Black Lives Matter charges theft — but not genocide

To: Focus
From: Joy James
Date: September 16, 2015, 7:35am

The activists of the diverse #BLM — co-founded by black, queer women — work as forensic scientists. They collect, preserve, and analyze evidence as they testify on crime scenes in which blacks are victimized by authorities. Forensic witnesses though do not author, authorize or enforce the laws that regulate or prey upon blacks (through prison/police killings, beatings and rape or revenue schemes in excessive municipal fees). Activism thus becomes #BLM’s greatest gift. It repurposes flash mobs, die-ins, social media, and contrition therapy (e.g., demanding that Hillary take personal responsibility for lobbying to pass President Clinton’s 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill which enabled mass incarceration). With no sovereign powers (even the President noted after Freddie Gray’s homicide that he cannot “federalize” police), and an optimism that belies democracy’s deceptions (see Lani Guinier’s Tyranny of the Majority), #BLM’s has contributed a hashtag; disruptive creativity; the 10-pt “Campaign Zero;” and, to date, the most anti-racist, presidential platform of a major party candidate.

Jamelle Bouie.

Yet, #BLM appears uneasy as it charges theft — of lives, jobs, education, dignity, health — but not genocide. This makes for an awkward global alliance with radical sistren/brethren in favelas, e.g., black Brazilian activists in “React or Die!” who battle police (militarized through US training and funding) to end the 2k executions of civilians each year (roughly double the number of US police killings). A bridge between black movements is built into the forensics of the 1951 Civil Rights Congress text — signed by William Patterson, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Claudia Jones — We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People:

Out of the inhuman black ghettos of American cities, out of the cotton plantations of the South, comes this record of mass slayings on the basis of race, of lives deliberately warped and distorted by the willful creation of conditions making for premature death, poverty and disease. It is a record that calls aloud for condemnation, for an end to these terrible injustices that constitute a daily and ever-increasing violation of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Aided by black and white liberals, sixty years ago the U.S. responded swiftly and punitively to having its racism challenged in the international political arena. Now (black) life is a bit more complicated. We seem to be opposing different version(s) of ourselves as we try to assert our worth. Consider that serving at the pleasure of a pro-surveillance (black) president, black Americans lead the DOJ (which protected white collar criminals in corporate banking; and through the FBI demonized black panther political prisoners in COINTELPRO’s “afterlife”); Homeland Security (which authorized secret surveillance of #BLM, while downplaying domestic terrorism by white supremacist lone wolves such as Dylann Roof); and the National Security Advisor (which de-prioritized the human rights of African, African Diaspora and Palestinian people to advance “security”). Repression that follows black unrest resisting negated value is collective, governmental, and now also black. In the opaque politics that we study, we can be grateful for transparency: “black lives matter” is a synonym for “black lives do not matter”; and so, emboldened by some clarity, we act at the scene of the crime.

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