there is no redemption
the redemption will never arrive
all of the request for redemption
are fantasies of flight.
what’s done is done.
the apocalypse came
many yesterdays ago.
The Conservative and The Liberal gather together in the ruined streets of Minneapolis urging for peace. It has never been more clear that such an urgency is a matter of returning to White comfort in the dismay of black rage and yet, the refined reader states, “The Families of [Insert Slaughtered Person] are requesting that the protest be peaceful.” Thus, the Conservative and the Liberal alike form a community around the fungible Black body in order to suggest that the actions of rebellion, the spark of revolutionary fervor, must be quailed in honor of the dead. In the first instance, we must see this as individuating a paradigmatic disorder.
Whiteness always already attempts to make a gratuitous problem, a contingent anomaly – despite all evidence to the contrary. In as much as these rebellions, which have now increased in various states throughout the nation, are a result of the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, it is equally important to understand, that we riot for so much more. It is equally important to not forget the names we cannot say, the names that live under our language, that can never be recuperated in struggle. Lest we forget, that we are in the midst of a global pandemic – where Black lives are disproportionately being left to die in an American Medical Apartheid in an American Apartheid.
The horror of this moment, the tragedy that it signifies for Black life, is one of irreversible wounding, irreversible scarring that can never be healed. The impossibility of healing this scar lies in the repetition of the scarring itself. A scarring deepened by the sense in which absolute carelessness from the highest levels of government to the lowest levels of law enforcement reproduces anti-Black terrorism in every instance of its unfolding. We, Black people, suffer from a hesitancy to be honest about the depths of this terror thus, we suggest that peace is possible. Yet, peace is not a possibility when Black death is ever-present, abundant, and state-sponsored. In contradistinction to the classic maxim: “No justice! No peace!” Black people live in a world in which Justice is the destruction of Black peace. Justice is not what we seek, it is precisely that which kills us.
There are two violations of a deeper sense of ethics and justice that such a use and abuse of Black mourning outlines. I want to detail them here as an explicit challenge to the idea that in order to fight for Breonna Taylor or fight for George Floyd one must do so at the request of, and through the methods suggested by their families. The first violation of a deeper sense of ethics and justice that such a claim restricts, constricts, and disavows is that the right to honoring Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s life is only that of their immediate family and that they have the last and primary say on how we revolt “in their name.” This re-inscription of the nuclear family as police work of Black rage “functions as a ruse of incorporation that conceals the historical and enduring surveillance and violence to which Black sociality is subjected,” (King, 71). In other words, by centering the nuclear/immediate family we de-emphasize the fact that Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s murder are modicums of a larger necessity – that of Black social death. For it is Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s social death that inaugurates their name as an individual repetition of a paradigmatic antagonism. It is their social death that turns their murder into politics rather than murder. This is to say the unsayable: namely, that truly, if we are honest, these names mean nothing, most essentially so, if we aim to see these acts of violence as the contemporary continuation of an America Plantation Politics. Which is to say, that these names are one of an infinite quality, a structural insistence, of a repetitive gesture to annihilate Black being. Why “say their name” when their name only mystifies how many unnamable Black bodies lie underneath the American plantation – by the noose, by the knee, by the tree? Indeed, saying their name is immanently, performatively important, but as soon as saying their name becomes an impetus for nuclear familial respectability politics, it is our job to remember that saying their name is not essential for overturning the violence of this anti-Black world. For not only are there other names we can name in order to authorize our rage – all of the names we can say, that have been captured on video, will never illuminate all of the names that have been slaughtered at the hands of a White Supremacist Police State.
The second violation of a deeper sense of ethics and justice is the reproduction of Black fungibility by way of mobilizing these Black families against Black rebels. A perfect example of how the State does this can be seen in a recent video uploaded by the Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky. On their Twitter account Mayor Greg Fischer shared a video from Breonna Taylor’s younger sister, Juniyah Palmer, urging that protesters be peaceful. We should sit this use and abuse of Black life beside Joe Biden’s comments that, “If you don’t vote for me, then you’re not Black.” What both these actions serve to do is place an abritrary signifier, Liberalism or Juniyah-as-Liberalism, at the center of policing proper Black behavior such that if one continues to rebel, then the Conservatives and Liberals will suggest that your rebellion is in fact against Blackness despite the anti-Blackness of the Conservative and Liberal.
This is yet another perfect example of how in the words of author-theorist Frank Wilderson, “Black people are political currency, not political actors,” (Wilderson, 6). Recall the story of the murder of Breonna Taylor. Breonna was in her bedroom, asleep, when the police charged into her apartment, unidentified with a battering ram to get through the door. Taylor’s boyfriend, assuming they were being robbed, fired a gun back at the police who initiated a hailstorm of bullets that took Breonna’s life. The original news report in March, as given by the police force, characterized the former EMT’s police encounter as follows, “A Louisville Metro Police sergeant was shot and wounded and a woman was killed early Friday during a narcotics investigation near St. Andrews Church Road and Doss High School, according to authorities.” It wasn’t until two months later in May, once the protest and outrage began to kick off, that the news and the police began to speak differently on the matter stating, “Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot eight times by Louisville Metro Police officers who entered her apartment around 1 a.m. March 13. Police have said the officers were serving a search warrant as part of a narcotics investigation, but no drugs were found at the home” (Mystal, 2020).
My question is this: How come the Mayor, who cares so much about Black life and Black humanity, and the rights of Black people that they would go seek out Juniyah Palmer when the outrage kicks in, was unwilling to seek her out two months prior when they were mourning the spontaneous loss of a loved one at the beginnings of a global pandemic? The first immediate answer is that what happened to Breonna Taylor is routine. It would make no sense for the Mayor – who operates in accordance to an anti-Black common sense – to seek out and look into every encounter of “Thug” and “Police” since the routine brutality of the “Thug” and all who must bear the weight of its image is what justifies policing in America. The second immediate answer is because there was no political currency in engaging Juniyah Palmer until she can be used to quail Black rage. In this sense, Juniyah, like me, like you, like Obama, like every Black person who is still in Slave in this American Apartheid system is not a political actor, but political currency that white people can utilize for whatever means necessary to justify whatever cause necessary always in the name of policing Blackness. For, “Policing—policing Blackness—is what keeps everyone else sane,” (Wilderson, 7).
Rioting is a form of anti-politics. Politics is form of anti-Blackness. The death and dying of Black bodies is not a political issue and making it political only reinscribes the violence by making social death a matter of dialogue and dispute. There is no dialogue to be had. The truth is in the blood on the streets. There is nothing further left to discuss. The truth is in every “found not guilty.” Black lives do no matter, and the world should burn until they do, and if the mattering of Black life never arrives, then let the whole world burn in the wake of this moment.
To the people in the street, remember, they will not be convicted. Justice will not come. Justice is what we are up against.
King, Tiffany Lethabo. “Black’Feminisms’ and Pessimism: Abolishing Moynihan’s Negro Family.” Theory & Event, vol. 21, no. 1, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018, pp. 68–87.
Mystal, Elie. “Breonna Taylor Was Murdered for Sleeping While Black.” The Nation, 2020.
Wilderson, Frank B. “‘We’re Trying to Destroy the World’ Anti-Blackness & Police Violence After Ferguson.” Ill Will Editions, 2014, pp. 1–24.
—. “Why I Don’t Vote?” ASUCI (UCI Undergraduate Student Government), 2016, pp. 1–8.