Even if Antonio Martin had a gun, and this is one of those surprising times when police aren’t lying, he didn’t die because he pulled a gun and was shot in self-defense. He was extra-judicially executed, dying on the ground a long time as no ambulance was called. In a spectacle akin to lynching, his dead body was displayed for the public, including his mother and friends, for hours.
Martin might have been shot in self-defense. Maybe. But he died because he was executed without trial, he died because he didn’t have enough class and ethnic status to make his death a PR problem among those who support the police, he died because there’s a multi-billion dollar machine of state-sanctioned violence that’s ready to kill you at any moment, especially if you’re brown or poor.
Most simply, he died because the dozens of professional decision makers involved decided not to take him to the nearby hospital to be saved. He died because dozens of professional decision makers watched him die, slowly, on the cold asphalt.
The two cops killed in Bed-Sty this weekend? I publicly refused to mourn them because they were paid instruments of state-sanctioned violence who died on duty in service to our empire. That doesn’t mean I’m glad they died, or that I didn’t pray for them and their families. It just means I know what side I’m on.
Which side are you on?
Yesterday, fast food workers walked off the job in some 190 cities as part of the campaign to raise the wage in the fast food industry to $15 an hour in the United States. People of color (black, latino, native) are disproportionately represented among minimum wage workers, victims of the justice system in all its forms, and the homeless population. What might it look like if those who organize for each concern were able to coordinate and combine their efforts?
Privilege is like an overstuffed backpack on a crowded subway train. Those who carry it rarely realize that just by going about their business without paying attention, and gently turning towards one way or another, they’re actually knocking over people behind them. Educated white people carry this privilege, and sometimes knock people over, whether they know it or not. Some who know what they carry choose to be extra careful not to bulldoze. Others enjoy hefting that weight around and taking up as much space as possible.
I’ve likened privilege to a backpack that knocks people over, but looking for an image to go with this post I came across the works of Peggy McIntosh who said “White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”
Read her 1989 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”