Having grown up as a white youth, intrigued and eventually indulged in hip hop culture, I’m not a virgin to the ‘fuck the police’ mantra. This being said, as a person with little experience with police (and the little experience I have being positive) it was at first hard to understand the anger, resentment and fear that this phrase represents.
Only upon one occasion have I ever been stopped by the police. When I was in year 10, a friend and I were stopped whilst carrying a bottle of cheap newsagent’s wine and a four pack of Stella. With my only ever experience of police coming from either rap music, or the stories told by my ethnic minority friends, it’s safe to say I was bricking it. As the van encroached and the fella in the black hat wound down his window, I began to panic. My immediate response resulted in me attempting to hide four cans of lager and a bottle of wine tucked inside my trousers, behind my exceptionally skinny legs. My attempt to conceal the alcohol was not very effective to say the least. This became clear when the copper loomed nearer and questioned ‘alright lads, you having a party?’. However, the panic soon turned to confusion upon hearing the rather friendly and aproachble tone that the law enforcement officer displayed. He then proceeded to joke about how a young looking guy like me could even get the drink. And with that, our encounter drew to a close. “G’night, boys, be careful!”, were the last words of the policeman as he drove off, seemingly unfazed by the fact he had just witnessed an underage, middle class looking boy, illegally in the possession of alcohol. It wasn’t until later, once again hearing stories from my black mates about being stopped and searched for very little reason, that I realised what was meant by ‘fuck the police’. Let it also be said, my one experience may have been a fluke. A different officer may have acted drastically differently.
My favourite living rapper (and essentially one of my favourite living people) today is J.Cole. In a interview he exposed me to a particular notion – a notion I have thought on a lot on since. The notion being that all police are bad. Now by saying this I am not proposing a sweeping generalisation of people. Of course there’s good people who are police, who are in the force for genuine reasons. But living in a society as we do, where general prejudices do exist, our law enforcement and our laws replicate these prejudices. This, in itself, makes it extremely difficult for our police to be good. In the UK, if you are over the age of ten and identify with the black community, you are at least six times more likely to be stopped and searched. Just let that register. SIX TIMES more likely to be stopped and searched, because the complexion of one’s skin consists of more melanin. This is even in spite of the fact that White people have a higher percentage of both class C.. and class B.. and – yep, you guessed it – Class A drug users than Black people.
What’s hard to avoid when looking at police racism, is the frequency of fatalities of Black men at the hands of the police; in America 1,134 Black males were killed by law enforcement in 2015 alone, according to The Guardian. It’s truly sickening when you consider recent cases such as Michael Brown being shot six times with his hands up pleading “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!”, or Tamir Rice, the 12 year old black male who was shot dead for carrying a BB gun. The story gets worse (somehow) when you realise that Ohio, where young Tamir was killed, accept open carry of real guns. The simple truth is that if these were the names of white people, killed by black officers, the consequences would be very, very different. However this issue is not reserved to the U.S. . Mark Dugan was shot and killed in 2011 by police; kick starting the London riots. As well as this, there were eight other deaths of black and minority ethnic groups (BAME) members that died in the custody of UK police that year, disproportionately represented.
Another one of my favourite musicians, Akala, once said something which really opened my eyes to the prejudicial ways the police work. A song of his consists of the lyrics ‘the kids of the rich, yet they still pissed on their Coke and ketamine…, go to Glastonbury any year and you will see, yet carnival is crawling with police’, and, having been to Leeds Fest and Leeds Carnival, I can conclude with all my certainty that there are 100 times more drugs at Leeds Fest, and the only drug seemingly present at Carnival is Marijuana. From the five days I spent in the drug fuelled environment of Leeds Fest I didn’t see one police officer, yet at carnival every street corner was littered with police. In my eyes, that’s a clear demonstration of a culture which thinks ‘White is right’. Festivals are predominately White events. Carnival is a celebration of black culture.
In short, it isn’t about a police officer being a crook (or a hero for that matter). It’s about the laws that are being enforced and it’s about the subconscious prejudices the whole institution holds. This is what causes entire communities to have an anti-police culture. Until we address our prejudices as a collective, we will continue to witness a disparity in black and white incarceration rates. We will continue to see police brutality and murders in the streets and in the news. We will continue to have a disjointed, untrusting society. What we certainly will not see, any time soon, is the death of the ‘fuck the police’ mentality.