Author Archives: Andreas Mavrogiannis

On the Labor of Abolition

#surplusrepression #acab

The NYPD slowdown is over and I find myself dreaming of a police union general strike. If the NYPD slowdown taught us anything, I think, it is that abolition demands nothing less than the radicalization of the conditions of our collective labor. The organization of the NYPD’s labor power allowed them to instantaneously enact the largest criminal justice reform in over 20 years–despite their intentions.

There is something worth thinking about here. And I think it is something important for all those interested in the project of abolition. Particularly, two things stand out: 1) the labor power behind mass incarceration 2) the relationship between labor and abolition.


The Labor of Mass Incarceration is Surplus Repression

Two NYPD officers were murdered while sitting in their patrol car in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Enraged, Patrick Lynch, the head of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, blames DeBlasio and city hall for the murders. In response, the NYPD turned its back on the mayor and organized a work slowdown, which amounted to ending broken windows policing. This slowdown forces a few characteristics of police labor to the foreground.

A) The police are an organized productive force of labor. Trying to figure out what the police produce, as a laboring body, is downright difficult. It’s not immediately clear. The ready-to-hand answers are clear: safety, order, peace. But those answers don’t hold, especially in poor black and brown neighborhoods.

Whatever the police produce, it is a different kind of productive force than the labor of the working class. The historical tension between police unions and the labor movement makes that clear. In order to tease out what police labor produces we have to look at its role in a larger political economy (even a political economy of desire). I think Marcuse’s concept of #surplusrepression is helpful in understanding the role of police labor in society. In this light, we can view police labor as the super-structural repression needed to maintain the violent dominance of the current forms of capitalism. Like its Marxist counterpart surplus labor, #surplusrepression denotes the the repression beyond what is required to produce and maintain society. While society may, according to Marcuse, demand a certain level of repression if we are to live together at all–surplus repression produces the necessary forms of discipline to socially reproduce the present forms of capitalism.

B) Police labor is part of a larger political economy of mass incarceration. I am not referring to a political economy of prison labor, non-profits, tickets, or private industries. In other words, in making this claim, I am not referring to the theoretical model of the prison industrial complex. Rather, I intend this claim on two levels.

First, police labor is essential for the criminal justice system and mass incarceration more broadly. Moreover, the labor of mass incarceration relies on a whole network of workers from probationers, to correctional officers, to police, to social workers,to lawyers,to  judges,to school cops,to non-profit staff in alternative programming, etc. Here is an excellent resource for thinking about the of labor of Mass Incarceration

Second, in the structure of neo-liberalism, the labor of mass incarceration ensures the warehousing and prison cycling of the surplus population. The police, as some recent literature indicates, are a force of capture and social disorganization in this larger picture.  Aggressive policing strategies are targeted, some using the pseudo-science of predictive policing.This plays into the broader strokes of housing and urban planning in the neoliberal city.

Money circulates in the city, carving out neighborhoods and pushing people around. People get swept up in and are swept away by these forces. Homes are created; lives are destroyed. The police play an essential role in this circulation of money, bodies, homes. I think its important that the murder of the two NYPD officers happened in Bed Stuy–a fierce battle ground of gentrification in Brooklyn at the moment. Even Spike Lee was hip to the links between gentrification and police murder in Bed Stuy in  Do the Right Thing.

A Horizon of Abolition and the Labor to get there

We should not support police unionism. Police unions across the US are conservative, reactionary, and racist. We will get nowhere supporting them or trying to reform them. Nonetheless, what the slowdown did show was the power of labor in transforming our criminal justice system, a power that will necessarily underlie any concrete movement toward abolition.

What I want to do here is to make a seemingly contradictory claim: Police unions are inherently racist and conservative, but their slowdown demonstrated how necessary labor will be to the project of abolition. Not police unions,  but labor itself.  Inasmuch we want to radicalize the process of justice in the United States, then so too will we have to radicalize the conditions of labor. Putting the labor of justice into the hands of workers who democratically determine how to align their labor with the project of justice will be the mechanism by which Abolition occurs.

