Dallas, Baton Rouge, and the New Level of Resistance

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by Yusef Imhotep

Dallas and Baton Rouge mark a new moment in the re-emerging Black Liberation movement, even if many activists aren’t ready to call what’s happening in the streets by that moniker.  Experts and pundits have already called both the attack in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter peaceful demonstration and the attack in Baton Rouge 3 days later senseless and unacceptable violence.  What they are is a new level of resistance. The shooters, Micah Xavier Johnson and Cosmo Setepenra (Gavin Long) were clear. They shot those police officers in retaliation for the police murders of Black people. They executed their actions in a planned, surgical, and pointed manner. This is resistance, whether one approves of the methods or not.  Community activists around the U.S. have long predicted an eventual armed group self-defense resistance because no people could continue to endure the abuse and repression U.S. Africans have endured since the height of the last sustained resistance during the Civil Rights and Black Power era. What have also been predictable are the responses to this heightened resistance: Republican politicians and conservative pundits blaming the president for endangering police with incendiary rhetoric, the president himself  characterizing the shootings as “vicious, callous, and despicable,” and cowardly, public figures placing responsibility on the Black Lives Matter movement for supposedly creating a hostile environment for police, traditional Civil Rights leadership, Black elected officials, and Black celebrities calling for peace and decrying violence “from both sides” in the face of the violent oppression of Black people, and the characterizing of Micah X. Johnson and Cosmo Setepenra as mentally unstable, disturbed individuals. All of these responses either mischaracterize or obscure the real context for Dallas and Baton Rouge. They instead offer various forms of cover and permission to pervasive police repression.

President Obama has faithfully maintained business as usual in the United States, an able operative of the sector of the ruling class that he represents.  Despite the hyperbolic rhetoric the conservative and liberal political talking points regarding the incompetence or subversion of their opposition, they are united in their commitment to business as usual, the flow of corporate money, and the extension of U.S. military and economic hegemony internationally.  President Obama, like every president before him, is the president of white America. So when the antagonistic relationship between African descendents in the U.S. and U.S. society re-emerges in one of its most spectacular forms, policing, the 2nd first Black president finds himself in an untenable position. As an African descended man of color and a lawyer, Mr. Obama is well aware of the violence that characterizes police interactions with Black people.

However, Mr. Obama is also aware of the special place police hold in the hearts of white Americans, who widely view police officers, especially white police officers, as the great defenders of civilization and the American way of life, particularly in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, both of which, philosophical non-violence notwithstanding, were and are seen as periods of lawlessness and disorder.  An impetus to discipline, punish and corral Black resistance has animated public discourse and policy on law and governance since then.  So as far back as his first term when Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates was erroneously arrested for entering his own house and Mr. Obama correctly and mildly identified the problematically poor behavior, the stupid behavior, of the police when they deal with African and Latino citizens, the conservative critics of the president have used those words to accuse him of inciting hatred and disrespect for the police.  The Civil Rights and the Black Power Movements both made it impossible to cling to the myth of U.S. innocence as they both revealed the heavy hand of the State in a contest for democratic space.  The professional conservatives refuse to see police repression of Black people for what it is.  They are committed to the lie.  It doesn’t matter what President Obama says.  His critics are a priori ready to lay blame at his feet.

What can I say of the president himself?  Because he is the primary representative of the U.S. state and the (problematic) embodiment of the American ego-ideal, he needed to say something about Dallas and Baton Rouge that would reassure Americans that he would defend the humanity and the mission of the downed police officers.  He described Micah Johnson’s actions as “vicious, callous, and despicable.”  How else could he characterize Johnson’s offensive?  He declared that there is no reason to shoot police officers following Setepenra’s attack.  He certainly wasn’t going to condone the shootings.  But the irony is thick.  These words came from the mouth of a man that maintains a kill list, approves the lethal use of drones, and has executed U.S. citizens abroad, liquidating their right to a trial by jury of their peers.  U.S. presidents are well acquainted with vicious, callous, despicable uses of violence.

The Black Lives Matter movement provides the easiest target for reactionary blame for Micah Johnson’s and Cosmo Setepenra’s actions.  Since the founding of BLM, defenders of the police and the criminal justice system have accused Black Lives Matter of making an already dangerous job even more dangerous.  This accusation simply went into overdrive.  Black Lives Matter has been disruptive, visible, articulate, resilient and resourceful over the last two years since the spontaneous and sustained resistance in Ferguson, MO, following Mike Brown’s murder.  They have kept the issue of both police and private citizen violence against Black people topical through their activism and organizing. Even as recipients of principled criticism from other Black activists engaged in a serious and independent organizing, Black Lives Matter has helped keep Black communities across the U.S. politically engaged with renewed energy.

Black Lives Matter employs non-violent direct actions like vigils, marches, die-ins, and disruptions.  One of their most recognizable memes since 2014 is the “Hands-up, don’t shoot” posture and slogan.  Black Lives Matter is decidedly non-violent. Those Black people and their non-Black allies demonstrating in the streets have not created the hostile environment.  They are responding to the hostile environment Black people endure every day, one in which Black lives so easily end at the hands of the police and private citizens without any guarantee of justice.  To do so amounts to an unforgivable sin in U.S. public discourse as it exposes the emptiness of claims to national unity.  Black protest cannot divide what was never unified.

Next, we have Representative John Lewis and the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus, Hip Hop MCs and impresarios, and most prominently several NBA superstars declaring for peace, for unity, for family and for understanding on both sides.  On the one hand, these responses gloss over the antagonistic relation between U.S. State and Civil Society forces and the U.S. African population.  U.S. society developed at the expense of African life and labor, and the society continues to benefit from an exploitative social relation through various sectors such as the prison industrial complex and finance capital in the form of high-interest payday loans and sub-prime loans.  On the other hand, these responses assume an equivalency between the national Black community and the State.  However, the State is bound by its own laws and international law to serve and protect citizens, including Black citizens.  Historically, rather than serving and protecting Black citizens and Black communities, police agencies have aggressively patrolled Black citizens and communities like they are in enemy territory.  Black communities possess none of the firepower or the institutional resources available to the state.  Nor do Black citizens have anymore obligation to be law abiding than any other citizens and residents.  The admonition from highly visible African Americans for the masses to behave better, more respectably, arises from the same false assumptions of pervasive criminality in Black communities.  The police, as agents of the state, have a higher duty to behave ethically, and when they don’t, the state has a higher duty to hold the police responsible.  The regular and routine exonerations of police officers (and private citizens) or the minimal consequences for police officers (and private citizens) after they have shot or choked and killed Black citizens, and others, have created an environment of impunity in the face of the murders of Black people.  That is exactly why the value of Black lives has been asserted.  The only threat the Black community poses to police officers is the one that haunts their imaginations and the imagination of the society at large.  That phantom of Black criminality also infiltrates the common sense of the national Black community.

Highly visible veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, Black elected officials, Black chiefs-of-police, and Black celebrities, all those who have most directly befitted from the advances gained with the limited opening of access since the Civil Rights Movement, have every reason to believe in the system.  It has rewarded them greatly.  So they try to walk a fine line, asserting the dignity and rights of Black people in the context of discrimination and racialized policing, but defending the fundamental credibility and authority of the system.  But this sector of the U.S. national Black community, the Black middle classes, the Black petty bourgeoisie, the primary beneficiaries of Affirmative Action programs after white women as a group, is upholding its part of the “new racial bribe,” the bargain with white power in the United States described by Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow.  In the face of this, the U.S. African majority, the working class, the barely working, the mass incarcerated, the priced-out, suffer deeply all the worst effects of an exploitative, parasitic and violent system.  Those folks Houston Baker, Jr. defends as the poor Black majority in Little Africas all over the U.S. require no sensitivity training to understand better the plight of the police, as Russell Simmons recently recommended in Los Angeles.  Black Lives Matter and all the formations who demonstrate under that slogan and others who offer principled criticism of BLM are to be applauded for remaining in the streets and pushing back against attempts to shut down the movement after the shootings.  By doing so, they have challenged the turn to a new old narrative of police endangerment and police bravery by keeping the focus on police misconduct and systemic racism that demonstrate the colonial relationship the U.S. maintains with the U.S. African population.

