Long before there was a police force in America, there were sheriffs. The office of sheriff has its roots in 9th century England. According to the National Law Enforcement Museum, the early policing system was modeled after the English structure, which incorporated the watch, constables, and sheriffs (derived from the British term, “shire-reeves”) in a community-based police organization. The British system developed from “kin policing” dating back to about 900 A.D., in which law enforcement power was in the people’s hands, and they were responsible for their families or “kin.”) Early law enforcement was reactionary, rather than pre-emptive—the watch usually responded to criminal behavior only when requested by victims or witnesses.
The final scenes of the 2014 film Selma, which depicts Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for federal voting rights legislation to protect African Americans in the South, leave viewers applauding, content with our nation’s civil rights progress after witnessing a concrete example of how a protest effected meaningful national change. But what the movie doesn’t provide is an update — a scene that flashes forward almost 50 years to show how the exact rights granted to blacks who marched across Alabama in demonstration have recently been eroded by our highest court and then by states across the country.
Recently in the Texas History class I am teaching a student shared an example of how two friends would quasi reenact an enslaved, enslaver situation at the place where they work. The White person would tell the Black person “get to work” and so on.
This student followed up in an email asking my thoughts: “How do you feel about that though, specifically, making a joke out of slavery? Do you think it’s offensive, ignores the plight of the enslaved, or perhaps something I/we haven’t considered? Or is it okay, diminishing the detrimental effects on the psyche of the African Americans by satirizing it?”
I asked if I could have time to think about it and “reply” here. This student said yes, so here goes.
“Yeah, you read that headline right. Over the weekend, Eric Bolling, the host of Fox News’ Cashin’ In went to Michelle Malkin-land and justified criminal profiling of Muslims based upon the notion that sending pretty near every Japanese American on the U.S. mainland (120,000+ people) and not a few in Hawai’i to prison camps in WWII contributed to the success of the U.S. war effort. According to Bolling, “we know how to find terrorists among us: profile, profile, profile.”
Doubling down on that sentiment, panelist Jonathan Hoenig said:
…Let’s take a trip down memory lane here: the last war this country won, we put Japanese-Americans in internment camps, we dropped nuclear bombs on residential city centers. So yes, profiling would at least be a good start…
I know this view of Japanese American internment (not to mention killing at least 80,000 civilians with atomic bombs that also poisoned tens of thousands more for years afterward) is meant to drum up controversy; to lift ratings. But for the sake of those of you who, like me, have friends and family members who take the info-tainment on Fox seriously, here are a few facts to consider.
“The library at Washington University in St. Louis is building a digital repository called “Documenting Ferguson.” The collection will provide the community with a space to save the media they’ve captured since the death of Michael Brown.
The online collection is open for anyone to contribute material.The archive will accept photos, audio, video, and written stories.”