Growing up in the Bui, the North West region of Cameroon, it was necessary to have a father, elder brother, uncle or relative who was feared or revered by the community. The reason is simple. As children, whenever there was some discord, our first reaction was to rush to any one of these authority figures. We expected from them a better sense of justice. More precisely, we expected justice to be some form of revenge.
Sadly, however, whenever relatives intervened in conflicts concerning their children it turned out that their objective was hardily to determine who was right or wrong, but rather generally to defend their sibling and impose an aura of respect for themselves and the family.
That being the case, it was a situation where power was always abused in favor of a relative irrespective of the facts. Blood relative authority figures constitute a strong fabric of the Cameroonian and African societies where education, public administration, and business are all affected by informal or non-institutional authority figures who – at will, intervene to defend their subjects and friends regardless of what the law says thereby fundamentally bending the curve of justice which of course does not render justice but rather a reduction of conflict resolution to the Hobbesian level of might makes right.
When I arrived in America, I was delighted by the justice infrastructure and Americans’ affirmation of the precept of the rule of law. But one thing remained very similar to the backward nation [cf. Trosky] where I came from; it is the unending tendency to call an authority figure who would intervene in one’s favor irrespective of the facts. In America, it is the police.
The similitude is strikingly strange and embarrassing. In almost five years in America, all the cases I have seen are often whites, sometimes Hispanics, calling the police against blacks who walk on the street, sit at a coffee shop, sleep at a school dorm, or who play in a park while barbecuing.
My observations reveal to me that white Americans see the police as being exclusively at their service. The police are not necessarily seen as being a government entity there to intervene as representatives of state power. On the contrary, police officers are seen as authority figures who are expected to identify with whiteness and who are mandated to protect white interests and who are to respond without question to the beck and call of any white person to teach none whites a lesson.
And the police, whose response confirms the emotional sympathy they have with the callers, often side with them if they are white in relation to Descendants of Slaves or Mexicans, or Asians, or….you know what I mean. And the burden of proof – of innocence, falls entirely on the accused victim…you know what I mean. Therefore, once the police are called on a none white person for sleeping at a school dorm, the police never interrogate the caller to find out if the accused is a student, if the accused is disruptive, if there are no institutional measures inside the school to handle the issue, if any law was broken. No. It becomes the fault of the one ‘innocent until proven guilty’ of ‘taking a nap’ to prove their innocence.
The failure by the accused to prove their innocence on the spot may result in the loss of their life, felony charges, disobedience, arrest, distress etc., while the one who called the police with no reasonable excuse goes free, skipping off in white supremacists la la land to call again another time and not even given a warning as one would give to a child to be careful next time when calling the police because someone could get killed.
Whites and others who believe they have social equity close to whites such as Hispanics, Asians, and Arabs take upon themselves the responsibility to call the police whenever they feel some anxiety while in the presence of Descendants of Slaves; this is the case especially when they work for white businesses or in the justice system. They know their job is to protect the white man’s assets. The police, whose role is to protect individuals and property know very well that blacks have little or no property. And since the value of the individual increases or decreases depending on the property equity he or she has, blacks become more vulnerable since they have less or no assets no protect. Yet, again, we are told that the society is not racist.
And if the police are called because someone ‘believed’ you had a gun, you risk losing your life and no one would be held responsible. The caller is always right…that’s the presumption. It appears that the police are simply an offshoot of a white supremacist society institutionalized to defend the interests of those who have created the justice system. Their role is to help maintain it while the callers play the role of informal police power extension in our neighborhoods and schools.
Thus, I am in danger. Not strictly from the police. I am in danger more particularly from my white neighbors, business operators, schoolmates or street people. All around me, I am in danger of untimely death or the certain high probability of arrest, incarceration, and humiliation.