“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Given what I’ve seen and experienced in the criminal justice system over the past thirty-one years of my incarceration, I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to those in authority: I believe none of what I hear and only a fraction of what I see. After all, appearances can be deceiving. For instance, when I see police officers and prominent politicians kneeling and praying with protestors, I don't buy it. I'm automatically on the defensive, watching, as one would a magic trick, for a rabbit to be pulled out of a hat. I don't necessarily like that my mind operates in this way; it's exhausting to always have to look behind the curtain or under the rug. I wish I could be like the majority of people and simply accept what I'm told/shown; but, unfortunately (or fortunately?), experience has taught me that freedom requires vigilance.
We are right now living in the twenty-first century, meaning it's been 2,020 years since the believers of White Supremacy "interrupted the course of time to begin at themselves with a new chronology." Hence, the world we see, from the president on down to the millions of people behind bars and those sleeping on the streets, is a reflection of their vision and beliefs. In other words, this is all them, and it's time we ask ourselves whether or not they are qualified for the job of leading humanity. To me, this is the only question that should be on the table right now, and, given what we've just seen, the word "reform" should be synonymous with blasphemy.
We mustn't so easily accept, without scrutiny, new laws that do more to reveal the moral depravity and corruptness of cops than they do to remedy the problems they are supposedly designed to solve. Indeed, who but a racist maniac needs to be told that it's wrong to choke a restrained man to death? And didn't we already "solve" this problem after Eric Garner was murdered? As a society, we shouldn't be content to save our I CAN'T BREATHE t-shirts for the next time an innocent black man is deprived of oxygen; the fact that it happened once should have been more than enough!
But let us be real: We condone it because black lives DON'T matter. They never have, and probably never will. Yes, we can certainly pretend that this is a new phenomenon in need of a novel approach, but replacing a noose with a knee is not progress, and we don't need new legislation to tell us what we already know: This society is racist and unjust. And police reform is nothing but a rabbit, a magic trick designed to shift the focus and blame away from the fact that we live under a system (capitalism) that is sustained on great thefts.
According to Credit Suisse, there's over $250 trillion in total global wealth in circulation, and the wealthiest 10 percent own 89 percent of it. This is why the police exist–not to protect and serve, but to cease and desist anybody who tries to rise up and resist. Or maybe it would be more helpful to think about it like this: Capitalists are rapists, and the police are there to hold us down while we are being fucked by the system. And when I say "we," I'm not just referring to black people, but all of us. Yes, it's nice to hear white people yell, "BLACK LIVES MATTER!"; however, if looked at accurately, what you should be yelling is, "ME, TOO!" Instead of feeling sorry for us, you should be feeling sorry with us. But to see and understand this, you must open your eyes!
Case in point: A few months ago, I was channel surfing and stumbled upon an episode of Penn and Teller's FOOL ME. Apparently, Penn decided that this would be the night he would break with protocol and show the audience exactly how a particular trick was done. Now, I don't typically go in for mindless media, but this sounded somewhat intriguing, and I decided to humor myself. What the hell?
At the appointed time, his partner, Teller, stepped into a wooden box and closed the lid, upon which Penn affixed a lock, trapping him inside. Now the "trick," of course, was to extract Teller without removing the lock–that's the magic. However, before he explained how this impossible feat would be accomplished, he told those in the audience who DIDN'T want to see how the trick was done to close their eyes; he then asked those who DID to not spoil it for those who wanted to be amazed. When the camera panned the audience, I was shocked to see how many people had willingly closed their eyes!
As it turns out, the "locked box" had a false top that was lowered and raised on hidden levers, which allowed Teller to use his legs to push it up, slip through the gap, and "magically" reappear. "Okay, open your eyes now!” Penn told the audience, who, seeing Teller casually perched atop the still-locked box, erupted in applause. (For those of you who want to see the actual footage, click here:
While watching this, it occurred to me that what I was looking at was analogous to the willful ignorance that allows for so much pain and suffering in the world. This is how they're doing it, I thought. They’re relying on those who want to be "amazed" to close their eyes and not ask questions about inequality, mass incarceration, climate change, poverty, and all the other inequities that plague society; and not only that, they expect those of us who refuse to turn a blind eye to not say anything, lest we spoil it for the Dreamers.
Well, damn that–I'm saying something: If you want to live a real life, a life of purpose and worth, you must open your eyes and strive, and make an effort to understand. Every now and then life intervenes to show us how the "trick" is done, and it's necessary that we pay attention, that we look at the world intelligently, instead of simply staring at it.
This planet we walk on is over four billion years old and has witnessed six mass extinctions. We are not indestructible. If we can't find our way to a new humanity, and create a society that's based on fairness and equality, then all of us, black and white, are going down the same drain. So, before it’s too late, before the fires and floodwaters come to seal our fate, we must find a better way to walk through this mysterious world. And to the old ways of doing things—profits over people, hate over love, immorality over justice—we should prepare a burial and offer our sincere condolences.