Barbershops and hair salons are a staple like bread, milk, and butter, in the Black community. They do much more than provide a service. They are a place where we can come together and discuss issues of the day without prying eyes – in short, they are a rare safe space in a White supremacist world. The war on drugs has disproportionately effected the Black community. This has manifested in higher sentences for crack than for cocaine, as well as disproportionate marijuana arrests. Though Whites actually smoke more marijuana than Blacks, 7 out of 10 marijuana arrests involve Black people. Is the issue really stemming the tide of drug addiction, or further oppressing Black communities and creating a surplus population that can be used for slave labour? Drug addicts of any race, sex, age or creed are welcome to join drug abuse treatment programs and get the help that they need.
Officers with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office raided some 40 barber shops in black and Latino neighborhoods between August and September. Rather than go through the trouble of obtaining search warrants, they tagged along with inspectors from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to enter the shops.
To hear the barbers and customers tell it, what happened next was nothing short of a nightmare.
According to the Orlando Sentinel and other news outlets, witnesses said the officers conducted SWAT-style raids on the shops, complete with police dogs and, in some cases, drawn weapons.
In some shops, barbers were forced to lie on the floor and submit to pat-down searches. Drawers and lockers were pried open with bars and a battering ram, and extensive damage was done.
Lawyers representing the barbers said that customers, including those who were in the middle of getting haircuts, were ordered out of the shop, and criminal checks were run on them.
After all that humiliation, however, only three drug-related crimes were uncovered. But dozens of barbers were arrested and jailed for minor license infractions – and, for extra fun, were driven around in police vans as they moved on to raid other black barber shops.
Keep in mind that only three barbers in the past decade have been arrested for license violations. Most get a citation and a $500 fine . (source)
Even though an investigation has been launched, it will not remove or reduce the harm that has been done. As I have always said, officer friendly is not friendly; he is a predator. When Blacks talk about the systemic power of Whiteness to unduly effect our lives, it is incidents like this that we are referring to. We have repeatedly been told how much things have changed, and how far have we come, but if Black men cannot even gather innocently in a barbershop? This tells us that we are not allowed to have any safe spaces away from the glare of Whiteness and its agenda to oppress.
Blacks are already hyper alert, because we live in a White supremacist state. It is an absolute necessity for survival, but to know that there is no area where we can let down our guard and just live, is absolutely shattering. On several occasions, I have been in conversation with Black friends, in a room filled with White people, and one can absolutely feel the hostility. Heads constantly turn to look and ears are visibly strained to hear what we are discussing, as though our tiny group is capable of overthrowing Whiteness. When we gather in a group, it is considered an insurrection, because Whiteness seeks to control every facet of our lives.
Suspicion of drug use and or sales was used as the excuse to violate the civil rights of those in the barbershop, but if you truly believe that was the agenda, then you have a lot to learn about the various ways in which Whiteness assaults us. Short of being in a room with no television, internet, radio, or newspapers/magazines, Whiteness is a force that is absolutely impossible to escape. It seeks to oppress at every opportunity and though we supposedly have rules against such behaviour, since Whiteness wrote these laws, they can and do change them on a whim. Justice is not blind and equality is something people of colour have yet to achieve, despite an African American president.