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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/26/15

America's New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland

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Why is it that there was almost no public outcry over the case of Kalief Browder, a young black man, who was arrested for a crime he did not commit and incarcerated at the notorious Rikers Island and spent more than one thousand days, two years of that time in solitary confinement, waiting for a trial that never happened. Shortly after being released he committed suicide. [21] Would this have happened if he were white, middle class, and had access to a lawyer? How is what happened to him different than the egregious torture inflicted on innocent children at Abu Ghraib prison? What has the United States become in the age of domestic terrorism?

Not surprisingly, the discourse of terrorism once again is only used when someone is engaged in a plot to commit violence against the government but not when the state commits violence unjustly against its own citizens. What needs to be recognized, as Robin D. G. Kelley has pointed out, is that the killing of unarmed Afro-Americans by the police is not simply a matter that speaks to the need for reforming the police and the culture that shapes it, but also for massive organized resistance against a war against black youth that is being waged on U.S. soil. [22] The call for police "reform," echoed throughout the dominant media, is meaningless. We need to change a system steeped in violence, racism, economic corruption and institutional rot. We don't need revenge, we need justice -- and that means structural change.

Ending police misconduct is certainly acceptable as short-term goal to save lives, but if we are going to prevent the United States from becoming a full-fledged police state serving the interests of the rich who ensconce themselves in their gated and guarded communities, the vicious neoliberal financial and police state has to be dismantled. Such resistance is beginning with the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, along with youth movements such as the Black Youth Project, Millennial Activists United, We Charge Genocide, and other groups. [23]

A new brutalism haunts America, drenched in the ever increasing flood of intolerable police and state violence. [24] More and more people are being locked up, jailed, beaten, harassed, and violated by the police and other security forces because they are poor, vulnerable, viewed as disposable, or simply are marginalized by being black, brown, young, and poor. [25] Black youth are safe neither in their own neighborhoods nor on public streets, highways, schools, or any other areas in which the police can be found.

A shorter version of this piece appeared in Truth-Out.

Notes.[1] Stephen A. Crockett, Jr. "Sandra Bland Drove to Texas to Start a New Job, so How Did She End Up Dead in Jail?," The Root (July 16, 2015). Online:http://www.theroot.com/articles/news/2015/07/sandra_bland_drove_to_texas_to_start_a_new_job_so_how_did_she_end_up_dead.html. Also, see Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Truthout's Maya Schenwar and Former Prisoner Jason Hernandez Speak Out on Prisons and Policing," Democracy Now! (July 17, 2015).

Online: click here[2] Tom Dart, "Sandra Bland dashcam video shows officer threatened: 'I will light you up'" The Guardian (July 22, 2015).

Online: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/21/sandra-bland-dashcam-video-arrest-released[3] Sam Sanders, "Dashcam Video Of Sandra Bland's Arrest Released," NPR (July 21, 2015).

Online: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/07/21/425105015/dashcam-video-of-sandra-blands-arrest-released[4] Charles Blow raises a number of questions about the video and the legality of the arrest. See Charles Blow, Questions about the Blow case," New York Times (July 22, 2015).

Online: click here[5] Aviva Shen, "Woman Dies in Jail after Being Roughed Up During Traffic Stop. Police Say it was Suicide," ThinkProgress (June 16, 2015).

Online: click here[6] Ibid. Stephen A. Crockett, Jr. "Sandra Bland Drove to Texas to Start a New Job, so How Did She End Up Dead in Jail?"

[7] Tom Dart, "Sandra Bland dashcam video shows officer threatened: 'I will light you up'" The Guardian (July 22, 2015).

Online: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/21/sandra-bland-dashcam-video-arrest-released[8] Jamie Stengle and Jason Keyser, "Family Says Woman found Dead at Texas Jail would not Kill Herself; Authorities investigating," U.S. News and World Report (July 16, 2015).

Online: click here[9] Ibid., Jamie Stengle and Jason Keyser.

[10] Shaun King, "Texas sheriff involved in the death of Sandra Bland fired from previous post for racism," Daily Kos ( July 16, 2015).

Online: click here[11] Ibid., Aviva Shen, "Woman Dies in Jail after Being Roughed Up During Traffic Stop. Police Say it was Suicide."

[12] On the issue of state violence, see Brad Evans and Henry A. Giroux, Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2015).

[13] Personal Correspondence, July 22, 2015.

[14] Daily Mail Reporter, "'These Kids Don't expect to lead a full life.' Fears for Chicago teens as fatal shootings in city outnumber US troops killed in Afghanistan,"Dailymail.co.UK (June 19, 2012).

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Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and dis the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books are America's Addiction to Terrorism (Monthly Review Press, 2016), and America at War with Itself (City Lights, 2017). He is also a contributing editor to a number of journals, includingTikkun, (more...)
 

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