Inadvertently, the misstep of the PBA in New York loosened its grip on poor black and brown people in the New York and another world quickly came into sight, just on the horizon. Granted, this horizon emerged from the PBA’s petulant attempt to show they are the key to safety in New York City. And to some extent it worked, especially when you hear the fear behind the New York Times Op-Eds Here and Here. Nonetheless, compare those racist law and order tantrums, emerging from Midtown, to what it was actually happening in Bed-Stuy where the Marshall Project conducted interviews during the slowdown:

“This is how it’s supposed to be,” he says, referring to the “quiet” he’s been sensing, the “lower volume” of cops he’s been seeing on local corners. “I’m not talking about guys getting away with nothing, I’m talking about feeling safe. The police driving up on us, because of some hearsay, and jumping out, that don’t make us feel safe. The police smelling every drink I drink, looking in my bag every time I come out the store, that don’t make me feel safe.” “This is how it’s supposed to be,” he reiterates. “We feel safe. And for once, we’re not running late – usually we always be running late because of having been hassled”

What would public safety look like if it was collectively determined by those who protect and those who are to be protected? Would it show us that safety might not mean protection? What if that very question upset and disintegrated the distinction between safety/protection, between protector/protected? How would radicalizing the conditions of labor change the nature of surplus repression, and the labor to sustain it? What world would we choose to bring about, if only we organized the labor to do it?

Linkages:

 

 

 

 

 

On the Lynching of Mike Brown and too Many Others

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#ACAB #wechargegenocide

In the wake of the failure to indict Darren Wilson there has been a week of civil unrest. This is includes, but is not limited to, blockaded highways, mass transit interruptions, buildings burned, and large mobilizations of protesters. In light of this unrest, and the knowledge produced by organic intellectuals (see report below), the following claims should be taken in earnest:

First, Mike Brown was lynched

Second, police terror in the United States is genocide.

I am not being dramatic; I’m not just trying to grab your attention. I don’t mean these claims metaphorically or rhetorically. If only I was. Rather, I mean these phrases sincerely and I think it is time for academics and philosophers to use them earnestly too. It is time for all of us to use them unapologetically and without equivocation. It is time to use them as the framework for our analyses  unapologetically and without equivocation.

Mike Brown was lynched. The fact that his murderer was an officer of the law does not work against the claim of lynching. Indeed, it the essence of the claim.

After the civil war slavery was abolished in the public realm and ushered into criminal law and punishment. We can thank the 13th amendment for that. The fallout of this sleight of hand is complex, breaking off into many different areas like the rapid forming cracks of a dropped mirror. But for the sake of clarity, let us trace one of those cracks.

It is, in some sense, a historical metonymy. The slave catcher hunts down the fugitive slave. The deputy and police officer hunts down the unemployed black freeman for convict labor. The semi-legal vigilante hunts down the black citizen to violently enforce both community mores and laws. The police occupy economically devastated neighborhoods, hunting down suspected criminals using “stop and frisk” techniques and “predictive policing models.” In all of these instances, the law has the absolute right over the life and death of the black community and wields it without fear of reprisal. This is the essence of any racist state.

The march of history does not negate what comes before. Rather, it builds on it otherwise. It iterates and moves by vicissitude. Darren Wilson’s function in the community of Ferguson is that of the slave catcher, the vigilante, and the police all at once. His murder of Mike Brown is extra-juridical because the law disavows it. Mike Brown’s murder is invisible to the law as murder and as such outside the law. The deed of his murder becomes legally erased. His murderer is freed from even the possibility of guilt of that deed. It is a second life for Wilson; it is a second death for Mike Brown.

This is not because of the particular circumstances of the case. Rather, this is true because it was a lynching. Lynching is outside of American law because it is its unacknowledged center. The law cannot put itself on trial, especially when addressing the race making violence that founds it. Everything else follows from that.

