Pitting one against the Other: Police March or Anti-Police March



The march against the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager by cops, was well underway in cities across the United States in December. Earlier in the year, there were many more such marches, that both mourned the killing of Trayvon Martin, which had taken place a year earlier, and also sought to bring attention to an epidemic of the shooting by police of innocent teenagers, all black, that is sweeping across black neighborhoods, especially in poorer areas. While one such march was going to take place in New York, right after the officer who shot Brown was exonerated, two police officers in Brooklyn were shot in their police car at point blank range by a black man and later declared dead. Chased by police, the killer shot himself in the head and was later pronounced dead.

The outrage against the killing of the cops was understandable. What was surprising was that people who spoke out against the cop killings said that the anti-police march was an abomination for it showed no respect for the tough work that police had to do in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Journalists in mainstream TV stations started repeating the mantra of “anti-police march” and rhetorically answering their own question of whether such a march conflicted with the “assassination” of the cops. A couple of days later there was a march in solidarity with the cops who were killed in the line of duty.

There are several problems with this line of thinking:

First, why should the killing of the cops obliterate the question of justice that is central to the killing by cops of unarmed black teenagers? Clearly, there is a difference between an armed man who killed the cops and the unarmed black teenagers who were being targeted and killed by the cops. And why should a march that questions the justice meted out to the Brown family be called “anti-police”? When journalists use such terms they whitewash the very essence of what the protest against police brutality is about.

Second, why is the killing of the Brooklyn cops called an “assassination,” but not the killing of the unarmed black teenagers? Do the cops’ lives have more value than that of black children?

Third, why is there immediate outrage at the killing of cops but no alarm at the killing of unarmed black kids? Why aren’t the police and government officials conducting grand funeral processions for the dead kids that they conduct for the police killed in the line of duty?

Fourth, why are journalists so keen to take the side of the police and against the question of justice central to the march against the brutal killing of unarmed kids?

Finally, why are cops using military style weapons to target children who may either be unarmed or who may be using toy weapons? (Incidentally, Toys R Us sells toy guns to kids, as part of the weapons culture that is being promoted by the NRA and its supporters). Let us not miss out government’s support of weapons corporations who market weapons globally so we can enjoy a free market of weapons along with beverages.

The cop-killing story became a security blanket for the police who could not find a way to duck the question of why so many black teens across the country are getting killed by police. We need to continue to march and expose the violence that is done by police to the poor and minorities and children and point out that while the killing of cops is tragic, the killing of the unarmed black teens by police is more than tragic: it shows the power of the State trying to eliminate what it deems unworthy. And this undermines not just democracy but the human right to exist—as a dark-colored child or young adult.


(Photo Credit: http://blacklivesmatter.tumblr.com)

Where is the boundary between solidarity and paternalism?

Where is the boundary between solidarity and paternalism?

Last week, a prominent New York Times’ columnist wrote that South Africa [a] is an adolescent going through that awkward phase; [b] lacks the maturity to develop a mature, sustained opposition, as witness the failure of Ramphele and Zille to consummate the deal and the various locations of Cyril Ramaphosa; and, most African of all, [c] is mired in something called tribalism. He did all of this in the name of caring for the `fledgling’ nation.

There’s so much wrong with the piece it’s hard to know where to begin. The author locates `opposition’ in a curiously isolated purely electoral laboratory, the location of which only he knows. Even the Democratic Alliance is unfairly treated, which is a hard trick to pull off. Somehow, the roles of Helen Zille, Lindiwe Mazibuko, Patricia de Lille, and others, especially other women, don’t qualify, unless they have someone who can pull them out of the morass of `tribalism.’ What? Somehow, Marikana never happened, and NUMSA isn’t happening. Somehow, women aren’t organizing critical interventions into State practice as well as party formations.

The week after the Times piece, the Traditional Courts Bill was killed … largely by the work of women organizing across the country. The Mail & Guardian had a long piece on prominent activists, such as Zanele Muholi, who are organizing all over the place, and not as individuals but as members and promoters of movements and organizations. Somedays, it seems there’s nothing but opposition in South Africa. Others have written, and others, especially those better placed than I, will write about those issues and more.

I want to to reflect on the scenario in which a White Man who “watches and roots for this struggling young democracy” declares that a Sub-Saharan Africa, read Black, nation and population is going through its `adolescence.”

