Barely a week after a grand jury refused to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, another case of excessive police violence has ended in the same manner, with a jury refusing to bring charges against policeman Daniel Pantaleo for putting a deadly chokehold on unarmed New Yorker Eric Garner.
Amid ongoing protests, Blackout for Human Rights, a collective of content creators and activists founded by filmmaker Ryan Coogler, is speaking out against the trend of police officers killing citizens with impunity. Following the organization’s launch with a recent retail boycott and national day of action on Black Friday, filmmaker and Blackout member Terence Nance reflects on the state of affairs and what should happen next.
I was talking to a friend about the nuances and nature of our
collective anger in response to the recent rash of state sponsored police
murders of unarmed Black Men. I told her that my anger took many forms:
retribution, depression, anxiety, worry, and a creeping fatalism fed by the
feeling that my Chi is rendered inert as a result of my participation in a
social system that wants me dead.
One iteration of my rage is a pitiful/contemplative sadness
that I feel from time to time. It is caused by a deep knowing of the fact that
state sponsored murder is, has been, and will be (till we stop it) a legal,
institutionally supported tool used by the American government to sustain white
supremacy, wealth supremacy, oligarchy, and patriarchy. It’s a sadness that comes on the heels
of what I process as a defeat as those in power have succeeded in communicating
THE MESSAGE to us, a community of marginalized people. The message is, “Obey, assimilate, accept your status
as a second class citizen, or we will kill you.” The defeat? We have completely internalized this message.
America has been saying this to us since the day it was born.
I’ve come to see these murders by the police as a sort of institutional
show of force, a scare tactic. My aforementioned fatalism is a result of the
deep knowing that this scare tactic works. To put it coarsely and in a way
culturally consistent with that ’70s Blackness, a passage from The Last Poets
“I Love Niggas.”
I love niggas, I love
Because niggas are me
And I should only love
that which is me
I love to see niggas go
Love to see niggas act
Love to see niggas make
them plays and shoot the shit
But there is one thing
about niggas I do not love
Niggas are scared of
Suspend the urge to un-align yourself or your people with the
word "nigga" and bear with me as I challenge that last line. It isn’t
that we are scared of change, or even death. It’s that we don’t want to die. Having been witness to the
success and failures of previous generations of artists, activists, race men
and women, do-gooders, church folk, teachers, and revolutionaries; having been
witness to the homeostasis of American society; having been witness to the
persistence of wealth supremacy, patriarchy, white supremacy; we have concluded
that the sacrifice is not worth it, whether that sacrifice is of our life
itself or our way of life. We got the message. Try and change things
peacefully? Bullet in the head. Violently? Same bullet, same head.
The bullets left in Mike Brown’s body were a show of force –
not warning shots, but a warning murder. The non-indictment was a show of
force. These are the patient movements of a smug dictator, aware of his cruelty
and the power of the hegemony he propagates. It’s all a show of force — a
parade of dead black bodies with which to cajole us into stasis.
The deep sadness comes from the fact that this parade of
unarmed black bodies – often in the prime of their vitality, young, at the peak
of their energy – works. In the face of their show of force we have in the
recent past been unaware and unwilling to use our collective power. We are not
willing to risk our lives, our livelihood, our comfort, in the service of
dismantling white supremacy, wealth supremacy, oligarchy, and patriarchy… quickly.
In the recent past we have been unwilling to face the
consequences of fighting back. The American government, the corporations that
fill its coffers, and the oligarchs that benefit from it all make sure we are
clear on the consequences of collective action to strip them of power,
influence, and wealth.
So what is there to do? Me and mine made a few films. We’ve
been organizing, trying to hit the corporations in their pockets, where it
hurts, and organize our own show of force.
This whole thing is much more complicated and nuanced than what
I have expressed above and this show of force is just the first of many. A
sustained effort is necessary.
The grave, sobering, unmovable reality is that WE must be
willing, en masse, to risk our comfort, our livelihood, and our lives in order
to dismantle white supremacy, wealth supremacy, oligarchy, patriarchy, and the
hyper-violent, sociopathic institutions that uphold it all… quickly.
Who is WE?
The WE must be inclusive of the most visible, wealthy,
connected and famous of us, the most impoverished, and anonymous of us, and
everyone in between.
what are WE willing to risk?
because we gotta stop this… quickly.