As a racial minority, it can be really hard to forget the past but sometimes it needs to be remembered to show what blacks have went through. I have a theory that something causes white police officers to be racist and biased towards blacks. As I am writing this paper, I want to be able to relate to you and there are messages in everything I say. Now, you may respond in a good way by agreeing with it or be respectful and disagree with it in a good way. Or you disagree with it and might argue or debate in a way that can offend somebody. As a theorist, I am accomplishing a lot of things. I am both an objectivist and an interpretivist and I’ll tell you why. I am an objectivist because I am trying to be unbiased and am looking for cause-and-effect relationships (Alexander, 24).
Interpretivists believe in the dramatistic pentad, which comes from Kenneth Burke’s dramatism theory. It starts with the act, which is what the person is doing. The scene is the background and the situation of what the person is doing. The agent is the person doing the action. The agency is the methods or techniques that the person uses to perform the action. The purpose is the reason why they did what they did. The scene was the slaves being brought over to work as slaves to pick cotton and other crops. They picked Africans as slaves instead of American Indians because they knew that African slaves wouldn’t fight back. In the Bible it says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well (Matthew 5:38-40)”. Determinism states that the way a person acts is caused by their genetics and the environment. This is not the case. The slavemasters’ behavior was caused by free will. They chose to do this to Africans. The slavemasters, the agents, were very religious and used the Bible, being the agency as a way to justify them on why they treated their slaves (Alexander, 24).
The passage says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him (Ephesians 6:5-9)”.
In this passage, God being the agent was telling them that the agency of slavery was a good thing. The purpose of that passage was for the slaves to obey their masters and treat them with respect and serve them as if they were serving him. There are a lot of things in the Bible, such as evil deeds, but that doesn’t mean go out and do it. It’s just showing you the consequences for those actions. When they read it, they took it out of context and gave it a new meaning, which was negative (Alexander, 24).
Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen came up with a theory called coordinated management of meaning, which means that people create their own social environment. The interactions the slaves had with the masters were brutal because they had a poor diet, weren’t allowed to read, the women slaves would be sexually abused them and were whipped for trying to escape or doing what they were supposed to do. The way the masters communicated or looked at the slaves overpowered what they said. There’s the saying, “Actions speak louder than words”. When they would speak to them in a derogative way or nonverbally communicate that the slaves were in trouble, the slaves knew what was going to happen. The slaves were communicating nonverbally that they were being oppressed. The owners communicated that they wanted the slaves to know that they were still slaves, by using the Constitution for more justification for their actions because it advocated slavery. The 1st Article, Section 2 of the Constitution, says that slaves are 3/5ths of a person, which means they’re not a whole human because of their bondage to slavery. Then Section 9, clause 1 says that Congress can’t outlaw the importation of slaves, but they might put a tax on that. They also say that they can’t ban slavery until 1808. Article 4, Section 2 says that slaves can’t leave their labor, so they can be free (ECC).
After the Civil War ended, the South was in debt and whites wanted to do something about it. White Southerners were angry at the success of former slaves. Their actions and what they said had an effect on blacks during the Jim Crow era in the 1950’s to 1960’s which promoted segregation, a form of racism. They used the Ku Klux Klan as an agency for white supremacy, which meant that blacks were inferior to whites (Alexander, 29, 30).
At this time, blacks who were the agents reacted to the opposition of whites with the agencies of radicalism, the Civil Rights Movement, and the NAACP. Unfortunately for them, the Jim Crow system couldn’t be used as an agency because of blacks gaining political power. The criminal justice system became another agency of racial distress for blacks with the police’s treatment of blacks. Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor came up with the theory of social penetration. When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech”, he used self-disclosure to share his views on racism with a mass amount of people and how to solve it. Randy Hirokawa and Dennis Gouran came up with the theory of the funtional perspective on group decision making, which focuses on group dynamics (Alexander, 38).
Activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were great decision makers. That means they had four functions. The first one was they had to examine the problem and see what’s going on. Martin Luther King saw that racism was a problem and he had to figure out how to fix it. He believed in the method of nonviolent resistance, which meant that he wouldn’t use violence to solve a problem. The second thing was he set goals for what he was going to do. The third thing was he had to look at other options they could try. If his plan to stop racism didn’t work, he had to think of other ways to approach it. The last thing was he had to weigh out the pros and cons of what he was going to do. He was also a minister and talked with his congregation about marching to Selma. He knew that he and his congregation were going to have to face the racist and brutal white police officers (Alexander, 38).
