[T]here have been many publicized instances in which whites have been victims of police brutality or even egregious acts of prosecutorial misconduct (known as “railroading”). Of course, the white victims of blatant misconduct and abuse are disproportionately poor and working class.
While black victims of police brutality obviously run the class gamut, the reality is that African-American victims of police excess are likewise disproportionately poor and working class.
According to some Sanders critics, the Sandra Bland tragedy makes clear that race is not reducible to class. ...
While there is no denying that a job did not insulate Bland from police misconduct, abuse of power, or even negligence on the part of corrections officers, it is worth considering here that the purpose of race in origin and its ongoing function today was and is to denote one’s socioeconomic status as well as one’s value as a laborer. From the start “negro” and eventually “colored” were essentially shorthand for highly exploitable laborers who, by the second third of the nineteenth century, were deemed to possess distinct, innate traits that made them uniquely suited to perform “bad jobs” — the most obvious example being slave labor.
Eventually, and this includes today, those alleged traits were also what made African Americans uniquely “qualified” for mass unemployment and incarceration. For people we might call racists, “black” and “African American” — despite changes in nomenclature — remain shorthand for “poor person” and/or “bad worker” today. Thus even in the mind of the average racist, race and class are inextricably linked.
One result of this reality is that irrespective of black people’s individual accomplishments — and this is one of the things that makes the Bland case seem especially tragic — African Americans are often treated by “less than enlightened” workers in the criminal justice system, prospective employers, supervisors, school administrators, etc. in much the same way that poor white people are: as morally disreputable, intellectually suspect, and potentially dangerous.
If one views the excesses and failures of the criminal justice system solely through the lens of race, then victims of police brutality and prosecutorial misconduct tend to be black or Latino. However, if one understands race and class are inextricably linked, then the victims of police brutality are not simply black or Latino (and Latinos outnumber blacks in federal prisons at this point) but they tend to belong to groups that lack political, economic, and social influence and power.
See also. Or, if you prefer the version with riffs: