How to take care of your mental health after the Christchurch attacks

The world was saddened and distressed to learn of the shocking Christchurch mosque attacks on Friday, which claimed the lives of 50 people and injured nearly as many. Since then we’ve heard hear...

Richard Bryant, Professor & Director of Traumatic Stress Clinic, UNSW - avatar Richard Bryant, Professor & Director of Traumatic Stress Clinic, UNSW

Christchurch attacks provide a new ethics lesson for professional media

The difference in the Christchurch attacks is that propaganda supplied by the perpetrator was available to the professional media, even as the story was breaking.Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-N...

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne - avatar Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

Autonomous transport will shape our cities' future – best get on the right path early

Cities have a choice of autonomous vehicle futures: cars or mass transit vehicles. Which one we adopt is likely to determine how people-friendly our cities are.SueBeDoo888/ShutterstockA unique opport...

Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University - avatar Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University

What parents need to know about the signs of child sexual abuse

Significant changes in your child's behaviour could signal they are being sexually abused.from shutterstock.comRecent events, including the conviction and sentencing of George Pell for sexually abusin...

Larissa Christensen, Lecturer in Criminology & Justice  |  Co-leader of the Sexual Violence and Research Prevention Unit (SVRPU), University of the Sunshine Coast - avatar Larissa Christensen, Lecturer in Criminology & Justice | Co-leader of the Sexual Violence and Research Prevention Unit (SVRPU), University of the Sunshine Coast

Curious Kids: what makes an echo?

Do you think you could make an echo at Echo Point in Katoomba?Flickr/Amanda Slater, CC BYCurious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to ...

Noel Hanna, Leading Education Professional (Physics), UNSW - avatar Noel Hanna, Leading Education Professional (Physics), UNSW

Super power: why the future of Australian capitalism is now in Greg Combet's hands

Greg Combet wants to use his super power to free business from being hostage to short-term share-price and profit measures.ShutterstockRight now Greg Combet is arguably the most powerful man in Austra...

Danny Davis, Executive Director, Australian Institute of Performance Sciences, and researcher at, La Trobe University - avatar Danny Davis, Executive Director, Australian Institute of Performance Sciences, and researcher at, La Trobe University

Slimmed-down migration program has regional focus

The government has announced a reduced annual cap on migration of 160,000 for each of the next four years, as well as measures to stream a greater proportion of migrants to regional areas and boost th...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Anxieties over livestreams can help us design better Facebook and YouTube content moderation

Livestream on Facebook isn't just a tool for sharing violence – it has many popular social and political uses. glen carrie / unsplash, CC BYAs families in Christchurch bury their loved ones foll...

Andrew Quodling, PhD candidate researching governance of social media platforms, Queensland University of Technology - avatar Andrew Quodling, PhD candidate researching governance of social media platforms, Queensland University of Technology

We did a breakthrough 'speed test' in quantum tunnelling, and here's why that's exciting

Future technologies will exploit today's advances in our understanding of the quantum world.Shutterstock/PopTika When you deal with things at the quantum scale, where things are very small, the world ...

U. Satya Sainadh, Postdoctoral researcher, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology - avatar U. Satya Sainadh, Postdoctoral researcher, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Politicians suing for defamation is usually a bad idea: here's why

There are better ways for politicians to address defamation concerns than through the courts.AAP/Ellen SmithWhen The Project host Waleed Aly began his editorial in the wake of the Christchurch massacr...

Michael Douglas, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia - avatar Michael Douglas, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia

Births, deaths and rituals: a revamped Ten Days on the Island explores Tasmania's past and present

Youth dance troupe Stompin performed their thought-provoking work Nowhere as part of this year's Ten Days on the Island.Jacob Collings, Lusy ProductionsThis year marks the tenth biennial Tasmanian Art...

Asher Warren, Lecturer, University of Tasmania - avatar Asher Warren, Lecturer, University of Tasmania

A guide for parents and teachers: what to do if your teenager watches violent footage

The world is reeling in the aftermath of the horrific shootings in Christchurch. The attack has also raised a number of side issues, including the ethics of broadcasting the live stream of the attack...

Rachael Sharman, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of the Sunshine Coast - avatar Rachael Sharman, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of the Sunshine Coast

As home care packages become big business, older people are not getting the personalised support they need

Many older Australians prefer to stay at home than enter residential aged care – but the process of securing home care is riddled with complexities.From shutterstock.comThe Royal Commission into...

