Obama began his speech yesterday at the Tribal Nations Conference by addressing the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police that killed Eric Garner.
But Obama didn’t say anything about the police that killed Eric Garner. He said something about the police that “interacted” with him.
Why is it so hard to say? Police killed Eric Garner.
It is hard for me to say somehow. It doesn’t sound right; it doesn’t sit right.
This is not because I don’t believe that it’s true or believe that it’s possible. It’s not because I don’t believe it at all. In fact, I believe with all of my self–a self that is not hardly singular, a self that has never once believed in the de facto goodness of the police or the government or authorities more generally–in fact, I believe that it is precisely the police, law enforcement, the military, and the country whose name is attached to those whose job it is to “control”; it is precisely this place and these bodies that are asked and trained to control (kill) black men specifically; it is precisely the police and history of policing that killed Eric Garner.
And Michael Brown.
And Malice Green.
And . . . and . . . and . . .
I’ve been italicizing believe because it was a word that jumped out at me when listening to Obama’s speech: “I am absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law.”
What do we make of having a president who is committed to having everybody believe this? Are we going to believe it as an end point? Because we’ve seen it to be true? Or does he imagine we must believe it first in order for it to become real?
The problem is that belief is precisely what is not enough. There is a gap between what we say, what we believe, and the enforcement of the law.
The gap between what we say, what we believe, and the enforcement of the law is measured by the dead (killed) bodies of black men.
Everybody does not believe that we are equal under the law. Every body does not believe we should be. Some bodies think they ought to be bigger than the law, and that is because they are the law and so they get to decide (consciously or not) how big the law is.
Police are taken by and given the power of the glory of the law to subdue and kill someone in the street.
Some of us kill people because we believe we’ve been given permission to do so. It turns out, we’re right. We have.