The fact that this violence has moved into the bureaucratic caverns of the criminal justice labyrinth does not make it less racist. Rather, it only demonstrates the racist nature of the criminal justice system, and the brazenness with which the institutions in the this country have embraced the logic of dehumanization.

Police terror in black and brown neighborhoods is genocide. Yes, genocide.

This claim does not originate from me. Rather, it was the basis of a report presented to the UN by the Chicago youth organization We Charge Genocide. This report centered on police brutality in Chicago. For those who do not know, Chicago is city marred by a history of redlining and police torture (Jon Burge). It is a city beset by the same rust-belt problems as St. Louis. And its segregated and economically devastated neighborhoods often act as open air prisons for those who cannot afford transit fare. Many youth I work with have barely been out of their neighborhoods, for example. It is a city where black youth protest by calling out the names of those lost to police terror. It is a city where the youth actively call for the abolition of the police.

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Here are some facts from the report they presented to the UN. In 2011 there were 25,111 youth arrests in Chicago. 77% of the youth arrested were Black. In 2012, it was 79%. Black citizens are 10 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than a White Citizen. From 2009-2013, 75.3% of all police shooting victims were black. Add to this the fact that the youth sent to the  Juvenile Temporary Detention Center for 2013 were 97% black and brown. Chicago Public Schools are 90.8% Black and Brown. This is to say nothing of the numbers of youth and adults subjected to the degradation of stop and frisk policies in poor black and brown communities.

Also from the report:

“Three police cars arrived on the scene, and police jumped out of their cars with guns drawn, and Roshad ran. Police chase Roshad through an alley onto the back porch of a house. Several people heard Roshad say, “Please don’t shoot, please don’t kill me, I don’t have a gun.” People saw him with his hands up when the police shot Roshad 5 times and killed him…[P]olice said Roshad had a gun and had pointed it at officers from the second floor of the porch. Yet people who saw it said he did not have a gun, and told police he didn’t have a gun. Furthermore, police only claimed they found a gun 3 hours after killing him. When people gathered to protest afterwards, police were cruel, violent and threatening.”

There are hundreds of “Mike Browns” a year. These lynchings occur in a context of police terror. Yes, terror. These occupations are part of a low intensity warfare against poor black and brown communities, also known as the “war on drugs.” This occupation is racially motivated and results in the extra-juridical murders of black and brown youth, many of whom experience a second death. Their names only kept by those close to them and the radical youth who revive their names in protest.

This is neither the first time the charge of genocide has been made, nor the first time it has been presented to the UN. In 1951:

“Out of the inhuman black ghettos of American cities, out of the cotton plantations of the South, comes this record of mass slayings on the basis of race, of lives deliberately warped and distorted by the willful creation of conditions making for premature death, poverty and disease.,  It is a record that calls aloud for condemnation, for an end to these terrible injustices that constitute a daily and ever-increasing violation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide…

…We shall prove that the object of this genocide, as of all genocide, is the perpetuation of economic and political power by the few through the destruction of political protest by the many.  Its method is to demoralize and divide an entire nation; its end is to increase the profits and unchallenged control by a reactionary clique.  We shall show that those responsible for this crime are not the humble but the so-called great, not the American people but their misleaders, not the convict but the robed judge, not the criminal but the police, not the spontaneous mob but organized terrorists licensed and approved by the state to incite to a Roman holiday.”

Black and Brown communities are occupied by a violent force. This occupation reduces the opportunities of their life course, employment, housing, education, their life expectancy, and sense of physical safety. It increases their chances of incarceration, forced separation from family and community (diaspora), extra-legal murder, mental illness, unemployment, involvement in child welfare agencies, and eviction.  This is not partitioned out equally. It is starkly distributed along the axis of race. It is time we called it what it is.

