[News] The System That Failed Eric Garner and Michael Brown Cannot Be Reformed

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 4 13:18:36 EST 2014

    The System That Failed Eric Garner and Michael Brown Cannot Be

Mychal Denzel Smith 
<http://www.thenation.com/authors/mychal-denzel-smith> on December 3, 
2014 - 5:50 PM ET

That a grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for 
killing 43-year-old Eric Garner the same week that President Obama 
spending $75 million in federal money to outfit 50,000 police officers 
across the country with body cameras would seem to be hack Hollywood 
writing with neatly applied plot points. Garner's death was caught on 
video---video that the police were aware was being taken---and it still 
was not enough to indict anyone, least of all the man responsible for 
choking Garner to death, for any type of wrongdoing. It's as if this 
decision was handed to us at this time in order to get us to say, "Now 

So... now what? We can move forward with this notion that police 
officers wearing body cameras will make them more judicious in their use 
of force, but it seems pretty clear that they just don't give a fuck, 
and the court system is content to allow them to keep on not giving a 
fuck. And we'll be right back here when they don't indict the officer 
who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice 
in Cleveland.

So... now what? Not much, so long as the reverence paid to police 
officers lends itself to deference. They are not regarded as citizens 
also beholden to the law. They are an armed force charged with 
maintenance of a status quo steeped in white supremacy and 
anti-blackness. Key to the reign is the suspension of a belief in the 
rule of law. Whatever tools they require for to carry out their actual 
purpose, the public and the courts are eagerly ready to provide.

So... now what? Body cameras seem like a good idea when we think the 
issue is there isn't enough evidence with which to hold police 
accountable. They're a good idea if we think the issue is 
accountability. Other things get tossed around, like diversifying police 
forces (the NYPD is among the most diverse in the country). That sounds 
like a good idea if we think the problem is sensitivity or cultural 
miscommunication. We are thinking wrong.

We keep applying the language and framework of accountability, diversity 
and sensitivity to an issue of oppression. We are attempting to fly an 
airplane with the keys to a motorcycle. Our tools are woefully 
inadequate, and until we are ready to admit to ourselves that the police 
are an inherently oppressive force, and then use the language of 
anti-oppression and anti-racism in our analysis and solutions, it will 
not end today, as Eric Garner had hoped. The dead bodies of black folks 
will continue to line our streets and sidewalks, and they will be 
treated no better than the roadkill with whom they occupy those spaces.

Last night, at an event addressing racial profiling on the campus of 
Vassar College 
a student told their administration that putting body cameras on 
security guards was like "Band-Aids to a bullet hole." I was in 
attendance and was struck by just how literal that phrasing was. We are 
being choked and shot with impunity, and yet all that is being offered 
to us in response is a means to relive the experience over and over 
again. But we already do.

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