Friday, June 19, 2015


Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons Sr, Myra Thompson. Victims of a terror attack while praying at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015. Peace to them & their families.


Six black women & three black men are murdered in the traditional American style (premeditatedly, by a racist white man who targeted them at their most vulnerable) & in his response US President Barack Obama says "At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries."

I wonder at what vague point in the future such a reckoning will take place, because the man who made this statement oversees (I do not use the verb accidentally) a kill list from which, every Tuesday, he & a few other men choose which extrajudicial mass murders to commit in what I suppose he believes are "non-advanced" countries. Weddings, funerals, search parties. Places of worship. Torture chambers (literally, torture chambers). Thousands of people. Hundreds of them children. (To say nothing of the brutal injuries, the deaths by grief, the conventional murders through the regular prosecution of wars, the deaths, years on, attributable to landscapes made toxic & food systems burned to ash.)

Here in the "advanced" United States, there have only been a few days this year on which police in the United States did not kill someone in their soulless work of protecting private property & serving the interests of capital. Police in the United States kill a black person every 28 hours. They killed 400 people in the first five months of this year. While cops might not commonly murder people in church, they do break into homes at night & murder black children (like Aiyana Stanley Jones & Ramarley Graham), the elderly (like Kenneth Chamberlin Sr & Kathryn Johnston), & everyone in between. But this is not the mass violence with which Barack Obama wishes to reckon. The daily killings of black people by police, their proxies, & their copycats somehow do not register as mass murder, any more than do the far away drone strikes on residents of "non-advanced" countries.

At some point we will have to reckon. But not now. No. Much as the racist flag of the Confederacy flies over the state house in South Carolina (where Dylann Roof carried out his terrorist act on Wednesday), weaponized remote-controlled aircraft emblazoned with the American flag fly over any non-advanced country in the world where the US President chooses to kill somebody. American cash & weapons flow freely to state & non-state regimes that engage in mass murder, kidnapping, torture, & rape. At some point we will have to reckon with mass violence, says its perpetrator-in-chief. By reckoning with it, he no doubt means sweep it under the rug. And thus do violence as well to language: no reckoning will take place.

The actual reckoning that we need to have is with these basic facts: that the United States was built on theft & violence. The theft of indigenous land & the theft of African labor. The de facto state-protected right of men to rape women both enslaved & "free." The attempted genocide of indigenous tribe after indigenous tribe, their forced expulsion from ancestral lands. Medical experimentation & forced sterilization. The criminalization of race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality. The incarceration of ever-increasing & historically unheard of populations of adults & children. Their forced labor. The state-sponsored kidnapping & murder of the politically inconvenient.

And the narrow exemption from all of this horror: white supremacist patriarchy.

So integral was this theft & violence to the creation of the United States that it has remained structural; theft, violence, & incarceration are definitional to the nation. You cannot have a "United States of America" absent this theft & violence. No one would recognize it.

Theft & violence. Not liberty. Not democracy. Not equality. Not justice. Not its diversity. Not its occupied landscapes. Not apple pie. The United States is its theft & violence. That's what its flag represents. That's what its political offices represent. That's certainly what its military & police represent. (And cultural manifestations like jazz & blues & hip hop - created by black people whose stolen labor built the country - are crowning achievements in the movement to liberate from, not assimilate into, a culture so irredeemably bonded to mass theft & genocidal violence.

It comes to this: we can bring an end to continued mass murders, forced labor, & the farce of civil rights applied selectively & at whim. Or we can have the United States of America. But we can't have both. And given this understanding, let those who would cast their lot with the persistence of the former reckon with the inherent evil of their allegiance to the latter.

Monday, June 08, 2015


Eric Casebolt, one of the twelve McKinney, Texas police officers who responded with force on June 5th to the apparent crime of black youth at a pool party has been suspended.

One of them. Suspended.

Many black commentators are adding "attend pool parties" to the growing list of things black people cannot do in the post-racial, post-slavery, democratic, 21st Century United States. Cannot breathe. Cannot cross the street. Cannot shop. Cannot play. Cannot walk home. Cannot be at home, sleeping.

Casebolt is seen in a video that has gone viral doing all kinds of unstable and utterly typical cop shit. He shouts expletives and threats at black children. He makes authoritative statements about "the law" that aren't actually true. He points his loaded gun at children -- children -- who pose no threat and break no law. He singularly targets people of color. These are all well-worn practices of police in the US. His violence toward a 14-year-old girl is particularly nauseating (and elucidating) in its depiction of both racial and gendered hate.

White neighborhood adults look on with approval. Fellow white cops run support. Cue CNN speculating whether race was indeed a factor.

Wait. Suspended?

This happens so often I imagine it is impossible to keep track: a cop murders or otherwise terrorizes black people (primarily, and others as well) and the police department, as a temporary stop-gap, face-saving measure, suspends that cop. Puts the cop on administrative leave. Sends the cop home to receive full pay and benefits.

This practice is really an escalation of the initial act of violence perpetrated by the police department:

1. It's a reward. In any other profession, when a person is away from the job and collecting salary and benefits, it is known as a paid vacation. This practice essentially rewards cops who murder and terrorize black people with free time and no responsibility. It communicates, to those targeted, that a "win" has taken place in the white supremacist struggle to utterly dominate and suppress black people.

2. It exacerbates the trauma. How must it feel for the targeted community to know that the cop who has just terrorized them is home, with freedom of movement and travel, with full pay, and with free time to think all the thoughts that led him or her to engage in the terror in the first place?

3. It adds economic violence to the physical violence. Paying belligerent cops to do nothing but relax and collect pay, organize their defense in the rare instances that they are prosecuted, and chat with their pals at the Fraternal Order of Police, quite literally takes resources out of the communities that cops target with their terror. Public money is placed into the hands of killer cops (who almost always have the full backing of the state for their defense anyway) and is thus not being used to address the immediate and long-term needs of those targeted, terrorized, and traumatized.

4. It's violence against language. See Orwell's 1984 or contemporary American news media for further examples. Given the frequency of police terror* (police kill a black person an average of once every 28 hours -- to say nothing of other forms of terror, and other identities targeted), public response only very rarely demands a response. A suspension soothes liberal concern trolls. When the police and the media call a reward a punishment -- a paid vacation a suspension -- it actually works its way into people's heads. Not only do some folks think punishment has been meted out, some feel the offending cop has been unfairly "victimized" with "suspension."

5. Regarding the asterisk above: the very existence of police is police terror. That's why it's not enough to disarm the police. They need to be disbanded as well.