In this article, I outline how the Fraternal Order of Police has been attempting to pass legislation that would add law enforcement officers to the list of communities protected by hate crimes legislation. I describe how police unions were involved in creating contracts and passing legislation that serve as direct obstructions to those seeking justice as a result of police misconduct. I also offer suggestions for how to counter these political efforts writing,
“Police union contracts and Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights are allowing killer cops to walk free…. We will not stop police brutality until we stop the police unions and the Fraternal Order of Police. The first step is to confront and defeat attempts to pass Law Enforcement Bills of Rights at the federal level and the Blue Lives Matter Act. The next step is to abolish police unions and their contracts all together.”
Conservative mouthpiece Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County – the law enforcement officer known for trying to get Black Lives Matter listed as a hate group– took personal and professional issue with this article and called me out in two national formats.
As the Sheriff is “anxiously awaiting” my follow-up article, and I am anxious to resolve any confusion regarding my personal and professional positions, I will not waste time in providing a response. First, in this article, I will address Mr. Clarke’s attack on me as a person. Next, I will publish an article that directly responds to his attacks on me as a professional.
In Response to Clarke’s Attempt to Discredit me on the Basis of the Color of My Skin
In an interview with Leroy Moore, Jr., Le Vilissa Thompson, founder of Women of Color with Disabilities (#WOCwD), explains,
“Victims of police brutality are typically “blamed” by the media for their experiences or deaths: they were defiant or non-compliant to the officer’s commands; they asked too many questions to the officer; their physicality was intimidating or threatening, and could be seen to have “warranted” such an aggressive response; their background was questionable and/or not pristine (especially if they had previous encounters with the law for drugs, assault/violence charges, etc.); and a host of other “explanations” as to why the police officer(s) acted in the way they did towards them.
“All of these excuses for “rationalizing” the misconduct and murders carried out by law enforcement plays on stereotypes, hatefulness, racist views, and fears society have about individuals they fail to see as human. Basically, these persons were not “good,” their lives were less important, and they deserved what they got, either death or traumatic injuries. The media knows what prejudices and ignorant ideals to play on in covering these stories, and will do so without considering the severe consequences its unethical and irresponsible journalism will have on not only society, but also the families of the victims, and supporting the toxic, violent, and dangerous ideologies that seem to plague our police departments.”
Sheriff David Clark is an outspoken defender of cops that kill. He is also one of the most biased mouthpieces in the attack against Black Lives Matter. It comes as no shock whatsoever that Clarke would attempt to racially profile me. The shock came in how poorly he did it.
Clarke writes, “Forgive me if I come off as a little fatigued when privileged white women try to appropriate my community’s suffering for their own progressive pet causes.”
Let me be painfully clear for the communities I serve, the audience that reads this and Mr. Clarke himself: I am not white.
I am light skinned, and I am intersected with a number of different races, but I am not white. I understand that I have the privilege afforded to light skinned people of multiple races, and I have taught many courses and workshops on honoring both your privileges and your points of disadvantages simultaneously in varying contexts. But I am not white. I know how to assert my knowledge and accept my privilege respectfully and I pride myself on being able to mentor others through similar challenges. Because I am not white. I am able to do this work because of my experience as a racially intersected person and a politically practiced professional – that is not white. My family members, mentors and elders have been exterminated by white people, exploited by white people, euthanized by white people, incarcerated by white people, put in concentration camps by white people, and some have even fallen in love with and married white people – but I am not white.
I do not identify as white Personally or professionally. My work depends on my personal understanding and professional respect for intersectionality. My position in my community is grounded in the trust created by common experiences and understanding as people that live at the intersection of multiple oppressions. My profession is inseparable from my identity as a person. To argue that I am a pedigreed member of the dominant racial class in a national publication is both a lie and arguably liable.
In response to Clarke’s Accusations that I am an Academic Elite with Limited Experience and Knowledge
On the Kelly File with Megyn Kelly, David Clarke describes me in odd detail stating,
“She’s an academic elite. She spends her time in the ivory tower of a classroom, uh, thinking she knows what’s going on at, um on ground level. She’s at the 30,000-foot level, and has very little experience or knowledge of what’s really going on in the American ghetto. She may have heard about it, she may have passed through one a time or two.”
