families that are growing increasingly acute and by gap between the middle-income and the high-income families that are wider over two decades.
President Clinton boasted in his state union address about his achievement in the creation of 20 million jobs during his presidency and a black waiter agreed with him sarcastically: Yea, he’s absolutely right. I’ve got three jobs and I still can’t pay my rent. The benefits of the strong economy have done little to correct the income disparity between the haves and the have-nots, and the richer grew richer and the poor grew poorer during Clinton presidency on the contrary.
The real beneficiary of the profit and stock market boom has been the wealthiest 20 percent of the population (in a more concentrated fashion, the super wealthiest 5 percent). For remaining 80 percent, income has largely stagnated or declined.
As usual, no one in the media or political elite would discuss these facts with any degree of honesty, and the issues of the social inequality, which lead to expose the real façade of the American political and economic system, plutocracy or oligarchy, not democracy or free market system, are barely raised by any of the candidates of the establishment parties in the political debates of the 2000-year elections.