I wrote an essay about police violence titled “The Etiquette of Police Brutality (An Autopsy)” and published it at As It Ought to Be…there’s a certain polite way for law enforcement to enact brutality against the populace so I documented it and then deconstructed it.
Initially, I wrote this piece about a year ago in a rage about the incident detailed in the third footnote. Police beat a young man in Miami and justified it by saying he dehumanized them by the way he looked at them. Reckless eyeballing, essentially. It occurred to me then that police didn’t even need to come up with plausible excuses for being violent anymore. They could just say whatever they wanted, confident that the state would back them up. It was a very maddening and depressing revelation.
I let the essay sit for a while. It felt incomplete and angry. Anger is not a bad thing. Baldwin channeled his rage into clarifying beauty. This wasn’t clarifying beauty, though. In rereading it I realized that nearly each sentence was inspired by real events of police violence that I think about when I see my son, my nieces and nephews, my wife, my brothers, my friends, my students, strangers I pass; I think about these incidents when I walk the street; when I’m pulled over. I’m never free from thoughts of Prince Jones, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo and now Mike Brown.
I hit upon the idea of adding footnotes to each instance alluded to in the main text. The more I researched the more I found. I knew the situation was bad, but it is much worse than I thought.
There was much more I could have added, actually.
While I was revising the piece, Eric Garner was murdered in New York by police who used a chokehold on him. In between finishing the piece and submitting it for publication, police murdered Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO.
A sad truism of our society is that we are never more than a week or two from a horrible incident of police brutality.
It’s important to not forget the slain. To keep agitating for change so their lives didn’t get blasted away for nothing. I fear when Mike Brown leaves the news cycle, we’ll forget the fact that police are operating violently with impunity.
We can’t just discuss police brutality when something happens. It’s an existential threat and we should treat it like the true danger it is.
Now that we’ve seen the hyper-militarization of the police rolling out on our streets we see the direction things are going. We see that the state is willing en masse to violate our constitutional rights. We can’t turn our heads and allow ourselves to slowly be marched into a police state. It goes beyond “good” and “bad” cops. The personal disposition and friendliness of individual police officers doesn’t matter if their overall mandate is oppression in order to maintain order.
Check my piece here. Leave a comment. Share widely, please. Thanks to everyone who shared or commented and all who will share or comment.
More importantly, share other pieces. Create something around this issue and not just when there is an instance of brutality in the news. Speak up and share news articles on social networks. Videotape the police. Organize. Organize. Organize.
JUSTICE before PEACE.