They have broken in and are attempting to run away with the work intended to save our lives like thieves in the night. They have come to tear down the bulwarks and return with the killers we have chased out, to lay our fate back at their feet. They have come to sell us reform and say the police have apologised and promise to treat us better this time. But this time is different.
Those who would negotiate our murder can no longer be said to represent us. Those who campaign for an adjustment in state violence, who believe that some state repression will always be necessary, do not speak for us. We have now heard abolitionist Mariame Kaba speak. We have heard that prison scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore‘s work is being read outside of the bantustan of universities and that Angela Davis is becoming a household name.
Our freedom fighters drown out the noise of those who would sell us a new and improved colonial repression. They can no longer rip our life-saving work from our arms and invite the police to search the house. We will not be turning back from abolition. We will not compromise with our killers.
We have torn down the gaslighting of reform, thrown it into the bay to lie with their monuments to genocidaires. No last-minute defence cobbled together to paint the colony’s instruments of repression as our misguided saviours will last. Abolitionists have flooded social media and are pushing through the gates of public discourse. They have come to loot a revolution. They have found themselves in a revolution.
It was always a hard sell, the “good apples”. We have seen the photos of police making white power hand signs with their good apple colleagues walking alongside them. The good cops like tiki-torch marchers who decided not to shout “Jews will not replace us” but marched alongside Nazis just the same.
It was always hard to spit and polish an institution that drew such enthusiastic support from the Ku Klux Klan, and one with so many members who seemed to reciprocate the feeling. It was always difficult to explain why the quintessential American racist organisation would always call for the defence of the police; there are not many (yet to be named) terrorist groups that protest in defence of government.
It is difficult to explain away the historical camaraderie between the police and the Klan, or why this institution, in particular, seems to attract men like Mark Fuhrman, the racist police detective involved in the O J Simpson trial, and George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watch who shot Trayvon Martin, when other institutions of protection and service, like child care and gardening, have failed to do so.
Or why an institution equipped with detectives, surveillance technology, investigative experience and a putative dedication to weeding out criminality could not seem to discover the bad apples who clinked beer mugs with them at their good apple cop bars.
The claim that the people who are supposed to possess a superhuman, inexplicable “cop instinct” could not manage to Sherlock together a pattern of repeated complaints of racist violence or did not have their suspicion of foul play aroused by the frequency of the discrepancies between police reports and body cam footage, and witnesses’ videos, was always difficult to accept. Difficult but that would not stop the apologists for state terrorism, however “left“, to feel against the uniforms of brutality in search for good apples to present to us, spit-polished and shining.
No matter how many Nazis now bend to give the little girl flowers, it is hard to forget Auschwitz. It is hard to forget the police whips of Selma, the deaths in police custody, the evidence planting, the frisking in the slave cabins, the “arrest” of Emmet Till, the bounty and the fugitive slave hunters, the genocidal pogroms after enslaved peoples’ revolts, the rice and cotton fields, the jails permeable by lynch mobs but not by exoneration.
They may try to sell us flowers, to tell us that the police profession is no less a service than the postal service, to fling the words “imperfect” and “flawed” at us, but we have seen our children flung against the wall, we have heard rumours of officers blackmailing youth to sell drugs for them, we know what every white supremacist knows – that the best way to injure Black people with impunity is to join the police force.
We hear no distinction of note between the “blue wall of silence” and the “invisible empire“. We know that the entirety of the colony’s anti-Black culture – the press, television dramas, politicians etc – praise the people that promise to put down our freedom.
They will say change is on the way, knowing that asking us to wait for change is the same as demanding that we prolong the era of our torture.
It is too late to offer 72 percent less violence. It is too late to negotiate limits set to the settler’s flogging of the native when the Toyi-Toyi dancing is seen on the horizon. Too late when the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, when the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, when Ayiti in her sagging pants and hoop earrings has had enough.
It is too late to promise body cameras will be kept on or to agree that a warning will be given before uniformed mob killings when the people have grown tired of singing “Senzeni na?” (“What have we done?”) and rifle through the rest of anti-aparthied’s musical catalogue. No more negotiation in our blood.
Those who have come to swipe the hope of an end to colonial violence and replace it with the hope that settler-colonialism will finally learn to be kind will find the door shut. Colonial hope and revolutionary hope are not of equal weight, and those who offer cheap imitations of revolution are being caught out and directed outside.
“The elite of the colonized countries, those emancipated slaves, once they are at the head of the movement, inevitably end up producing an ersatz struggle,” wrote Frantz Fanon. We are prepared for them.
No matter how many times their politicians manipulate the memories of the dead so that it looks like they died on their knees, in supplication, begging for America to “live up to its ideals”, rather than simply killed by the racist state; no matter how many times they ventriloquise our killed to make them mouth “I love you” to the state that killed them, we will not be distracted. We will not fall for their retraining ruse.
We will not consider the argument that new laws and policy will this time deter racists – racists who strike, armed with historical impunity in one hand and the benefit of the doubt in the other. We will take no substitutes for liberation. We are not here to hold hands with a white supremacist settler-colony. We want our freedom.
We are done with the hope-peddlers. Finished with those who would condemn us to that purgatory of eventual change where the days are measured in the capital, accumulated from our exploitation, and the nights are measured in smartphone-recorded killings after stops for the perpetually broken taillight. No more waiting. We are done. The brutalised will no longer be pacified by colonial hope. Colonialism’s hope is a parole hearing; revolutionary hope is the Attica Uprising.
We have thoroughly lost our hope in a brighter day in colonialism and this – contrary to the warnings of liberals, the affable spokespeople of colonial order – does not mean the end of the world but the beginning of a new one.
And if they require from us our blueprint for the new world post-police-state before we set out to build it, they will find that we are no longer seeking their permission. We are no more ashamed for having no map for imagining systems outside of policing than the fugitive of the slave plantation is for having no guidebook for life outside of slavery.
Our difficulty imagining systems outside of policing cannot be used as an argument for a police-state – it is evidence against it. The atrophying of our imagination after centuries of militarised state occupation is a consequence of policing, not a reason for it. As every Maroon knows: No way forward is better than staying here.
In any case, histories before police, cultures without police and imaginations beyond police exist. The Amistad is not completely without navigation.
Policing is not only enacted upon bodies but upon imaginations. It tells us that we cannot live without it. It paints the world in which it is absent as a world of carnage.
As if the modern institution is not just a few years older than the lawnmower. As if when the uniformed police first arrived, it was not resisted as a tyrannical force by the London poor that still remembered the 1819 massacre at St Peter’s Fields when they demanded political rights.
As if white conservatives in Louisiana in the 1830s did not think of the new institution of the “civil police” as an army of occupation reminiscent of British rule – one which bore the “badge of slavery”. As if they themselves did not ask in their newspapers: “Citizens, shall we bear this any longer? Shall we not demand the disbanding of these men?” If it were not for the spectre of Black freedom, all conservatives would be abolitionists.
This is the last stand for the peculiar institution. No matter how many liberal and conservative arms link together to salvage it, the levee has broken. Future generations will no more comprehend the ethics of shooting someone for running from a “drug possession” charge than they will a world without the internet.
They will have to record our stories. We will be asked to tell them how it was. Handcuffs will be put on display in museums. Old batons will reappear in art projects. Elderly Black people will reveal bullet holes in their stomachs like scars on their backs.
And those who are now seeking appeasement and to reform the overseer class and spirit away our freedom struggle, will, when policing is over, steal our story instead. They will tell their grandchildren that it was they who fought for the abolition of chattel society. That will be fine.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.