Lyn Phillipson, NHMRC-ARC Dementia Development Fellow, University of Wollongong - avatar Lyn Phillipson, NHMRC-ARC Dementia Development Fellow, University of Wollongong

Two ways to fund NSW election promises as property prices crash

Previous NSW election promises were easily funded. Not so this time.ShutterstockState elections are always about spending promises, but this time not much is being said about how they will be funded.L...

Gareth Bryant, Lecturer in Political Economy, University of Sydney - avatar Gareth Bryant, Lecturer in Political Economy, University of Sydney

‘Rape Day’: A new video game glorifying sexual assault raises questions about regulation

nhungboon/ShutterstockA graphic new video game called Rape Day, set to launch in April, triggered a swift and widespread public outcry.Created by an independent developer, Rape Day is a set in a zombi...

Dr Marika Guggisberg, Research and Teaching Academic in Domestic and Family Violence, CQUniversity Australia - avatar Dr Marika Guggisberg, Research and Teaching Academic in Domestic and Family Violence, CQUniversity Australia

Curious Kids: why do we have two kidneys when we can live with only one?

Right now, your kidneys are getting rid of all things your body does not need. They do this by 'cleaning' your blood. ShutterstockCurious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you&rsqu...

Brooke Huuskes, Lecturer in Human Anatomy, Physiology Anatomy & Microbiology, La Trobe University - avatar Brooke Huuskes, Lecturer in Human Anatomy, Physiology Anatomy & Microbiology, La Trobe University

Would you like to grow old at home? Why we’re struggling to meet demand for subsidised home care

In December, more than 127,000 Australians were waiting for a home care package.From shutterstock.comThe Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is this week turning its focus to aged care ...

Michael Woods, Professor of Health Economics, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Michael Woods, Professor of Health Economics, University of Technology Sydney

We need a legally binding treaty to make plastic pollution history

The world urgently needs to move past plastic. Veronika MedunaA powerful marriage between the fossil fuel and plastic industries threatens to exacerbate the global plastic pollution crisis. The Center...

Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University - avatar Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University

White nationalism, born in the USA, is now a global terror threat

The recent massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand is the latest confirmation that white supremacy is a danger to democratic societies across the globe.Despite Pr...

Art Jipson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Dayton - avatar Art Jipson, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Dayton

Super power: why the future of Australian capitalism is now in Greg Combet's hands

Greg Combet wants to use his super power to free business from being hostage to short-term share-price and profit measures.ShutterstockRight now Greg Combet is arguably the most powerful man in Austra...

The Conversation - avatar The Conversation

Does most of your paycheck go to rent? That may be hurting your health

Families that spend more on housing may have less to spend on their health.Tero Vesalainen/shutterstock.comNew data on health across the U.S. shows that high housing costs are harming Americans’...

Jessica Owens-Young, Assistant Professor of Health Studies, American University - avatar Jessica Owens-Young, Assistant Professor of Health Studies, American University

The politics of fear: How it manipulates us to tribalism

The cruel murder of 50 people in New Zealand was another tragic reminder of how humans are capable of heartlessly killing their own kind just based on what they believe, how they worship, and what rac...

Arash Javanbakht, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University - avatar Arash Javanbakht, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University

What is the significance of Friday prayers in Islam?

Muslims praying in a Chicago mosque following the shooting in New Zealand, on Friday, March 15.AP Photo/Noreen NasirFollowing the terror attack on two New Zealand mosques last week, many Muslim commun...

Rose S. Aslan, Assistant Professor of Religion, California Lutheran University - avatar Rose S. Aslan, Assistant Professor of Religion, California Lutheran University

imageWe all want to change the world.EPA/Porter Binks

Police violence has dominated American headlines over the past year. The seemingly unaccounted-for police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson brought renewed attention and public protests to this issue; now, the decision not to charge officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner, even after he was caught on video illegally restraining him with a chokehold, has only added to these rising concerns over apparently unaccountable use of force by police officers across the country, particularly against African-Americans.

In the months since Garner’s death, authorities had feared unrest on the same scale as in Ferguson, or even worse. These worries were especially acute in light of video footage showing the officer putting the victim in an illicit chokehold while he repeatedly gasped: “I can’t breathe.”

This evidence was even more damning given the coroner’s report that the death was a homicide caused “by the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police”.

Not surprisingly, this violence has been largely linked to the persistence of racism in the US. The American news cycle has been tightly focused on the country’s racial divisions, the threat of race riots and the stark disparity in the way the white majority and the African-American minority are treated.

But tragic and racially charged though these incidents have been, they are also a golden opportunity to unite Americans behind the cause of fundamental social change – a cause that encompasses racism, but goes further too. And while no such movement is yet in the offing, the seeds of one are already starting to sprout.

