This week, I chose a piece from Abolition For The People: Mark Anthony Neal’s The Myth of the “Good Cop”: Pop Culture Helped Turn Police Officers Into Rock Stars – And Black Folks Into Criminals. You can access the piece HERE for your reading pleasure. I encourage all of you to read this text. This piece explains the term “Copaganda,” and how it was used to endear police officers to the public while justifying the brutality of Black and Brown people. This piece contains a lot of important information in it; much of what was discussed may not be new information, rather the perspective is what is eye catching for any reader. I’ll share an excerpt of the text that really captured my interest and elicited the most reflection. I hope that you learn from this text and also that my SOAPing of this text provides you with an example of how to do it. If you’d like to share your SOAPing of this text with me, email me at email@example.com. I’d love to read it and converse with you. With that said, my SOAPing of the text.
SCRIPT – Excerpt from Mark Anthony Neal’s The Myth of the “Good Cop”: Pop Culture Helped Turn Police Officers Into Rock Stars – And Black Folks Into Criminals.
“Notable about these films, including the Bad Boy franchise with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, is the way that Black officers were largely evacuated from Black life and community. Though Glover played a family man in Lethal Weapon, there was nothing inherently Black about his life. (In fact, Gibson played the role of the rogue cop.) This could also be seen in the television series NYPD Blue, where James McDaniels portrayed Lt. Arthur Fancy for the series’ first eight seasons, yet there was little attention to his life outside of the precinct. The Law and Order franchise reveals little about the backstory of numerous Black officers played by the likes of Jesse L. Martin, Anthony Anderson, and Ice-T, who has portrayed Sgt. Odafin “Fin” Tutuola for nearly 20 years. The aforementioned fictional officers exist in contrast to Boyz n the Hood’s Officer Coffey, a Black cop (played by Jessie Lawrence Ferguson) whose disdain for Black youth is palpable. Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning performance as Alonzo Harris in Training Day is yet another example of a character who is allowed to reign terror on a Black community due to the faulty logic of Black-on-Black crime and the benign neglect directed toward poor and working-class communities of color that renders those communities as complicit in their own pathologies. In such instances, it seems Blacks and others do not deserve to be protected and served. That such characters were featured in films by Black directors (John Singleton and Antoine Fuqua, respectively) doesn’t change the fact that in much of popular culture, Black officers are no longer race men at all — but, rather, stand-ins for the very anti-Black violence directed at Black communities. As a whole, these characters are complements to the purposes of copaganda, serving as examples of Black exceptionalism on the one hand while suggesting that policing is race-neutral but criminality is not.”
- Black people in the role of police officers on TV and movies are Black in skin color only; their Blackness is non-existent. Looking back on all of the cop shows and movies with Black people, very little is known of them personally and if any info of their personal life comes out, it is aracial… there is no reference to being Black in America in the context of the society in which the show is situated. Whether it is Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, or Denzel Washington, none of these characters reference the idea of being Black in America. They completely sanitize their race for the consumption of viewers to reinforce my next observation…
- Black cops on TV and movies often reinforce the notion that Black people are worthy of the treatment they receive from law enforcement. That’s opposite of the reality. Black people often (in my experiences) don’t enter law enforcement because they believe that Black people need to be punished. However, the culture of policing is not informed by Black norms, culture or traditions. Therefore, officers (like within any organization) adopt the culture of the organization in order to function and thrive within. Thus, the treatment of Black people (as currently constructed) gets adopted by Black officers – as shown on television and movies. The entertainment world has craftfully used Black people to promote and perpetuate copaganda.
- Recognize that copaganda is agenda setting and unnecessary in a just society. I’ve enjoyed watching shows such as Law and Order and movies like Bad Boys. But these shows and movies aren’t made to simply entertain. They’re also made with an agenda; that being to justify police actions. It’s not about painting officers in a positive light. As said often, there are good police officers, just like there are good teachers, businessmen/women, doctors and lawyers. They’re also bad ones, yet there is no “teacherganda,” or “lawyerganda.” We must make sure that we guard ourselves (and children) against indoctrination.
- When watching any programming, add necessary context to provide a fuller picture of what you’re consuming. Simply, be sure that you keep in mind the realities that surround “art’s” depiction of life on the big screen. This will help keep things in perspective as you watch certain portrayals and programming.
Mr. Neal, I appreciate your piece. The simplicity of the information may make it tough for some to grasp, but often time the truth hides in plain sight. I’ve touched on these themes with my students in our history classes. It is good to see a scholar remind the people of how “entertainment” is not as innocent as we like to think. Agenda setting happens in movies, television program and in other entertainment we consume and with respect to Black people, misinformation and disinformation is constantly found on television and movies. The agenda has been set against us and since before our physical sovereignty, we’ve strove to reeducate and reprogram the masses. Again, thank you for this piece and may it aid in the reprogramming of the populace.