Finally, several commentators have declared, outside of their expertise, that Micah Johnson and Cosmo Setepenra (Gavin Long) clearly suffered from mental illness. Why else would they ambush the police?  They would have to be disturbed to do so, right?  Both men received their training from the U.S. military, the former from the army and the latter from the marines.  They executed their attacks in a tactical manner.  They used the element of surprise to their advantage.  They targeted armed forces.  They acted with purpose and offered rationales for their actions.  They conceived of themselves as politically informed, and engaged with a declared enemy.  They acted as militant insurgents.  From a Fanonian perspective, far from a sign of mental illness, the actions of Johnson and Setepenra manifest a turn toward mental health, a reasonable response to the violence of the white supremacist state and society and a claim to the right of group defense and group preservation.  As for those who claim the attacks were false flag operations to shift the narrative in favor of the police and further criminalize and alienate Black resistance, even if this were the case, and I for one strongly doubt that, the attacks have not been widely condemned by the grassroots, nor have the street protesters been deterred, and the example set runs a high probability of inspiring deeper resistance.  That does not mean that shootings of police will necessarily increase, but it instills a sense of consequence when the state is so unreliable.  To characterize the actions as the work of the nefarious covert state is to deny the resistance the therapeutic effects of militant group defense.  So even if one cannot condone Johnson and Setepenra on the grounds of a philosophical commitment to non-violent resistance or tactical cost-benefit analysis of armed action, they should not be characterized as disturbed.  They are certainly no more disturbed than their fellow veterans who joined U.S. police departments, nor more disturbed than the rest of us colonized bodies and minds who daily engage in self and group negating practices.

All the officers connected to the murder of Freddie Gray in Baltimore have been acquitted or had the charges dismissed, despite the official ruling of homicide.  This is why the resistance exists.  This is why, for some, the tactics of Black Lives Matter are insufficient.  This is why the resistance has intensified.  This is also why the repression will intensify.  As conversations on police and Black community relations move forward, or turn in circles, as calls for improved “race relations” continue to sound, the comments of Officer Jonathan Aledda of North Miami, Florida, should be kept at the forefront of the conversation.  Charles Kinsey, the behavioral specialist in North Miami whom Officer Aledda recently shot despite Kinsey stretching out on the ground with his hands up, asked the officer why he shot him.  Officer Aledda responded, “I don’t know.”  He doesn’t know.  He doesn’t necessarily have to know.  He did not act with reason.  He acted from thoughtless compulsion when confronted with a black body, a Black life. That should be most disturbing.



One Year to Life (Also Posted at www.BlackFood.org)

One year to life was the grossly indeterminate sentence given to George Jackson in 1960 for his conviction for the alleged theft of $70, a charge for which he maintained his innocence. His court-appointed lawyer convinced him to take a plea bargain, and Jackson spent the next 11 years in California State prison until his assassination in 1971.  Jackson was 18 at the time of his conviction.  With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the world expected the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center to be closed, but that site of human brutality exercised in the name of life and liberty’s defense remains open.  However, what is practiced at Guantanamo was learned in U.S. state and federal prisons, all of it.  In Chicago, a court last year indicted former Chicago police commander Jon Burge on charges of torture, the torture of over 100 African American men by officers under Burge’s command.  Those are the men who reported the abuse.  Prisoners at Pelican Bay and just concluded a twenty day hunger strike that spread throughout the California penal system to raise awareness of the inhuman treatment and conditions to which they are subjected.  Few U.S. Americans know of these routine practices because the treatment of prisoners in the law and order culture of United States does not merit comment in the political calculations of most politicians and mainstream media producers.  The United States locks up more than 2 million of its citizens and residents, the per capita world leading incarcerator.  African Americans make up more than half of those incarcerated.  When one adds to their numbers the number of Latinos, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders, visiting a U.S. American prison is like visiting several Third World countries, right down to the sweatshop labor.

The criminal justice system and prison industrial complex are principal sites of the stark contradictions that continue to plague U.S. society in their most obviously racialized and class manifestations, succinctly explained by Angela Y. Davis in Are Prisons Obsolete.  Beginning in the 1960s, as the Civil Rights wing of the Black Freedom Movement became codified in U.S. Law through the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act, and as the Movement evolved into various Black Power and revolutionary formations in the face of an entrenched White resistance to change, policing and criminal courts began to increase in importance as a method of repression of U.S. African communities.  Law professor Michelle Alexander in her recent book The New Jim Crow: Mass Black Incarceration in the Era of Color Blindness, describes the transition as a move from an openly racist rhetoric to, “a racially sanitized rhetoric of ‘cracking down on crime’ –rhetoric that is now used freely by politicians of every stripe.”  The post-Civil Rights Era has been, paradoxically, the era of the mass incarceration of U.S. Africans, one of several sites/moments of the routine abuse of the human rights of Black persons and Black communities in the United States.  Article Five through Article Twelve of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights directly address the criminal justice abuses suffered by U.S. African communities:

Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11. (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Thomas Ruffin of the Black August Coalition, speaking at the Black is Back Coalition Conference in January 2010, classified three areas in which the U.S. State continues its repression of the U.S. African communities: mass incarceration, the death penalty, and the question of political prisoners and prisoners of war.  To these should be added the high rate of police killings of Black people, and the under reported coverage of these issues in the mainstream press.

