Florida Cop Encourages Black Residents To Die In Hurricane
Polk County Sheriff tweets he’ll be checking IDs and barring those with warrants from emergency shelters
You know the worst thing about white people? — aside from their food and clothing choices, and how they behave at outdoor festivals or any event with glow sticks.
The worst thing about white people is that they’ve created a not-so-secret language to mask their attitudes about people of color, so they can pretend — at least publicly — that they’re not racist.
White people are so clever they’ve even created a code word to refer to their full lexicon of racist code words. They call them “dog whistles.”
Early dog whistles included standard substitutions for the N-word — like “thug,” “hoodlum,” and whispering “nigger” quietly when nobody’s around. Modern dog whistles have become more sophisticated, and usually make reference to would-be criminals, POC protestors & activists, undocumented immigrants, and prison populations.
After the inauguration of our Orange Führer, I half expected dog whistles to disappear. I doubt many of y’all would disagree that this has been one of the most openly racist summers in recent history. White supremacists and nazis have been congregating like they’re at a non-stop Ted Nugent concert. TV networks cancelled the slave rebellion drama, Underground, and replaced it with Confederate — an “alternative-history” show about white people being more awful than they already are. And the President of the United States actually banned Muslims, and then — for good measure — ordered a million Brown kids be deported.
But despite this resurgence of unfiltered racism, dog whistles persisted. We may have even hit a new low.
This week, in the year of our Lort™ 2017, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd (that’s his real name, but if I were to make a fake name for him it would also be Grady Judd) sent out the following tweet:
There are very few things cops say that surprise me anymore, but this tweet made my blood boil.
Think about it for a second. Why would Sheriff Judd tweet this out if he truly wanted to catch these people? To keep them from seeking shelter is the ONLY answer.
For those who don’t know, Irma is a massive category 5 hurricane barreling towards Florida after decimating much of the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and St. Martin. Polk County is a county in Florida that conveniently rhymes with “pork bounty.” And their county jail is a local facility that’s currently under investigation following a recent string of inmate deaths — including one from earlier this week.
For white Americans, it seems being called racist is now worse than being responsible for someone’s actual death.
With the death toll from Hurricane Harvey still climbing, Polk County’s sheriff thought it would be a good idea to discourage residents with outstanding warrants (and by extension their children and/or guardians) from seeking shelter from Irma.
Racist dog whistles aside, this should piss off everybody.
For starters, why are we checking IDs to get out of the path of a natural-ish disaster? We’re still debating the ethics of forcing people to show IDs in order to vote. Demanding residents “provide proof of identity or face death by hurricane” sounds like a sub-plot from Game of Thrones. I‘m of the belief that a hurricane shelter probably shouldn’t have bouncers.
But when we get to the meat of Judd’s tweet, we can see that it’s also about putting Black and Brown folks in harm’s way.
Here’s how we know that this tweet, and most references to jail and warrants, are about people of color:
- Black people are disproportionately impoverished (due to systemic oppression and generational poverty stemming from slavery).
- Poor communities are more susceptible and prone to crime (because they’ve been — and continue to be — denied access to resources).
- Even when rates of crime are the same among races, Black and Brown people are more likely to be profiled and convicted (because the police and courts are inherently racist institutions).
- News outlets disproportionately depict Black criminals (because racist fear mongering is good for ratings).
- And most people in prison are Black or Brown, because all of the above.
So it stands to reason that any mainstream (read: white) reference to “criminals” and “crime” is just a socially acceptable way of discussing “negroes” and “illegals.” That doesn’t mean some white folks won’t get caught in the mix, it just means that when politicians or cops use this language they’re intentionally appealing to their white constituents with acceptable racism.
When police in this country try to justify their outrageous behavior they often resort to reminding people about the existence of child rapists.
Sheriff Judd knows he’s referring to people of color, especially since the Black incarceration rate in Polk County is nearly double that of whites. He also mentioned that they’d be checking IDs, a sure way to deter undocumented immigrants — which in Florida primarily means POC from Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and surrounding regions.
Those defending Judd’s tweet seem more upset that he’s being called out for his racism, than the fact he’s discouraging human beings from finding shelter during a hurricane. For white Americans, it seems being called racist is now worse than being responsible for someone’s actual death.
Predictably, Sheriff Judd tried to qualify his racism and general shittiness by saying his intention was to protect children from sexual predators. “We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders & predators. Period,” he wrote, “Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed.”
There are several problems with this:
- If you cram a few hundred people in a room, you’re almost guaranteed to include some sex offenders. Roughly 1 in 432 Americans are registered sex offenders, and most sexual predators don’t ever receive convictions or face registration.
- Any sexual predator in a shelter packed with frustrated evacuees and “sworn LEOs” doesn’t pose much of a threat to anyone.
- Sexual predators have no problem infiltrating American police forces, so who’s to guarantee the cops at the door aren’t the real threat?
- MOST PEOPLE WITH WARRANTS AREN’T SEXUAL PREDATORS.
When police in this country try to justify their outrageous behavior they often resort to reminding people about the existence of child rapists. It’s almost like they’re trying to invoke our worst fears so we won’t pay attention to the injustices being carried out.
Never mind that less than 10% of incarcerated people are serving time for sex related offenses — let alone child rape. Never mind that “sex related offenses” include everything from indecent exposure to sex work and solicitation. Never mind that sexual predators live in our communities every day, and maybe their humanity and existence shouldn’t be left up to a man named Grady, who once called a group of teens “hard-core thugs” for their involvement in a fight over Ramen soup.
There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.
If you agree that people with warrants or those lacking identification shouldn’t be barred from hurricane shelters, tweet (@PolkCoSheriff) or call the Polk County Sheriff’s office at (863) 298–6200 and tell them how you feel. And if you know any folks in Polk County who are being denied entry to shelters, Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc., has publicly offered limited accommodations on a first come, first serve basis. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (863) 888–0362.
Donations & reparations to the author welcome, but only if you got it like that.