Cultural Watch

The Ongoing Kaepernick Controversy Shows Much of White America Is Still in ‘Slave Patrol’ Mode

(COMMON DREAMS) Thom Hartmann, September 14, 2018 — Just ask any of the people at Nike who answer the phones and are dealing with an avalanche of angry white callers throwing the N-word around and complaining about Nike treating Kaepernick with respect.  Trump, Pence, and billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News are ginning up even more racist hysteria on a near-daily basis.

But this doesn’t come out of thin air.  There’s a long history of whites trashing blacks when they protest the systems whites have put in place to keep them down.

Policing people of color, which our history teaches was a “government function” handled by the southern states back in the day, was actually a largely civilian effort, although it depended on the support and constant encouragement of political leaders within government.

Policing people of color, which our history teaches was a “government function” handled by the southern states back in the day, was actually a largely civilian effort, although it depended on the support and constant encouragement of political leaders within government.

So, too, today’s largely civilian, male, and white “slave patrols” are on the lookout for anybody who may support Colin Kaepernick in his protests of police killings of unarmed black people. And those civilians, being called to arms by Trump and Pence with lies that Kaepernick doesn’t “respect” the flag or the national anthem, are flooding into the public square, from Twitter to retail stores.

At the core of modern American policing (particularly in the South), and at the creation of the Second Amendment, we find the slave patrols that were the first militia of the southern states.  They’re also essential to the modern neo-confederate and white supremacist efforts to demonize black people whenever they stand up for their rights.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, the colonial government passed laws in 1755 and 1757 that required all white men 17-47 years old to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed Militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of every slave in the state.  The law defined which counties had which armed militias, and explicitly required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, “The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search ‘all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition’ and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds.”

It’s the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained when he asks, “Why don’t they just rise up and kill the whites?”  If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.

Sally E. Hadden, in her book Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas notes that, “Although eligibility for the Militia seemed all-encompassing, not every middle-aged white male Virginian or Carolinian became a slave patroller.” There were exemptions so “men in critical professions” like judges, legislators, and wealthy white students could stay at their work.  Generally, though, she documents how most southern men – including physicians and ministers – had to serve on slave patrol in the militia at one time or another in their lives.

And slave rebellions were keeping the slave patrols busy.

By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South.  Blacks outnumbered Whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings.  As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the gun toting mostly civilian militias.

As I’ve written before, the Second Amendment was written the way it was – mentioning “state” instead of, as in its original version, “country” – to allow the southern states to keep their militias intact, and those militias were overwhelmingly slave patrols.

As a result, for the two-plus centuries since then, American police – and, in the 19th century, American slave patrollers – have largely had carte blanche to execute black men who they think are “out of line.”

via The Ongoing Kaepernick Controversy Shows Much of White America Is Still in ‘Slave Patrol’ Mode.