Ruffin explained that United States prisons currently hold more than 1 million 300 thousand U.S. African men in adult prisons and jails, federal, state and municipal.  This figure does not include imprisoned U.S. African minors and women, for several years now characterized as the imprisoned group growing at the fastest rate.  Let me here take a moment to mention the recently released Scott sisters in Mississippi.  Gladys and Jamie Scott, sentenced to life for the theft of $11, had spent the last 15 years in prison for a crime they did not commit.  The victims of the crime admitted that the Scott sisters did not rob them, and no one was injured in the crime, confessed to by three Black teenagers who were promised lighter sentences if they implicated the Scotts, a decision they have since recanted.  Mississippi continues to maintain the guilt of the Scott sisters, members of a politically active family, despite their release for “humanitarian” medical reasons, and the struggle to have them completely exonerated continues.

One out of three young Black men between the ages of 18 and 30 are in some way connected to the criminal justice and prison systems, either as an incarcerated prisoner, a parolee, or person on probation.  These men live under a regime of constant surveillance, subject to drop in visits from probation or parole officers, persons of constant interest in police investigation, often disenfranchised from the vote, and restricted in their associations.  This last point implies a severe limitation on their ability to organize for their own or their communities’ development.  It assumes these young men are forever trapped in adolescence, unable to grow beyond the risky behaviors associated with male adolescence that are usually outgrown.  In fact, U.S. Africans commit crimes at no appreciably greater rate than any other ethnic or racial community in the U.S.  Rather, in keeping with the racialized schemas concerning crime in the U.S., U.S. Africans are represented in news and entertainment media as more prone to crime, resulting in more aggressive policing of U.S. African communities and more aggressive prosecution of U.S. African defendants, primarily in the context of the now 40 year old War on Drugs.  Collectively, incarcerated U.S. Africans constitute 5 percent of the total U.S. African population, and run the gamut, according to Ruffin, from a nonagenarian sentenced to 8 years to a 13 year old child convicted as an adult.

A four-year-old child arrested for being disruptive!

As for the application of the death penalty, the U.S. Supreme Court has admitted that capital punishment in the United States, as well as other sentencing practices like the maximum-minimum sentences, has been implemented in a racist manner, based on statistical evidence presented in McCleskey v. Kemp.  The Court ruled that despite clearly identifiable racial bias, unless direct racist intent can be proven, racial bias need not be considered in sentencing or appeals.  “The Court’s answer was that racial bias would be tolerated –virtually to any degree- so long as no one admitted it,” writes Alexander.  Troy Anthony Davis, on death row in Georgia, stands as an example of the racist uses of the death penalty.  Davis has been on death row since 1991 for the murder of a white, Savannah, Georgia police officer, Mark Allen MacPhail.  Seven of the nine state witnesses against Davis have changed or recanted their testimony.  Davis has had his execution stayed by the Supreme Court three times since 2007.  Despite the Court’s rulings for a new hearing, the State of Georgia continues to aggressively pursue execution.  The race and profession of the victim, rather than the race of the defendant, matter most statistically in death penalty sentencing.  In Georgia, a Black defendant accused of killing a white victim can expect the prosecution to pursue the death penalty in 7 out of 10 such cases.  Then, of course, the U.S.’s most famous death row inmate resides in Pennsylvania, Mumia Abu Jamal.  The issues of death penalty and of political prisoners/prisoners of war converge in Jamal’s case.

The sentencing phase of Mumia Abu Jamal’s case was currently re-argued before a 3 judge panel to determine whether the death penalty can be implemented after nearly thirty years, or whether the sentence will become life without parole.  Jamal’s release, despite admitted irregularities in the original trial (I almost characterized Jamal’s first trial as racially charged.  But all cases involving U.S. Africans are racially charged, despite the races or ethnicities of the officers of the court).  The possibility of Jamal’s release has been taken off the table.  Jamal is one of many political prisoners.  The United States, unlike South Africa, has had no Truth and Reconciliation Commission – flawed as it may have been – so the complete story of the 1960s and 1970s remains untold.  Most U.S. citizens have no idea what horrors their local, state and federal government agencies wreaked upon dissidents through COINTELPRO, the Counter Intelligence Program of the FBI.  Few know of the political prisoners who are now being completely erased from memory in the new narrative of U.S. American triumphalism, the African American, Chicana/o, Puerto Rican, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and the radical white prisoners of conscience and prisoners of war now warehoused in U.S. federal and state prisons.