The lynchings and terror, which are enacted in areas of extreme segregation, are part of the project of Mass incarceration. Mass incarceration is a historical form of trauma. It is a both a repetition of the nation’s founding in the violent dehumanization of black slaves for the absolute extraction of surplus value and it is also a source of traumatizing violence in the present.  As Michelle Alexander and Angela Davis, among others, have demonstrated, Mass incarceration is the latest iteration of the new world project of racism. It is the newest form of controlling, incarcerating, and retaining the right over life and death of the Black population in the United States.

The question that emerges clearly, for me at least, is which side are you on?

Questions for my Phantom Lover: Philosophy, wherever it may be.

Does philosophy exist outside of the academy? Is it recognizable as philosophy outside of academy? Is it recognizable outside of the academy to those inside the academy?  Can philosophy be separated from the practices of academia? Is philosophy only manifested in publishing, presenting papers, scholastic citing, “rigor,” teaching, committee work? If it can be separated from the practices of the academy, does it still need the academy to legitimate it? In the eyes of the academy? Is the object or manifestation of the principles and ethics of philosophy best served when enacted within the confines of these rituals? In other words, is philosophy best served by these rituals?

Do philosophers exit outside of the academy? Are they recognizable outside of the academy? Are they recognizable outside of the academy to those inside the academy? Can philosophers be separated from the practices of academia? Are philosophers only manifested in the papers they publish, the papers they present, scholastic citing, “rigor,”  the classes they teach, committee work? If they can be separated from the practices of the academy, do they still need the academy to legitimate them? In the eyes of the academy? Is the object or manifestation of the principles and ethics of philosophers best served when enacted within the confines of these rituals? In other words, are philosophers best served by these rituals?

What happens when an academic philosopher looks for philosophy outside of the academy? What does philosophy on the outside look like? Is public philosophy the practice of academics commenting on public affairs? Or is it is shedding the heavy robes of academia and transforming public affairs? Is it some hybrid creature, homeless? When it crosses the boundary to the outside world does it merely parrot the rituals of the academy in disguise, does it radically transform, or does it die? Can it exist independently of the academy? Can it reproduce itself without the academy? As more than mere hobby? Are philosophers paid, as philosophers, outside of the academy?

Where is the Agora? Where is my phantom lover?

On the School-to-Prison Pipeline

#circulationofdomination

I want to ask the question: what is the “school-to-prison pipeline”? As often seems the case, exploring the question is not so simple. This is made all the more complicated for me, because part of my exploration is grounded in reflections* of my experiences trying to understand and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in two urban centers in the United States.

Arrival:

Its the same everyday at the school. Security controls the flow in. Everyday, my body goes the through the motions prescribed by safety protocol: Arrive. Pass through phalanx of officers. Bag in scanner. keys in tray. Submit to questioning about who I am. Explain why I am there, again. Its the same when I visit jails and prisons, which is also part of my job. It becomes normal. I accept it, over time.

Departure:

There are fights, too many from my notes. To be honest, I stopped recording all of them.The fights were not only between the youth. Everything was tense. Everyone was on edge. Some of those people on edge had handcuffs and a sense of violent authority. I’m told the control of the hallways relies on strong adult presence. A good dean just got a job at the local jail. They were looking for someone new. I was just an interloper, yet my body was riveted by that very same trauma passing between the staff, students, and police.  I was lucky. I could come and go as I pleased.

Residue:

I thought my notes were boring when I wrote them up each night. It was only looking over them a year later, that they jumped out at me as record of something quite unique and indicative. The monotonous repetition mixed with the explosions of real, bloodletting violence in small spaces wore on me as the months progressed. (Jesus, I wish I was exaggerating or being dramatic). I slept less, ate less, became numb. It drained me. I felt a growing frayed metallic hollowness.

