Rocket Jumping Spiders
"Did you hear what happened in Boston? In Boston, during a verbal dispute, an unarmed teenage boy was forcefully hit in the head with the butt of a weapon by local law enforcement. Word of the incident spread quickly and a large number of locals gathered in the street where the incident had happened to protest almost immediately. As the crowd grew, angry protesters shouted slogans; some business owners, fearing property damage, shut their doors. The local authorities called for uniformed backup; backup came, well armed. The assembly was deemed 'unlawful', and the crowd was ordered to disperse. The protesters began to throw dirt clods in response. In response, multiple uniformed law enforcers fired on the crowd. The first protester to die was a black man and the authorities justified the shooting by claiming that they 'feared for their lives'.
The year was 1770, the authorities were British soldiers, the protest would later be called the Boston Massacre and the first protester killed in that conflict was Crispus Attucks, a black man. A heroic American patriot and the first casualty of the American Revolution. If, while reading this story, you found yourself siding with the authorities and thinking that the protesters should have dispersed when ordered, and/or that the protesters armed with dirt and sticks deserved to be met with deadly force by armed law enforcement, be aware that you chose the side of the tyrant King George III, not the American patriots."
-Cathrine Schmid, Twitter tread
When I was growing up, a common topic of news and discussion was the moral panic over the rise of rap music kickstarted and iconized by the 1988 release of N.W.A.'s "Fuck tha Police". The ever-present cry was that impressionable children shouldn't be encouraged to be violent and belligerent, especially not towards their police officers, who stood right alongside doctors and firefighters as the protectors and heroes of their communities. Nowadays, I hold the stance that it was far more dangerous for us impressionable children to be encouraged to put police on that pedestal and view them as heroes, when the reality of their origins and their role in our society is anything but heroic.
The institution we know of today as "the police" in the United States evolved from organizations founded in the decades leading up to the Civil War, that were tasked with rounding up escaped black slaves and returning them to their owners. Following the Civil War, slavery was abolished in name, but the loopholes regarding prison labor were immediately capitalized on, eventually leading to the modern US private prison system, which the modern US police system is an integral and inseparable part of, having been built alongside it since literally before its inception. The narrative our impressionable children are given is that criminals perform crimes as a result of their own moral failing, if not outright wickedness, and cannot be pacified or reasoned with any more than a fire or illness can be - thus, the only appropriate response is to neutralize them as a hazard, and the people that put their lives on the line to do this are heroes of the same caliber as those who fight are fires and illnesses. But the more you learn about the living conditions and circumstances of large swaths of our population, particularly the racially, ethnically, or culturally marginalized, the more you come to realize that most crime is borne from desperation, not from evil intent, which makes treating then as unreasonable threats to be neutralized, rather than trying to address the cause of their desperation in the first place, not seem very heroic. And as stated in the 1981 Warren v. District of Columbia court case, it is not actually a policeman's job to protect people, only "the public at large". Police protect property, and "law & order", and the fact that many police are expected to fill quotas for arrests made lays bare that their most important purpose is their most insidious one - to keep a steady stream of free labor flowing into the lucrative 13th Amendment loophole that is our prison system.
250 years ago, when the Boston Massacre was taking place and the American Revolution was gathering steam, I'm sure a great many Americans thought the divine right of King George III was infallible (much the same way many Americans think the genius and leadership ability of multibillionaires like Jeff Bezos is infallible today) and the role of the redcoats in keeping the peace and fighting crime made them invaluable heroes in their communities. And I firmly believe that 250 years from now, people will view our police the same way we in America view the redcoats today - as the long arm of a tyrannical power whose overthrow represented a great leap forward in society's progress. And Fuck tha Police will earn a spot in elementary school history textbooks right alongside Thomas Paine's Common Sense.
Four years ago, following the murder of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests and founding of the Black Lives Matter movement, I had already developed a dismal opinion of the US police system, but the past two weeks have been perhaps the perfect encapsulation of the oft-quoted satirical headline "Man Who Thought He'd Lost All Hope Loses Last Additional Bit Of Hope [In The US Police System] He Didn't Even Know He Still Had". I am more certain than ever that the US Police system is inherently corrupt to its very foundation, and needs to be replaced, rather than simply reformed, with no one involved in the current system allowed a place in the new one. I'm done with incrementalism and I will throw the baby out with the bathwater if that's what it takes to make a country I'm actually proud to live in happen in my lifetime, much less while I'm still young enough to enjoy it.
However, if my faith in the status quo has plummeted further down than I ever thought it could go, my hope in general is higher than it has been in a very long time, because the people who share my call, the call that things need to change and they need to change now, are gaining more traction than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Cities all over the world are holding ceremonies for George Floyd while airing grievances about police brutality in their own nations. Extra Credits and various ViacomCBS channels like Nickelodeon and Comedy Central have put out content/ad spots honoring George Floyd and demanding a call to action. Pokemon and Lego have made massive donations to BLM-associated charities, with Lego even dropping advertising for their police-centric sets. And Ben & Jerry's, who have stood alongside BLM since day one, have released a spectacular article elaborating even further that things must not be allowed to continue the way they have been. This is only scratching the surface, and even if some or most of these companies may only be supporting BLM to farm goodwill for marketing purposes, the fact that supporting BLM is being seen as the marketable move is evidence enough that the tide is shifting in our favor, and the people who would frame BLM as a movement of thugs looking for an excuse to riot and loot and the police as the victims are rapidly losing ground and watching the whole world turn against them.
In my soul, I want to be on the ground. In my own city of Austin, police are firing upon protesters and even marked medical personnel attempting to help those injured. I want to be there, I want to bring food and water to protesters, to be an extra body lending that much more weight to the protest, to perhaps even be a white body that can stop a bullet that a cop would otherwise want to put into a black man. But the ongoing threat of COVID-19 has stayed my hand. My mother has a history of immunodeficiency issues, my younger sister has had so many severe hospital visits that we're not sure she can survive another one, and my current income that helps keep a roof over half my family's head requires frequent contact with both. In the absence of being there in person, the best things I can do are to donate money (which I have, $100 to a fund to provide bail for protesters), and to call out and address racist sentiments among the people who surround me, which is why I've made this page. While no one who I would consider family or friend has shown explicit racism around me, there are certain people I know who may trust the word of FOX News more than they trust the word of what is more and more looking like almost everyone else; I would like to encourage these people to meditate on which voices they should and should not trust. In addition, there is the collection of people who have come to pay attention to what i have to say for one reason or another, who I do not have the opportunity to truly know where they stand; I want to let these people know exactly where I stand and why I stand there.
Our police and prison system, in its zeal to "punish" crime (and provide a stream of free labor to for-profit prisons), has produced a nationwide force of people who discard the presumption of innocence in favor of seeing everyone as a criminal, especially the marginalized. It is a fundamentally corrupt and morally bankrupt organization that has senselessly taken the lives of George Floyd, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and countless others, and responds to any attempt to hold it accountable with incredible brutality. If good people do exist among the police, using their examples to deflect the constant crimes against humanity committed by their profession as a whole would be doing them an incredible disrespect - any genuinely good policeman would agree that the whole system needs to be reworked from the ground up, and there should be no rest for our country until true justice and total reform are a reality.