Efia Nwangaza

The United States, until recently, has always denied holding political prisoners.  Efia Nwangaza of the Malcolm X Center for Self determination reports that at the November 5, 2010, United Nations Universal Periodic Review process held in Geneva, Switzerland, the United States was specifically cited for the existence and treatment of political prisoners for the first time. U.S. delegation leader Michael Posner, rather than denying their existence, asked for a list of their names, which Nwangaza handed to him, along with details of their cases.  This is a slight but significant progressive development. Those prisoners identified by their supporters as political prisoners, those imprisoned during COINTELPRO activities of 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, endure incarceration under criminal charges.  The cases of seventy-five political prisoners, mostly but exclusively U.S. Africans, have been championed for several decades now.  The difficulty of breaking through a media narrative that reinforces claims to American Exceptionalism and thus remains indifferent when not hostile to the cause of U.S. African political prisoners leaves most of these prisoners suffering in obscurity and, most significantly, removed from the consciousness of the very communities with whom and for whom they have struggled for liberation.

As 2008 came to close, many in the U.S. African communities and other communities enjoyed a level of optimism associated with the election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency, despite his rather conservative views on racialized contradictions in the U.S.  Three weeks before his inauguration, Oscar Grant was murdered while lying prone on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train platform.  In July of 2009, Dr. Henry Louis Gates was arrested in his own home and then released within hours, having suffered a blow to his dignity and not much more.  President Obama characterized the arrest as stupid and commented on the historical antagonistic relationships between U.S. police agencies and communities of color.  In the subsequent news cycle, Obama was brow beaten into apologizing for his remarks, as was Gates for his behavior, and convened the infamous beer summit.  For a former professor who often speaks of teachable moments, President Obama failed to open a genuine national discussion of abusive police behavior and the role of the police in the post-Civil Rights area.  Officer Crowley never apologized for his behavior nor for wasting tax money by making a frivolous arrest.

Rivera, police victim

Since the murder of Oscar Grant, dozens more U.S. Africans have been killed or hospitalized by U.S. police agencies.  These have included Imam Luqman Abdullah of Dearborn, Michigan, accused of running guns to terrorists, but found shot in the back wearing handcuffs, James Rivera (15 years old), Tyron Lewis, Brandon McCleland, Troy Joiner, Shaquista Johnson, Deonte Rollins, James Davis, Danroy Henry, Jr., and 7 year old Aiyana Jones, killed while sleeping on her couch with her grandmother.  The police raided her home and an adjoining apartment in the kind of military operation commonly used as a policing technique.  The child was hit by the flash grenade shot into the room and shot in the neck.  The Detroit police had the wrong apartment, but they knew that. That’s why they raided both apartments, putting innocent people at risk as a matter of policy.  Consider Michelle Alexander’s description: “In countless situations in which police could easily have arrested someone a conducted a search without a military-style raid, police blast into people’s homes, typically in the middle of the night, throwing grenades, shouting, and pointing guns and rifles at anyone inside, often including young children.  In recent years, dozens of people have been killed by police in the course of these raids, including elderly grandparents and those completely who are innocent of any crime.”  Mehserle, Oscar Grants killer, has been released, convicted of manslaughter and given credit for time served.  I believe he served less time than Michael Vick served for animal cruelty.  That’s what an African life is worth in the United States.

Now it has happened again, this time in Bay View neighborhood of San Francisco Friday, July 16, less than two months after police killed a 22 year-old Black man in Miami.  19 year old Kenneth Harding, Jr. was shot while running from the police when asked to produce his ticket for the street car.  Why police officers are checking commuters for tickets rather than transit employees is a measure of the depth of the police culture in California.  The practice is not unique to San Francisco.  The police claim that Harding fired on them as he ran from them, but they still have not found the gun he allegedly fired backwards while running.  Community members on the scene deny the official story, reporting that they didn’t see any shots fired by Harding, and deeply doubt the delayed report of gunpowder residue on the victim’s hand.  Indeed, the police have continued to release different versions of the official story including a claim that Harding shot himself in the neck, which has only confirmed the community’s doubts.  Video from the scene shows the brother alive and bleeding on the ground.  Despite having incapacitated him, rather than approach to aid the wounded man, he is allowed to bleed.  The shooting took place around 5:15 pm.  The young man was pronounced dead at 7:00 pm.  The community erupted into a spontaneous demonstration of outrage for another brother shot down, soon to be faced with the San Francisco S.W.A.T.  Despite police show of force, efforts to ameliorate the community through forums with the Chief of Police Michael Suhr, and the predictable media practice of reducing the shooting victim to a criminal record, nothing unusual for young Black men in the U.S., the Bay View/Hunter’s Point community continues to pressure the San Francisco Police Department to properly investigate this case or expose their unwillingness or inability to do so.  The unnamed police shooter has been given leave with pay while the investigation continues. 

