I HAD BEEN in the United for less than 4 years, Nip, when I watched the L.A. riots erupt. I watched, mouth agape, live on television, when the officers who had beaten Rodney King to within an inch of his life were found “Not guilty.” I will never be able to excise the name “Simi Valley” from my consciousness.
We have now seen how the likes of Rusten Sheskey, if not Derek Chauvin, like so many before them, have history on their side. I fear that there are many more white cops exactly like them. White cops who are empowered by a sense of impunity and, because of that, are but a hair’s breath away from unleashing a hail of bullets into yet one more black body. I am at a loss to conclude anything else.
Derek Chauvin convicted. Ma’Khia Bryant shot to death. Andrew Brown gunned down.
From the former U.S. president to the union chiefs such as Bob Kroll, the consistent modality is that power protects its own—and will continue to do, by any means necessary, fair or foul. Power will do whatever it takes to ensure the “rights” of those—its own—who execute and maim black bodies. It is to guard against precisely this predilection that reformism must be stridently opposed. Abolish. Not reform.
Those police officers who, in the dead of night or even under the ubiquitous gaze that is cellphone technology and its capacity to capture the act of violence, consider themselves free to inflict pain and death upon black bodies. These officers know, after all, that history has taught them this, and they are reminded of it every time one of their own is acquitted across the length and breadth of the nation, that the verdict is always in. One way or another, the outcome is overdetermined. White makes right. Right makes might. Might kills. Black bodies.
Best to struggle on two fronts, simultaneously, pursuing goals that are finally irreconcilable but necessary. The necessity of the supremacy of a utopian strategy is that it is the surest protection against subreption. The cause, representative democracy, must not be mistaken—as it has so long dissembled—for the solution. Representative democracy is the problem.
In the wake of our intensely dystopic conjuncture, we are presented with a historic opportunity to turn to our utopian imaginary so that we can organize our world as we would want it.
“Enough” is, for all its virtues, for all its eruptive force, for all its ability to galvanize the black athlete, not enough.
Not by itself.