These accusations, much like the accusation that I am white, would also be laughable if they weren’t cause for legal action.
I’m a formerly homeless, mixed race bisexual mother living with disabilities. I am a full time mother, a full time advocate, and I am the founder of the Strategic Institute for Intersectional Policy. I am not funded. I have no tenured professorship. I do not work for a university, a think tank or national nonprofit organization. My ivory towers are homeless drop-in centers. My “30,000-foot level” is on the same floor as the jailhouse classroom. My work is unapologetically community centered.
My professional network is comprised of peer run grassroots community organizations that are run by people from communities they serve. I am honored to say that I have worked for and with organizations such as POOR Magazine, Krip-Hop International and the Idriss Stelley Foundation. I could not do the work I do, and I would not be trusted to do the work that I do, if I had “very little experience or knowledge” of these communities and the people that live in them.
I could also not do the job that I do if I called these communities “American ghettos,” as you have. No one I know calls them that.
We call our communities by Street and District. I stayed at Leavenworth and Turk in the TL above the donut shop for a while. We call our communities Home. We call our communities Where We Raise our Families. Where we celebrate each other. Where we work and learn and grow. Where we get pushed down and where we get right back up. Where we meditate, pray, dance, and cry. Where we laugh and sing and fall in love. It is where we create and revise and rebuild and achieve things we have been told time and time again are impossible. It is where we come together to honor each other and the work we do and sacrifices we make to try to protect each other. It is where we come together to heal. And it is where we come together to mourn those we lose.
We have had to come together far too often now to mourn the loss of our own because they were gunned down by racist murderers in blue uniforms that like to kill people they don’t like. We’ve had to come together far too often now to fight for justice only to find that justice cannot be found for those that have been victimized by the police.
So allow me to let me make this abundantly clear for David Clarke: I am an educator and advocate working at the ground level supporting people and organizations that are fighting against police brutality. And I fight on the ground, completely unfunded with other community members in the field.
Yes, I have a PhD. No, I am not an academic elite.
In response to Clarke’s Accusations that professors killed in classrooms should not be Memorialized
In a final attempt to discredit me as a person, Clarke stated on the Kelly file, “There’s a wall in Washington DC with the names of 20,000 officers killed in the line of duty. I doubt that there’s a memorial wall anywhere on, um, with professors who have been killed in the line of indoctrination inside a classroom.” In his article he follows up with, “Dr. Potter, please tell us how many professors sitting in their ivory towers of academia spewing elitist cop-hating propaganda were killed in the line of indoctrination.”
I believe that the monument that Mr. Clarke is referring to is The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. According to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund. It lists “the names of more than 20,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history, dating back to the first known death in 1791.”
I wouldn’t argue that a memorial wall should be dedicated to solely represent academically privileged reformers that have died in the struggle against police brutality. I would argue, though, that a memorial should be dedicated to the men, women and children that have been gunned down and otherwise lynched by law enforcement during the same time period.
The names of the indigenous, black, latino, disabled, non-christian, LGBTQIA, immigrant, homeless, incarcerated, poor and working class people that have been executed without trial by police officers should be permanently honored and remembered for their sacrifice. Their names should serve as continual reminders that we have to work harder every single day until we can assure that no more names are added to this wall.
People such as Terence Crutcher, Keith Scott, Tyre King, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, John T. Williams, Philando Castile, Laquan MacDonald, Idriss Stelley, Mario Woodsand Eric Garner should be remembered for their sacrifice. Added to this list of names should be the people that have been killed by law enforcement officers in custody and while incarcerated. And added to this should be the names that have lost their lives organizing against injustice in their communities. These heroes absolutely deserve to be honored for giving their lives for the betterment of this country.
We’re Not Done Here
With this attack on the work of political reformers in the field working to protect communities targeted for brutalization and murder by the police, David Clarke begins to cross the lines from personal attack to professional attack. As described at the top of this article, I will publish a separate response to Sheriff David Clarke’s arguably libelous attack on my work as well as his efforts to categorize police brutality as a myth.
It is my hope that this response clears up any confusion as to who I am as a person and what my work represents professionally. I will go into greater detail about the latter in the next article.