Upon reflection, my notes point very clearly to a complex flow of trauma. There are a lot of arrows trying to capture the dynamics of an unconscious economy of the “after-affects” in my notes. The exchange of the affects are spurred by the violence wrought by neo-liberalism’s combo of criminal justice investment and social disinvestment. The violence is both vertical and horizontal. It is enforced and caused by the officers in the school. It is played out by the youth. It circulates inside the school. The hurt flows into the school from the community and then back out.  Somewhere in my notes, I scrawl: “Armor is triggered by all things great and small. It is the residue of the damage of the brutality needed to sustain neoliberal destruction and exploitation”

Excursus:

When we say school-to-prison pipeline what do we mean? Normally, its seems, the term denotes an increased presence of police, or resource officers, in schools.** The increase in police presence causes an increase in students’ contact with the criminal justice system. For example, some of the largest police forces in the country are based in schools. With the addition of police/school resource officers in schools–who are often badly trained and have no experience with youth development–an unnecessary and artificial flow is created from the school to the police station. This flow is what most people think of when they think of the term school-to-prison pipeline. This flow is real. Moreover, this flow is paired with the increased use of expulsions and suspensions, the overriding assumption being that students who are not in school will come into increased contact with the criminal justice system. It is more complicated, still.

The school-to-prison pipeline is a key driver of mass incarceration and it does so in complicated social, economic, and inter-generational ways. The forces pushing mass incarceration forward, and they are moving forward, are the same forces pushing youth into early and consistent contact with the criminal justice system.

Let’s take a conceptual / ideological angle. Zero tolerance policies and the militarization of our public schools represent the application of broken windows law enforcement to educational institutions. They have the same effect and communities and schools are worse for it. The effect of this impact has been rigorously documented in numerous studies and reports.

Quite simply, the school-to-prison pipeline names the attempt to solve youth development and educational problems with the criminal justice system. Needless to say, criminal justice policies are ill-equipped to deal with these problems given that the only tools they have operate from the schema of delinquency, crime, and risk. And moreover, one finds the implementation of these policies, more often than not, in communities already besieged by police occupation and the collateral effects of mass incarceration.

It is worth noting, that if this is what the school-to-prison pipeline names, then this is all weird. I’m serious. Sit with it for a minute. There were not always police and scanners in schools.  When we ask ourselves about the historical project of public education–the fact that our schools are militarized should be a strange, disturbing event in that project. The rote, mechanized ordering of safety was not what schools impressed on you. If the project of public education is the state’s training ground for citizenship, then this citizenship currently begins with the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system’s control over educational institutions, especially in poor black and brown communities, turns education into its opposite. It deadens, where it should liven. It solicits trauma, where it should heal. It enforces control, where it should elicit critique. This, of course, has been noted by many cultural critics and thinkers over the past few years (C.F. Giroux).

When thinking about the school-to-prison pipeline, I’ve begun thinking of Adorno and Horkheimer’s claim that liberal regimes of freedom often flip into forces of brutal domination.***  Perhaps, we shouldn’t be so surprised that the seed of irrationality in the project of public education has flourished. I think it is absolutely critical to focus a theoretical exploration of the school-to-prison pipeline beyond just the numbers of arrests in schools. Instead we need a critical examination of the entrance of concepts like safety, security, order into educational institutions. We, then, should put that into the context of increased racial and economic segregation, masculine ideals of right, and the internalization of settler mentality in the form of gentrification. Add to this, the withdraw of the welfare state and the gearing up of the Hobbesian leviathan–but only for poor black and brown people–then you can begin to explain the spread of universal reason, which might just be another name for the school-to-prison pipeline.

 

 

* I use the term reflections instead of research here. Yet, it still may raise questions about ethical research with human subjects for some. In anticipation of that, I will quickly discuss what I’ve done to alleviate those concerns. First, it is important to note that although I am trained in human subjects research ethics, in these reflections I am not taking on the role of a researcher, but rather of a journalist. Secondly, what material I will use from my experiences have been subjected to the same rigorous standards I apply elsewhere. This means, I do not discuss any vulnerable populations and I paraphrase all quotations. In terms of consent, my reflections remain on the level of the structure, architecture, and environment of the places I found myself and not on the people there. In other words, this is a mainly an examination of that environment through my subjective experience of it, which is not without its own drawbacks. Finally, I have submitted this in advance to XCphilosophy’s editorial board to ensure I’ve adhered to those standards.

