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?
Did you talk about Ferguson with your family over Thanksgiving? I did. Like most liberals, they’re sympathetic to civil rights issues but horrified by the looting and vandalism that’s taken place in response. I navigated this with two points of argument. First, I pointed out that there’s nothing unusual about the killing of Mike Brown; the only reason it’s still in the news (and being talked about at white dinner tables) is because the community response hasn’t been entirely peaceful.
Second, I brought it close to home and asked, “When Ireland fought for independence from Britain, would you tell the people fighting for freedom to follow the rules of the game laid down by their conquerors?” I added that in centuries recently passed, whenever Irish tenants attacked a landlord or his property, legislators would say “We are fighting for land reform in Parliament and your violent actions create anti-Irish sentiment that harms our efforts.” But without fear of violent uprising, most members of Parliament had no motive to pass land reform; it happened because rich people feared for their wealth and for their lives.
My points were seen. I love my family.
Thanksgiving afternoon, but I can’t stop thinking about the #IndictBoston action on Tuesday night. I’m thankful I was able to attend, and I’m thankful white people present seemed mindful of participating in the action without trying to direct it, make speeches, etc. I’m thankful to have been there when Daunasia Yancey yelled “white allies to the front” and that I was able to respond. I’m thankful that my eyeglasses got broken and not my skull. I’m thankful for the painkillers that are easing the back ache I walked away with. I’m thankful to have seen dozens of familiar faces at that march, most of them friends from Occupy Boston. I’m thankful for the honor of participating in that action, and I’m thankful that today I’ll be eating food with loved ones. But I’m thankful, also, that I won’t forget Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and millions more souls killed or incarcerated by state-sanctioned violence who won’t be eating a Thanksgiving meal today. I’m thankful, also, to be mindful today of this holiday in the context of white imperialism and native genocide. Am I happy? Am I sad? I don’t know, but I’m thankful.