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Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford says that the police officer who killed Philando Castile was not just “reacting to the presence of a gun,” and that gun policy won’t stop racist policing

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DHARNA NOOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Dharna Noor in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of the Ford Report. The nation is still reeling from even more police shootings. Another shooting in Illinois this morning has left a man in critical condition. Still on the minds of many are the events of this past Wednesday when police shot and killed Philando Castile at a routine traffic stop. Castile reportedly that he had a gun, which he was carrying legally. The officer reportedly shot him while he was reaching for his ID. He was in the car with his four-year-old daughter and his girlfriend, who live streamed the aftermath on Facebook. Lawyer Thomas Kelly, who says of the Minnesota cop who shot Philando Castile, quote, he was reacting to the presence of a gun, and also said, quote, the shooting had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the presence of that gun. Joining us to speak about this today is Glen Ford. Glen is the co-founder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report, and the author of “A Big Lie: Analysis of the US Press Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.” Thanks for joining us again, Glen. GLEN FORD: No, thank you for having me. NOOR: So, can I just start by getting your response to this quote: nothing to do with race, everything to do with the presence of a gun? FORD: Actually, it has everything to do with the actual police mission in the United States, and that’s the real subject. That’s what people are protesting against, the lawlessness of the police, which sometimes greatly resembles lynch law. Lynch law and police law are linked because, well, they’re not often rooted in the rule of law at all. The police mission is to contain, control, terrorize and most importantly to criminalize Black people in the United States. And if that is your mission, then the logic is that Black bodies are going to pile up all over the place. When the system treats Black people as criminals as a group, then there is no presumption of innocence. There is no due process of law. There is no law at all. And the defendant cop’s lawyer is making an, actually an extralegal case. He’s saying that a Black man plus a gun somehow is a green light for any action that the cop is willing to take. And really, that is the formula that cops act under, even though it is totally illegal. Black man plus gun, or Black man and the rumor of a gun, or Black man and the possibility to plant a gun equals death. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mr. Sterling, he was not permitted to have a gun because of a felony conviction, but the gun that was apparently in his pocket was never brandished by him. We saw, witnesses saw the cops extricating it from his pocket after he had been shot. They had shot him after they totally immobilized him. They apparently acted in the belief, in the certainty that they were covered if they kill a Black man who has a gun present on him. So, that seems to be a law from Minnesota down to Louisiana, and I’m sure over to California. There’s a national policy of mass, Black incarceration that calls for these police crimes. Now, President Obama and even the Congressional Black Caucus want to divert people’s attention away from the actual policing mission and policies in the United States by saying this is a gun control issue. But it’s not. It’s a Black people control issue. That’s the way the cops see it. And in fact, that’s the way the NRA sees it. The NRA issued a statement mourning the death of those cops in Dallas, but it didn’t say a word about Philando Castile [crosstalk] who was– NOOR: [interceding]–They actually noted the importance of not speaking about the murder of Philando Castile, I believe. They said that they wanted to wait until they had more information about the killing in order to say anything. But you’re saying they did issue a statement about the police officers who were shot in Dallas, correct? FORD: That’s right. If they see some ambiguity in Minnesota, in that case, then they’re really not about gun control or gun control laws. I think the NRA, which is a front, a political front for the weapons producing industry, understands that the bulk of their customers are white people. And white people, per household, own more guns than Black people. And many of these white people stock up on these guns because they think they are arming themselves against Black people. That’s the reason for their behavior and that’s the behavior that they share with the police. The police believe that they are the protectors of the better society from Black folks, and they are very explicit in that, and that’s why we see what we see every day, Black bodies piling up on various pretexts. NOOR: And in the case of Philando Castile, actually there was some audio released from the police radio of the cop who shot Philando Castile, and it said he was looking for a man with a wide-brimmed nose, which is some pretty racialized language. You know, when we speak about a wide-brimmed nose it’s some pretty racialized about. Could you talk a bit about, like, what the difference is here between, you know, specific cops exhibiting their overt racism, so the role of that overt racism, but then also the role of just sort of systemic racism within the police system, even amongst cops who think of themselves as not being racist? FORD: That’s right. It certainly is not about racism and an engrained white supremacy, or else these police departments could not absorb large numbers of Black police? It’s about the mission. And if the mission is such that it can accommodate large numbers of Black police who are wililng to carry out the mission just like white police. And we know that this is a national mission because the behavior of the cops all across the country is remarkably the same. The United States government has been deeply involved in the training of the police as well as the weaponizing and militarization of local police departments for more than 40 years. So, when people say, as they often do, as they always do, that this is a problem of training, and that better training would somehow get rid of the bad apples, the one or two percent, as they like to say, of the police force that behaves this way because they’re racist, well, they’re just plain wrong. The mass murder that police commit against Black people in the streets is the direct result of training that’s been supervised, paid for and directed by the federal government for the last 40 years. That’s the problem. That’s the mission. The mission is the problem. NOOR: In your opinion, then, are there any police reforms that are worth supporting or even looking into? FORD: Well, we hear over and over again about this amorphous thing called community policing. And as we look into what community policing is, it appears to be whatever the police in any jurisdiction say it is. The federal government, through its justice department, is always talking about community policing, but when they direct their words to police officers what they emphasize is gaining the confidence of enough people in the community so that there can be more intelligence provided to the police by the community. And this is meant and accepted by the police as a program that increases the number of snitches [laughs] in the Black community, that makes the police job easier because it has more informants in the community. Well, that’s not about empowering the community, and it’s certainly not about changing the mission of the police, which is the cause of all of these bodies lying around. NOOR: Okay. And then, is it even worth looking into community control of the police, then? FORD: It’s worth looking into what the community wants the police to do. Community policing is not going to be an invention imposed upon the community by the police at the local, state or the federal level. If you see any kind of policing scheme emanating from those sources, they are schemes that are directed at controlling, containing, terrorizing and criminalizing Black folks, because that is the mission of the police today. So, we need to examine the mission of the police and certainly not accept any of their schemes for reforming themselves. They will just reproduce themselves in some kin of new packaging and clothing. NOOR: Thanks so much for joining us, Glen. FORD: Thank you. NOOR: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Glen Ford is a distinguished radio-show host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America's Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched Rap It Up, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded the Black Commentator in 2002 and in 2006 he launched the Black Agenda Report. Ford is also the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.