Angela Davis on police violence
December 14, 2014 3:52 PM   Subscribe

‘There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan,” says Angela Davis. “There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.”
posted by standardasparagus (17 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
In Davis’s philosophy, this should come as no surprise; for her, the prison industrial complex is not just a racist American money-making machine, but a means to criminalise, demonise and profit from the world’s most powerless people. “I think it is important to realise that this is not just a US phenomenon, it’s a global phenomenon. The increasing shift of capital from human services, from housing, jobs, education, to profitable arenas has meant there are huge numbers of people everywhere in the world who are not able to sustain themselves. They are made surplus, and as a result they are often forced to engage in practices that are deemed criminal. And so prisons pop up all over the world, often with the assistance of private corporations who profit from these surplus populations.”

If structural racism and state violence against African-Americans, aided and abetted by global capitalism, are as rampant as Davis says, isn’t she disappointed in the failure of the US’s first African-American president to speak out when a case comes up that seems to dramatise what she is indicting? Davis smiles and recalls a conversation she had with Hall two months before his death. “We talked about the fact that people like to point to Obama as an individual and hold him responsible for the madness that has happened. Of course there are things that Obama as an individual might have done better – he might have insisted more on the closing of Guantánamo – but people who invested their hopes in him were approaching the issue of political futures in the wrong way to begin with. This was something Stuart Hall always insisted on – it’s always a collective process to change the world.”
posted by standardasparagus at 4:27 PM on December 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

Very, very smart lady. Inspiring.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:28 PM on December 14, 2014

And this is how Capitalism fails.

We need another FDR to save Capitalism from itself.
posted by localroger at 4:30 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's because of that "simply to bring one person to justice idea" that, after my initial reactions to the events, I'm kind of glad the grand juries in Ferguson and New York were such obvious travesties. A little dose of justice -- those cops going to trial, maybe even being convicted -- might have helped paper over, or let's say whiten the sepulchre of, the larger problem. (And granted, it would have been some comfort to the families involved.) People would say "justice done, back to post-racial America!"
Instead, they're still marching. I know they can't march forever, just like Occupy couldn't occupy forever, but as long as shit is fucked up and bullshit then I'd rather it be publicly and obviously so.
Also, excellent article, thanks.
posted by uosuaq at 4:45 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

I see this as the link between the torture report and Black Lives Matter as well - torture may be ineffective as an intelligence gathering mechanism, but it is demonstrably effective at changing behavior in societies where it is in practice, both among the group deploying it and the group targeted by it.

State terror aimed at minority, often black, populations is a significant American cultural tradition, one that I hate and fear and wish did not exist, but which does.

By implementing torture in the War on Terror, Bush-Cheney et al were acting to re-enable and reintegrate into the panoply of American state power this traditional element of it, which had been beaten back over the decades of 1960 to 1980 by both the Civil Rights movement and the post-Nixonian Church Report and consequently limited to local jurisdictions and to internationally attenuated deployment as in Latin America. Rumsfeld and Cheney were driven by a Nixonian daddy issue a much as W was in their crimes: Nixon's fall jeopardized the deployment of terror as a behavioral control tool both domestically and internationally.

It's no accident they called it a War on Terror. In the grandest newspeak tradition, the war exists specifically to perpeptuate and extend the power of the stated enemy, in this case, terror.

Black Lives Matter is the best hope to re-enage the successful and long-stalled process of getting this shit out into the open where we can deal with it honestly and set about making sure our society keeps state terror on its' actual never again shitlist. Which is part of the reason I try not to run my mouth on this stuff. I need to listen and follow.
posted by mwhybark at 5:07 PM on December 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

There are approximately 40 million black people in the US right now. The DOJ says that between 2003 and 2009, 4813 people died in the process of being arrested or in the custody of law enforcement, of which nearly 2800 were non-white (1529 identified as black in the report). I assume that number is a gross understatement, but even if it's in reality 10 times as many, 15000 deaths over 6 years works out to 2500 per year (.00625% of the population), which is not nearly enough to do anything about "reducing population" except in the most literal sense. Use of excessive force is a real and terrible thing, but I don't think the Illuminati are using it for population control.
posted by axiom at 5:58 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wut? Who's claiming that killing unarmed citizens is used as a form of literal "population control"?
posted by monospace at 8:30 PM on December 14, 2014

monospace, there were some deleted comments
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:41 PM on December 14, 2014

Who's claiming that killing unarmed citizens is used as a form of literal "population control"?

posted by telstar at 12:40 AM on December 15, 2014

Davis has long campaigned against prisons, regarding them as brutalising racist institutions from which, latterly, big bucks are to be made. After her speech, when she is asked why the white cops who shoot black men shouldn’t face jail, Davis stands her ground arguing that the institution of prison “only reproduces the problem it putatively solves”. Not that she has any answers about what the alternative to this prison industrial complex might be. “I don’t think there’s a predetermined answer, but I want us to think.”

Tantalizing. What alternatives could there be? I'm thinking there must be writers who have explored that idea, but I don't know where I would look.
posted by emjaybee at 7:25 AM on December 15, 2014

"Every single child 13 or 14 years old sentenced to life without parole for a nonhomicide has been a person of color." - Bryan Stevenson

Just learned about Bay Area Intifada, looks like an informative blog.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:42 PM on December 20, 2014

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