Black lives matter

The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, quickly responded to Pantaleo’s non-indictment with appeals for non-violent protests, declaring: “New York City owns a proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through non-violent protest. We trust that those unhappy with today’s grand jury decision will make their views known in the same peaceful, constructive way.”

While the moderating impulse is understandable, sentiments such as these do little more than focus attention on the “threat” of “violent” blacks rather than the actual aggression and violence of the white police officers responsible for Garner’s death.

But de Blasio also managed to advance things a little, bluntly and honestly acknowledging that “centuries of racism that have brought us to this day”. That spoke to the deeper anger driving these protests, reflected in the protesters' rallying cry: “Black lives matter”.

At the heart of these words and the protests they addressed was a desire to unite the country in condemning the status quo. The emphasis was on “healing” a divided nation, while also recognising the serious need for reform at all levels of the state. As the US president, Barack Obama, said in response: “We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement.”

But crucial to the success of those efforts will be realising that this is not just a racial problem – it is a problem with authority in the US in general.

Fight the system

Undeniably, African Americans are disproportionately affected by police violence – but it also affects people of all races. Within months of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of the Ferguson police, there were two less publicised cases of excessive police violence against white suspects in the surrounding area: Joseph Jennings, who was shot 16 times outside a Kansas hardware store, and 17-year-old Bryce Masters, who ended up in a coma after a police officer tasered him when he refused to roll down his window after being stopped.

Obama echoed this need to both recognise the racial dynamic driving much of this violence while also the importance of treating it as a national not just “black” or “minority” crisis. He maintained: “The problem is not just a Ferguson problem. It’s an American problem.”

In order to address the problem, we have to confront its deeper causes, ones that certainly involve but are by no means limited to the country’s ongoing structural racism. Rising inequality and poverty, especially in the wake of the financial crisis, have done much to contribute to police brutality. These economic factors have been exacerbated by the growing domination of US politics by elites.

Framing police violence as principally a “black problem” reinforces the underlying notion that African-Americans are somehow separate from other Americans and that authoritarian crackdowns on them are reactive, not active. This plays into an established tactic of strategically highlighting racial divisions within the country to distract attention from other issues such as class polarisation and oligarchy.

Ultimately, this is a way to freeze out solidarity across race, geography and even class, leaving Americans with an identity politics of distrust and conflict.

This strategy is part of the culture of fear that has driven much of the US government’s policy for decades. From the War on Drugs to the War on Terror, chronic and growing issues of unemployment, economic insecurity and declining social welfare are channelled into anger and action against existential “enemies” – most of whom are non-white, or in some way portrayed as less than “American”.

These policy “wars” have been mounted in the service of a growing authoritarianism in contemporary America. The militarisation of the police force, for instance, reflects the government’s need to neutralise urban areas marked by often extreme poverty and violence. Instead of an attack on the economic and social causes of ghettoisation and urban blight, we’ve seen a move away from “community policing” toward what has been called: “The United Police States of America”.

To overcome this strategy, then, it must be tackled as more than just a programme of racism. What must be emphasised is the authoritarianism and deeper shared disenfranchisement that motivates the state violence we see today – a tendency that certainly includes structural racism, but which is by no means limited to it.

In the words Obama used when responding to the Eric Garner case, it must be framed as an “American problem”.

Unite against authoritarianism

The foundations for such a movement are well established and span the political spectrum. On the right, anti-authoritarian feelings have spurred the Tea Party movement to unprecedented, if chaotic, success. While Tea Partiers are primarily up in arms about public intervention in the private sector, their politics speak to an underlying fear of unaccountable state power and mass political marginalisation.

Meanwhile, on the left, the Occupy movement has been railing against the growing influence of corporations and their political handmaidens since 2011; an anti-elite politics that appeals to many of the same Americans outraged at the surveillance policies of the NSA. The authoritarianism of the police response to the Occupy protests drew unforgiving attention to just how defensive US police forces can become when power is confronted.

Unpunished incidents of police violence should be a catalyst for uniting Americans in a common cause against authoritarianism. In the US, the odds are stacked against most of the general public in favour of a privileged minority – and police forces are seen to ultimately serve to protect this unfair system more than they safeguard citizens.

What is needed is a vision of constructive change, one focused not simply on individual justice but on collective national progress. That means going beyond simply blaming law enforcement officials and instead indicting the system as a whole.

The fight against police violence should unite Americans, not divide them. Before the country can heal, it first needs to come together to cure itself.

image

Peter Bloom does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Read more http://theconversation.com/eric-garner-the-american-problem-and-a-chance-to-unite-35058