** The policing of schools takes on many institutional forms. For example, some schools are staffed with community officers and are officially part of the local police department. The potential for a conflict of command is ever present in this structure. Some School officers are under the jurisdiction of the local school district–which gives rise to variations between informal security to formal police structures. Other places, have fully sworn officers in the school in a quasi-mini-station.

***I owe this thought to my partner.

On Mike Brown’s Body

#wronglife

This will not be written in a philosophical voice.

I can’t stop thinking about Mike Brown’s body: unceremoniously left in the street for hours and then subjected to multiple autopsies. I want to quickly sketch out what I see as some of the implications of Mike Brown’s body in the fallout of his murder.

As a prelude to that sketch, I want to begin with a general principle: #ACAB. In my work, which is no longer in academia, I am confronted on a daily basis with police, justice systems, and their violent attempt to control and regulate poor, black, and brown bodies. This work seems to confirm the principle of #ACAB. But, you don’t have to trust me or my recounting of empirical experience. #ACAB  because police brutality in black and brown communities is a structural problem reflecting the racist origins of the United States. Racism concerns, among many other things, the unequal distribution of resources. This unequal distribution can only be maintained by violence. In preserving this unequal distribution of resources along the axis of race, there is an unequal distribution of violence along the axis of race. Hence the police. Hence, Mike Brown and the many, many others whose words were left hanging in the air. The targeted violence of racism is structural and its particular manifestation are the police. I mention this because I think it is a necessary starting point for thinking about what Mike Brown’s body implies.

The implications I want to follow concern how racist systems of governance structure grief and knowledge. On the one hand, I’m thinking about Judith Butler’s work on whose lives/ bodies are seen as grievable by the state. Ungrievable lives are murdered by officers of the state; their bodies unceremoniously left in the street for hours. The state handles grievable lives quite differently. One the other hand, I think this moment draws our attention to how our racial order classifies what subjects are deemed as trustworthy sources of truth–and are, therefore, considered subjects. Here, I am thinking of the multiple autopsies performed on Mike Brown’s body. Each autopsy attempted to uncover the truth or falsity of violent racism on Mike Brown’s body. The body moved up the federal ladder, each rung up supposedly guaranteeing more objectivity and truth making power. Yet, these autopsies—these repeated invasions of a body not deemed grievable by the state—both disavow the structural violence of police occupation of black and brown communities and deny the validity of community knowledge about the role of state violence in these communities.

I’m sure there are many more implications. I’m sure I’ve missed some things. This murder is a condensed node, which is why it exploded as it did. But, I’d like to sit with these two implications for a while longer.

First, to the point about grief and dignity in death. A white police officer, in a state untouched by reconstruction, gives an unarmed young black man some directives. The situation escalates because #ACAB. The police officer murders the young black man. His body sits unattended for hours.

This image overlaps with a host of others.

Polyneices’ body left to rot without ceremony outside of the city to establish Creon’s rule. Eteocles can be buried and grieved, not Polyneices. Law forbids publicly grieving Polyneices. One cannot afford him the dignity of death ritual. If the state sanctioned distribution of grief is broken, death will befall you, or at least tanks and militarized police will reestablish order. This image comes to me immediately because of my training, but it may not be the most appropriate one. There are others.

Black bodies thrown overboard the slave ship without ceremony, without attempt to spare them from the fate of sharks by weighing them down. Quite simply, nothing more than the commodification of human life as a mechanism of dehumanization. One only grieves the loss of the value of the commodity, not the commodity itself. The technology of the ship establishes a global economy. The technology of the slave ship is central to this. The commodification of the human through race is the central metaphysics of capitalist economic, political, and social structure.

The broken bodies of black criminals thrown into mass graves after the private companies worked them to death. See above. Add to this, the evolving role of the criminal justice after the civil war. This image harkens the peculiar normalization of the premises of slavery in the United State’s criminal justice system.

