In her "How Did We Get Here" segment, Ruffin connects the anti-poverty and racism dots into a straight line pointing at police killing Black people for having harmed exactly no one.
April 18, 2021

Amber Ruffin absolutely dragged policing in this country in her "How Did We Get Here?" segment, rightly marrying together the criminalization of poverty and melanized skin as motivating factors behind cops murdering unarmed Black folks.

Ruffin seeks to find out how "cops can literally hand out death sentences to people who haven't harmed a single soul." Think that's hyperbole? Since 2015, she notes, fully one quarter of the killing of unarmed Black people have occurred during traffic stops.

"According to the Stanford Open Policing Project, Black drivers are more likely than white drivers to be pulled over, twice as likely to be searched, and three times as likely to experience the use of force," she continued. "But, here's the crazy part. White people are more likely to have something illegal in their car! And when I say something illegal, I don't mean something illegal, I don't mean a bootleg Dave Matthews CD, I mean drugs!"

Calling Kim Potter's story shadier than "Woody Allen at a Girl Scout meeting," she demands we recognize how deranged our society is that we allow a cop to pull a gun on Daunte Wright for owing money. We allow a cop to pull guns and pepper spray Lt. Coron Nazario for having a temporary license plate on his new car. We allow cities to make these things crimes, enforceable by police.

How do cities make money? From poor people. Cops are armed "debt collectors," given the power to enforce debts with guns.

"A city needs to make some money, so they attach a bunch of fines and fees to petty shit, that aren't even really crimes, like expired registration, chipped paint on your house, or even in some towns, wearing saggy pants," she informed us. "Police are encouraged to enforce these bullshit crimes, and of course, they do so mostly in poor, Black, and brown communities." If they can't pay, they get called to court, which results in more fees and fines, which they also can't pay...and the cycle gets more insurmountable. "A warrant gets put out for their arrest. Now, they're a criminal."

But hey, if they'd only obeyed the law? How? By not being poor?

"You've taken someone whose only problem was that they were too broke to keep up with the tags on their car, and turned them into a whole-ass fugitive!" she marveled. "What an insane overreaction to a small problem."

"That's like going on a mediocre first date, and at the end of it yelling, 'I WANT A DIVORCE!'"

Ruffin railed against the laws criminalizing poverty, and empowering the enforcers with guns. "You think the police have a dangerous job?!? Try being Black," she said. Police departments historically started out as slave-patrollers, as anyone who has seen Thirteenth knows. They kill Black people because it's what they sign up for. "The police are doing a bad job because it is their job to do bad."

She closes by begging the "system" to find a different way to make money. Invest in Black people. Imagine what might happen. She rightly asks, what is the worst that could happen if someone with expired tags drives away without complying? "People driving around willy-nilly with expired tags on their cars?" she asked.

"What we do with all those children whose mothers and fathers weren't killed because of broken taillights or suspended licenses? I'm sure we'd figure out something."

Maybe those children would get to hug their parents again.

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