“A Man Was Lynched Yesterday,” art installation by Dread Scott on display in New York.

“A Man Was Lynched Yesterday,” art installation by Dread Scott on display in New York.

State-Sanctioned Violence

“A Man Was Lynched Yesterday,” art installation by  Dread Scott on display in New York.
“A Man Was Lynched Yesterday,” art installation by
Dread Scott on display in New York.
by Robert Jones, Jr. –

Often, when we’re discussing state violence against black people, we post memes and have analyses that highlight the disparity between how state agents treat black people and how they treat white people.

I think that we post those memes and have these analyses at the ready because we are being gaslighted by the US and its citizens, and think that presenting mounds of evidence of the bias in the way black people are regarded by the very country our ancestors were enslaved in, evidence that sometimes even shocks us, will somehow move righteous witnesses to action.

That seems logical. But I think what’s happening, instead, is a quite different logic.

First, I believe the wildly differing state interactions with black people and white people are not accidental, happenstance, the result of poor training, or carried out by “rogue” individuals acting contrary to institutional goals. Rather, when state agents treat an unarmed and compliant black person like an armed, deadly threat, and treat an armed, threatening white person like a baby with candy, it’s intentional and it’s by design.

Second, because it’s intentional and by design, appealing to those very systems and peoples who intentionally designed it and awaiting a redress of grievances, and pointing out to them the inherent unfairness and inhumanity of their characteristics, is showing them not that the goals of these systems and peoples are failing, but that they’re working precisely the way they wanted them to work.

You don’t show lynching postcards to the lynch mob and expect them to be saddened by the sight, when all they ever wanted was a keepsake from their ferocious savagery.

Third, US policing “evolved” out of the plantation system. Its purpose has always been to cage or destroy black people and protect white landowners from the loss of life and property.

These court systems are the very same that held that black people were living property, but not people, equal to the value of 3/5ths of a human being.

To expect police and police institutions, or court systems, to operate any other way, with any other goal, is to profoundly misunderstand documented history.

Fourth, black people have no accomplices or witnesses with the means, power, inclination, or motivation to end the calculated and focused state violence against us. There is no citizen, no politician, no other nation that has, thus far, made a satisfactory intervention or punitive measure with enough force that the United States has given up on its centuries-long campaign against black people.

We even had a black president and, whatever the impulses or contents of his heart, there was extremely little he could do.

There have been, however, citizens and politicians who, and nations that, have allied with the US in its efforts to incarcerate, misuse, and obliterate black people, as anti-blackness is a global resource. We have a black Supreme Court justice who slits black throats whenever he gets the chance. You understand?

Fifth, if black people already know that state violence is intentionally directed toward us, and we have seen, historically and generally, that any nonblack supporters have been, for the most part, performatively vocal and rarely, if ever, transformationally active, whom are we appealing to and hoping to enlighten with the already-known and seriously obvious information?

Are we hoping to galvanize other black people? I know that has some marginal effectiveness on the local scale. Has it happened on any scale that would be a challenge to state/national power? How isn’t the constant sharing of the evidence, including video of black death as it happens in real time, a demoralizing, traumatizing force that is perhaps doing the opposite of galvanizing us by actually incapacitating us?

Sixth, shouldn’t counterstrategies be kept out of the public domain so that they cannot be thwarted by the state or betrayed by defectors? How is social media, then, effective in the preservation of black life rather than the glorification of black death?

Seventh, and finally, the road ahead of us is bumpy, winding, and laid with traps and land mines. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to move forward. It may seem insurmountable, but we have to keep pushing toward our goal of liberation, and maybe lay a few traps and land mines of our own. If our ancestors kept rebelling under the merciless conditions of antebellum slavery, we, too, must keep rebelling until our enemies—who are the enemies to truth, justice, freedom, humanity, and the Earth itself—are vanquished.

Or we are.

Robert Jones, Jr., was born and raised in New York City. He is the creator of the social justice social media community Son of Baldwin, www.facebook.com/sonofbaldwinfb. Visit his website, Son of Baldwin, at www.sonofbaldwin.com.


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