The practices described in brief above occur under a regime of malign neglect in the news media.  Project Censored listed “Katrina’s Hidden Race War” as one of its top twenty-five under reported stories of 2009, pointing out the suppression of information on white vigilante violence against Blacks as well as police misconduct.  According to the Pew Research Center’s study “Media, Race, and Obama’s First Year,” released in during the summer of 2010, “…from February 2009 to February 2010, stories defined as significantly focused on Black Americans accounted for 1.9% of all news coverage.”  The bulk of that coverage concerned Dr. Gates, Officer Crowley, and the President.  With the dearth of coverage in the mainstream media, abuse of the human rights of U.S. African persons and communities remains trapped in a discussion of rogue police officers out of control or tragic misunderstandings rather than a systemic abuse of power.  Lack of national coverage relegates these stories to local newspapers and broadcast news, undermining any momentum toward a national movement to protect the human rights of Black people and other colonized communities in the United States.

Moreover, efforts to sustain a movement to protect the U.S. African population from the abuses of the criminal justice and penal systems confront the mechanisms of the state to thwart or punish communities for daring to challenge the systems’ abuses.  In fact, mass incarceration and police containment effectively discourage community organizing and political activism, sometimes characterized as a form of counter insurgency, a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of African resistance in the post Civil Rights period.  After more than 10,000 U.S. Africans and allies marched in support of the Jena Six in Jena, Louisiana, moved to action by the ubiquity of police abuse nationally and the rallying effect of national Black radio, coverage of the activism has nearly vanished, and the national organizers shifted their energies to helping elect a centrist Black president committed to the interests of Euro-American empire.  Jordan Flaherty of Left Turn Magazine, in his report following up on the wake of the march in Jena, “Jena Justice: Drug Bust or Racist Revenge?” originally posted May 18, 2010, explains what happens to the local community when national interest has waned: “In a parish that is eighty-five percent white, the sheriff’s actions have almost exclusively targeted African Americans [in a crackdown on drug crimes].”  Flaherty’s report implicates the sheriff’s department in abuse of power, using the Drug War as a pretext to launch reprisals against the Black community for organizing support of the Jena Six and the national attention garnered.  The report also highlights the necessity to keep struggle present in the minds of people and to expose continually the stark contradictions between U.S. society and its colonized communities.  Those contradictions show most vividly in the conduct of U.S. police agencies and the judicial system.  In a society that characterizes itself as a nation of laws, those laws have not only been unable to alleviate the suffering or dispossession of those culturally and symbolically outside the society, Africans and the First Nations people, including the Chicano/Mexica people, those laws have been written, re-written and interpreted in such a way as to deepen that suffering and dispossession.  May we never fail to resist.  Venceremos!  Uhuru!

 Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press, 2010.

Ball, Jared. “Beware of Invisible Negroes!” Black Agenda Report: www.blackagendareport.com. Originally Posted August 8, 2010.

Davis, Angela Y. “The Prison Industrial Complex.” Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003.

Flaherty, Jordan. “Jena Justice: Drug Bust or Racist Revenge?” Black Agenda Report: www.blackagendareport.com. Originally Posted May 18 2010.

Jackson, George L. Blood in My Eye. Black Classic Press: Baltimore, 1990.

Ruffin, Thomas. Public Lecture on Police Containment and Mass incarceration. The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, Consolidating Conference, January 23, 2010, the Uhuru House, St. Petersburg, Florida. Viewed in real time over www.uhurunews.com feed of a http://www.Justin.tv webcast of the conference.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr

 Go to www.thejerichomovement.com to find out more about these political prisoners and others, and to find out what you can do to support them in their struggles.  Their struggles are our struggles! Solidarity Forever!