In a period in which much of the United States fixes its gaze on the United States’ lethal agenda for Black youth, and in particular for young Black men, who’s calling whom not yet ready for prime time? As much of the United States, agonizes and struggles with the death of Jordan Davis, and behind him that of Trayvon Martin, and behind him that of … so many others, as Black parents look at their adolescent sons and daughters with love and anguish, how does anyone in the United States blithely render a majority Black population as adolescent?

But that’s precisely what happens … all the time. Those who `watch and root’ turn to dismay and despair at the drop of hat, or the refusal to drop a hat into a ring, as they use the oldest narratives of Black delayed political, read mental, development. Where is the boundary between solidarity and paternalism? Ask the `adolescent’ Black individuals and populations of the world.


(Photo Credit: Mambaonline.com)

The tragedy of Sybrina Fulton, the agony of Marissa Alexander

Sybrina Fulton

“My message to you is, please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart to say to yourself, ‘We cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child… I speak to you as Trayvon’s mother. I speak to you as a parent, and the absolutely worst telephone call you can receive as a parent is to know that your son — your son — you will never kiss again. I’m just asking you to wrap your mind around that, wrap your mind around: No prom for Trayvon. No high school graduation for Trayvon. No college for Trayvon. No grandkids coming from Trayvon, all because of a law, a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for his awful crime.”

Sybrina Fulton spoke these words yesterday.

Sybrina Fulton and Marissa Alexander face each other across a chasm of tragedy and agony, a condition known by far too many Black women in the United States, women who live under the regime of more than Stand Your Ground laws. Black women in the United States today live in an internally coherent system of racial-sexual oppression.

When Trayvon Martin was killed, and even more when his killer was released, across the country, Black families understood that Stand Your Ground was code for Understand Your Place. Understand that your place is the crossroads of your race and gender.

This lesson is being lived out today by Sybrina Fulton. Marissa Alexander is also living out that hard lesson. Marissa Alexander is a Black woman in Florida, in the same jurisdiction as Travyon Martin. She is the mother of three children. One day, in desperation at the abusiveness of her partner, she picked up a gun and shot it, once, in the air. It was a warning shot.

When she was arrested and tried, she said she was protecting herself and her children, she argued their lives were in real, present and immediate danger. She invoked Stand Your Ground. The prosecuting attorney Angela Corey, the same prosecuting attorney in the Trayvon Martin case, rejected the argument.

Many want to know why. Why does a Black woman get such different treatment? Others respond, “Hey, welcome to Florida. Welcome to America.”

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. She now `awaits her appeal.’ For Black women in the United States, the options provided by the so-called criminal justice system are simple, agony or tragedy. Those options are unacceptable. Release Marissa Alexander from prison. Relase CeCe McDonald from prison. Reject the Stand Your Ground, `Stand Your Position program. Instead, Stand Your Dignity

(Photo Credit: New York Times / Chang W. Lee ) (Image Credit: DignidadRebelde.com)

To present to the dead friend within oneself the gift of his innocence

The names. The names of places: Armadale, Marikana. The names of sectors: the garment industry. The names of those individuals whose names cannot be shared: Laura S. The names of the men: Jimmy Mubenga. The names of the women: Ishrat Jahan, Jackie Nanyonjo, Savita Halappanavar. The names of the children: Ashley Smith, Trayvon Martin.

These are but some of the names of the innocents, slaughtered by State policy and practice. These are but some of the people we have tried to describe over the last little time. These are the names of those whose tragedies have opened too many doors to the work of mourning.

We have written, others have written, to what end?

To write, to him – present to the dead friend within oneself the gift of his innocence. For him, I would have wanted to avoid, and thus spare him, the double wound of speaking of him, here and now, as one speaks of one of the living or one of the dead. In both cases, I disfigure, I wound, I put to sleep, or I kill. But whom? Him? No. Him in me? In us? In you? But what does this mean? That we remain among ourselves? This is true but still a bit too simple.”

After the silence, after the too-simple truths, what is there? If we are to present to the dead friends within oneself the gifts of their innocence, we must earn the gift. We must organize the State of peace, justice, mutuality, love. All else is … words.

And Trayvon Martin is dead.


(Photo Credit: Livemint.com/Gauri Gill)