Police Brutality and Inhumanity in Service of White Convenience

Police Brutality and Inhumanity in Service of White Convenience June 22, 2018

It’s been a while since my last post, mostly because each time I sit down to speak out, I feel bombarded with so much that matters that it feels impossible to focus on one thing.

This past week alone has felt like a century. The American President first enacted a zero-tolerance immigration policy that not only declared certain asylum seekers “illegal,” but horrifically mandated the separation of children, including nursing infants, from their parents, and even defended the practice by quoting the bible. Over the course of six weeks, more than 2,300 children were taken from their parents and either placed in “tender age” detention centers or remanded into HHS custody and placed in foster care in the middle of the night in states as far away as Michigan and New York. The public outrage was real and extreme. And on Tuesday the very same American President who created and enforced and spent a good week arguing it was impossible to change the policy, tried to make a hero of himself by reversing it through an Executive Order because – lo and behold – it was entirely and near exclusively in his power to do so.

It was emotionally and physically and spiritually exhausting.

And the crisis is not remotely over: There are still 2,300 children without their parents under the supervision of a government whose President has no will or means of reuniting them.

I could leave this post here, but I won’t because that was just a review of the state of body, mind, and heart from which I begin THIS post.

On the very same day that Trump finally bent to outcry and rescinded that disastrous policy, Pittsburgh police shot and killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose, Jr.,

a teenager who just two years ago wrote a poem about his own fears of police brutality as black people are routinely gunned down by badge-wearing officers of the law.

(c) 2009 Thomas Hawk | Flickr

And in the wake of his murder, protestors have once again taken to the highways to disrupt the city and demand justice, and white folks are once again flabbergasted and confused as to why activists are choosing this particular method to spread their message.  

These white folks tend think shutting down freeways is arbitrary and ineffective, serving only to piss people off. So I thought I’d give a run-down of what’s happening here and why.

Protesting police brutality isn’t about antagonizing white people but about drawing attention to and demanding reparations for the ongoing, centuries-long institutionalized violence against black and brown bodies. 

It’s about the fact that white people are more triggered by traffic disruptions and delays than they are by the growing list of innocent, unarmed black children murdered by police officers who get to keep their guns and badges and kill again.

Interstate shutdowns in particular allude directly to an established history of states leveling black communities in order to build highways with federal funds to facilitate suburban white flight. Literally, the highways protestors now occupy in protest tore through their homes and neighborhoods, leaving Black people homeless, displaced, and without the ability to secure new housing. 

And interstate shutdowns are also about disrupting capitalism for and by and through which Black and Indigenous bodies have long been exploited for white capitalist gain. They’re about disrupting the police forces that were designed and exist not to serve and protect people but capital interests.

The reality is that white people are annoyed by Black efforts to staunch the blood flow and save a few lives because we don’t know our own history — not of separating parents and children, or of interning foreigners, or of violence and destruction of physical and relational Black communities.

White people are annoyed because we mistakenly believe everything including these protests are about us — about making our lives harder, delaying our travel, disrupting our days — when, instead, they are intrinsically about demanding justice by shining a spotlight on the means, methods, and measures of oppression against non-white people of color which predate and pervade our nation’s founding, formation, and evolution.

And it’s important to note that these conversations about Antwon Rose Jr. and the separation of children from parents at our southern border are not unrelated to each other within the context of white convenience. Everything that happens to non-white people of color is a function of and subject to the priority of white convenience, including the existence and flourishing of all non-white people.

White (in)convenience is why Black men are arrested at Starbucks for waiting on a meeting, why treaties with First Nations who protect and preserve sacred lands are ignored in order to poison the earth with toxic pipelines, and why immigrant children are detained in warehouses while white people liken the children to animals and their cages to summer camps.

So white folks, the lesson here is simple: If you cannot be bothered by injustice or moved to act on behalf of the oppressed and vulnerable simply because it is the right, moral, Christlike thing to do, but you don’t want your highways shut down and your consumer life disrupted by highway protests and Facebook outrage, learn about whose lives and communities were are are being destroyed for your convenience. 

Get out with activists, listen to and learn from their experience and expertise, and join them in their demands for critical changes. Not everyone has to join protests, but everyone must act.

Do the work of dismantling white supremacy so we can ALL live in a world where our greatest inconvenience is a traffic jam. 

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