One point that both criminal justice reformers and people opposed to the growing surveillance state have made is that, under close scrutiny, everyone is an outlaw. In other words, we all break laws every day, often without realizing it, and almost all of the time, nothing comes of it.
The number of people who drive over 30 miles an hour down Lloyd for instance is nearly everyone because of the hill. If you don’t ride your breaks, you’re going down the hill at 40. On an empty stretch of road, it’s very easy to decide it’s not that important to ride your breaks down the hill.
But the thing is, there’s always something. All of us have done something wrong in the past few days, weeks, months. If we’re subjected to enough scrutiny, the things we’ve done wrong will come out.
So this is the situation the State has developed into (I don’t want to say “set up” because one very troubling aspect of this is that it’s not directed by anyone. It’s not a plot by a person you can point a finger at [or not that alone]. Often it seems to rise up organically because, somewhere in our collective unconsciousness [ugh], we believe this is what authority does, so, if we have it, we do it.) is one where every citizen is also mildly criminal. Sometimes, not even criminal, just potentially criminal, but I still say, dig hard enough and there’s something.
Therefore, when the State needs to justify violence against us, there is always something they can use.
One thing that deeply troubles me–and I swear we’re still talking about Tulsa and Charlotte, but follow me here–is seeing CNN debating whether the guys who tried to bomb New York “deserve” due process. I mean, we should have seen this coming with Guantanamo, but here we especially are–this idea that, in order to have rights, you have to be a good person. Being spoken in the mainstream, being normalized, while we just blithely ignore how few of us, under close scrutiny, look very good.
In order for the State to disguise the giant rights-grab it’s doing to all US citizens, it relies on racism, on the belief held by many non-black citizens that black people are just more criminal, badder and more dangerous than the rest of us, when really, as studies have shown time and time again, they’re just under more scrutiny. But if we accept that black people are likely bad people, then we don’t question why the State is killing people who’ve called for roadside assistance or who were sitting in their car reading books or who got pulled over for having a tail-light out or who didn’t speak with the right kinds of deference, or who were sitting next to a dude with autism, or who ran away, or who failed to run away and on and on and on and on and on.
Is it escalating? That I don’t know. We didn’t keep track of police shootings. We didn’t have activists shining a light on things that used to be hidden and swept away. But it also does feel like the State’s response to a segment looking more closely at what its doing is to respond more violently.
I don’t know what a solution looks like. But America has always been at war with its black people. We call it ancient history, but here it still is.