The bodies of black men in trees–or in the wrong neighborhood wearing hoodies–subjected to a paranoid vigilante justice.

The bodies of innocent black men randomly picked up, tortured, and forced to confess to crimes they never committed by Jon Burge’s squad in Chicago because #ACAB.

The black and brown bodies crammed into detention and correctional centers, jails and prisons. Potential forced into the state of suspended animation, caught in the criminal justice mesh.

Vertigo ensues as time collapses on itself and we can oft feel the whirlwind of confusion caused  by such consistent repetitions of violence. For a state founded on human trafficking, the striation of grievable and non-grievable lives mirrors the race of those lives that created a commodity of human life and those who were commodified to establish the primary accumulation of capitalism. The lives not deemed grievable are stripped of dignity and afforded only stigma.  The state cannot recognize the value of those lives without recognizing its dehumanizing racial order. This order dictates who shall be grieved and who shall not.

Of course, this does not always work. Hence, the revolts, which are an expression of unlawful grief. It was (is) an unlawful grief not only for the body of Mike Brown, but for all of the bodies that came before him. Enough bodies for the charge of genocide to be made in earnest. Enough bodies for the charge of terrorism to be made in earnest. I agree with both counts.

Second, to the point about the autopsies and knowledge. Mike Brown’s body became subject to the truth producing institutions of governance. This plays out in what the autopsies attempt to uncover–the reconstruction of what happened through its imprint on the body. The long, tedious, discussions of shots, angles, bruises, breaks, are a fetish. Like all fetishes, they divert. “It is part of the mechanism of domination to forbid recognition of the suffering it produces.”

The truth of Ferguson does not lie in reconstructing the intention of Darren Wilson. It cannot be revealed in the abstractions of the state.

brown-autopsy

Searching for intention in Mike Brown’s broken body diverts from the structural nature of the carceral mesh and all of its violent keepers occupying black and brown communities. It diverts from the militarization of those occupying forces–militarized because racism assumes black and brown communities are more criminal and, thus, more dangerous. It diverts from the structural nature of segregation. It diverts from the historical origins of ongoing racist terrorism.

The truth of Mike Brown’s death cannot be found in the abstracted institutional reconstructions produced by the very systems of governance of which the police is a part. The mind cannot see itself. A racist system of governance cannot see the structural nature of its own racism.

Moreover, trying to locate the truth of Mike Brown’s death through the autopsy denies the truth value of the collective knowledge of these communities–a knowledge born of the terrorism of racist occupation. It devalues collective counter knowledge; it erases the dignity of being trustworthy source of knowledge and meaning making. It disavows the emotional and social fabric that ties people together in a community.

Quite simply, it gives the abstracted rationalizations of science–reconstructed from the tears in flesh, their angles, bruises, and broken bones–more epistemological weight than the collective empirical claims of a community.

There is a whole social context informing the murder that makes it immediately readable as murder to a community under the occupation of an alienating and violent police force. This context is informed not only by Mike Brown’s body, but also by many, many, other bodies. This murder is an example not only of the systematic violence of racism found in Ferguson, but also of the systematic violence against black and brown communities all over the United States.

The constant assault on Mike Brown’s body to bring the light of rationality to the truth or falsity of racism is nothing more than the violent symptom of both the enactment and the repression of structural racism. It is the violent effacement of the dignity of black and brown bodies and voices.

In the end, we are going to need a different source of law–a law not based on the metaphysics of commodity fetishism and the slave ship. It cannot be founded on the denial of the pain and humanity of some to ensure the prosperity of others. It will have to be a law secure enough to not imagine truncheons, jackboots, tanks, assault rifles, and the surplus of empire as its body. It will have to be a law born of the grief of reparations and grounded in the capacity to trust the knowledge of others so that we can set the course of collective self determination.

It will come forth from many more Fergusons.

“Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning.”