They were willing to take a stand and face the consequences marching to Selma. They got beat by the officers. Then they went to the nation’s capital and walked there calling it the “March of Washington”. There King gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”, which was about ending racism. The other main figure in this was Malcolm X, who was an advocate for the Nation of Islam. He also fought for civil rights. Both of them got assassinated. Ernest Bormann who created the symbolic convergence theory said that people have to work together as a group and “dramatize a message”. In order for them to come up with this view of racism, they had to come together and make a fantasy chain, meaning they share the same theme or beliefs about something (Alexander, 38).
In the 80’s and 90’s, police started becoming worse with the wide-range influences of pop culture. That would include the rap group, NWA, who were influential agents for police brutality because they rapped about it. They came from a bad neighborhood and used rapping as an agency to talk about what happened in their area. The purpose of the police patrolling aggressively in these urban neighborhoods was because they knew that blacks lived there and had a crime rate. Anytime they saw a young black man, they would pull him over. The 1980’s was in the midst of the “War on Drugs”. This was a drug war between drug cartels, drug dealers and anybody in the “streets”, who wanted to be involved in it. This led to a lot of arrests and heavy sentences (Chaney, 108).
The interactions between the two agents, blacks and white police officers, have psychologically affected society in a negative way. Blacks have a long history with whites from slavery to the Jim Crow era of segregation to now with police brutality being worse than it was back then. One scene started this war between these two agents. On March 3, 1991, there was a video of a black cab driver Rodney King who was the target of police officers as they pulled him over and beat him. He became one of the most important agents in the history of this “race war”. Dr. Ray Von Robertson was trying to identify with blacks when he said, “The relationship between African-American — Black — people and police has always been contentious as long as there’s been police (Arnett, 6).”
This means that blacks and police have always had a destroyed relationship from the beginning, referring to slavery, which was the first institution to police blacks. The problem is that police don’t feel guilt when they commit their actions. Blacks try to label police as the reason for evil in society, which is not true. It’s not them, it’s the way their trained. Dr. Chaney and Dr. Robertson are using identification because they are trying to find a common ground with blacks by talking about police brutality. There have been people that are concerned about fixing this issue reach out to people in the government. The police have to admit that they’re guilty and ask for forgiveness (Arnett, 6, 7).
In the past, there have been efforts by agents to think of an agency to address this issue. Writer and performer Daniel Watts got together with Tony winning producer Warren Adams and Tony nominated actor Brandon Dixon. They had their company “WalkRunFly Productions” build a black theater to address police brutality right after the death of Eric Garner. There is a legacy of black theater from poet Langston Hughes to actor Sidney Poitier, who’s done a lot of films such as, “They Call Me Mister Tibbs and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and many others. The purpose of these agents, the significant black figures and the agencies, the theater and movies was to start a conversation or get people talking about the issue (Lopez, 59, 60).
Then in order to leave the past, it is important to talk about the present, what’s happening now. Dr. Chaney, an agent, uses identification when he asks the question, “What do Rodney King’s words reveal about his world view, especially as it relates to the police, himself, and others (Chaney, 109)”? By answering this question he is identifying with blacks by giving his beliefs on this issue. The first reason is that police brutality is still a prominent issue among blacks. He has to analyze the problem. The second reason is that police departments are scrutinized often. An example of that would be the Department of Justice, which investigated over 17 police departments and overseen five cases that involved police officers since 2010, such as Houston’s police department being investigated for shooting many unarmed blacks. Third, the Rodney King should’ve been a lesson for police to stop using excessive force, but they continue to commit this injustice. Lastly, scholars have seen the rate of police brutality increase against blacks (Chaney, 109).
There have been people that are concerned about fixing this issue reaching out to people in the government. Journalist David C. Cooper wrote a letter to Obama which had a quote saying, “Nothing is more endangering to a democracy than the militarization of its local police, (Cooper, 14).” The purpose of this quote is saying that the police are starting to adopt a military like mindset and this is hurting our country. Once one police department does it, others will follow and do the same thing. It talked about looking at what these police officers are doing and acknowledging what they’re doing is wrong (Cooper, 14).
There are two factors that cause these events to happen, the first one is the police departments and the second one is the criminal justice system. The first one is that the police departments don’t train their officers correctly. Cooper is identifying with blacks when he stated that the problem is not the police officers, but it’s how they’re trained. The second one is that there are problems in the criminal justice system, such as the methods the judge uses to determine if the suspects are guilty or not. That notifies the police what they should do with the suspect if he’s guilty. Tamara F. Lawson says that blacks are defenseless against police when they are assaulted by them (Lawson, 219).
So now you know about the history between these two agents, blacks and police officers, taking place as the scene. As a society, we can learn a lot of lessons from these incidents and by looking at the news. Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and many others have been victims of the police assaults. Even though the news sensationalizes what’s going on, they tell us that there are some errors and cracks in the government, in terms of the criminal justice system. Rapper Tupac Shakur used his second verse of his song “Changes”, as an agency to tell what was going on, “I see no changes, all I see is racist faces Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races We under, I wonder what it takes to make this One better place, let’s erase the wasted Take the evil out the people, they’ll be acting right (RapGenius)”.
Tupac was not only a rapper, but a great agent for this issue because he was a philosopher. He predicted the future of society, which is what’s happening now with the police and blacks. He’s saying that we need to make changes, or else we are doomed. We need to come together as a group and make decisions on how to end racism between blacks and police officers. As an interpretivist, I want people to look at this paper and say, “Wow, everything that this guy is talking about is very insightful and he really lays out a plan. He is so educated and intelligent”. This is more than being an objectivist although I am trying to find out what the police’s objective is using their unnecessary methods and the objectives of blacks created movements such as “Black Lives Matter” (Griffin, 11-15).
It is about being an interpretivist, looking at the morals and ethics of people in a theoretical sense. Famous blogger Daniel DiPiazza, founder of Rich20Something, wrote an article about the lesson Tupac can teach about people who are struggling to become entrepreneurs. Now, this might sound unimportant but just bear with me as I convey this valuable information with you. There’s a quote that says, “Twenty years after his death, Tupac Shakur is still making music. Can someone explain how that’s possible? Seriously. He’s produced fifteen albums ― ten of them posthumously. In a period of five years from 1992-1996 he created a dozen albums, eight feature films, countless commercials, music videos and even two books of poetry (DiPiazza)”.
This showed that Tupac had a great work ethic. For his album, “All Eyez on Me”, he completed it in 2 weeks by doing 3 songs a day. I know that this article was written from a business perspective but this can be applied to any situation in life. The same way that Tupac released a bunch of albums in a short period of time and even after his death, we have to use that same approach into fixing this societal problem. DiPiazza also said in the video that we need a sense of urgency. We need to act on it because it is urgent and we have to complete the mission as if we were dying the next day or something else that’s dramatic. We never know because it might be too late (DiPiazza).
There are many theories that I have found to prove my theory. The first one was Kenneth Burke’s theory of dramatism, which talks about life being a drama. This is because of the dramatistic pentad which has the act. The act tells what the person did. The scene is similar to the act but it gives more background information on what happened. The agent is the person who did the act or carried out the task. The agency is the method or techniques that the person used to do what they did. The purpose is the reason for what the person did and the implications of it. You also have to look at the message behind it. The second theory that I found was Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen’s theory of coordinated management of meaning, which means that people create their own social environment. Blacks and police officers create their own social environment, which has a negative effect. The third theory I used was Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor’s theory of social penetration. Blacks use self-disclosure to show the stuff that they’re feeling and what they need to do about racism. The last ones I applied to my theory was Ernest Bormann who created the symbolic convergence theory said that people have to work together as a group and “dramatize a message”. In order for them to come up with this view of racism, they had to come together and make a fantasy chain, meaning they share the same theme or beliefs about something. Randy Hirokawa and Dennis Gouran came up with the theory of the functional perspective on group decision making, which focuses on group dynamics. This shows how blacks have to work together to stop police brutality. They have to think of a plan and have to weigh out the pros and cons (Griffin, 234-237).
Alexander, Michelle. “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”.
Arnett, Autumn. “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education”. 3/12/2015. p6-8.
Chaney, Cassandra ROBERTSON, Ray V. “Can We All Get Along”? Blacks’ Historical and Contemporary (In) Justice With Law Enforcement”. Western Journal of Black Studies. Summer2014. p108-122.
Cooper, David C. “A Police Chief’s Call for Reform”. Progressive. Jun2015. p14-16.
DiPiazza, Daniel. “The Surprising Lesson Tupac Can Teach Struggling Entrepreneurs”.
“Exploring Constitutional Conflicts”.
Griffin, Em. “Communication: A First Look At Communication Theory”.
Lawson, Tamara F. “POWERLESS AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY: A FELON’S STORY”. St.
Thomas Law Review. Spring2013. p218-243.
Lopez, Oscar. “How We Shoot Back”. Newsweek Global. 1/16/2015. Vol 164. Issue 2. p58-60.
RapGenius.com. 2016. http://genius.com/2pac-changes-lyrics.
Rich20Something. “TUPAC DIED AT 25. WHAT ARE YOU DOING”??!!
Rushin, Stephen. “Structural Reform Litigation In American Police Departments”.
Minnesota Law Review. Apr 2015. p1343-1422.