There have been roughly 180 deaths of black folx at the hands of police officers in 2016 alone. Many more were brutalized; many more incidents have yet to be reported, I’m sure. To an attentive public, it should seem extraordinary that in 2016 the persistence of violence against people of color as a result of anti-black racism is not only this prevalent. It seems extraordinary that it took so long for so many publics to take notice, to recognize its nearness, and in a certain sense de-distance themselves from the terrible grip such violence has on black communities.
Perhaps what is more shocking is not the extraordinary character of police brutality in the lives of black Americans, and of queer and trans people of color. It is its ordinariness.
Violence in this sense intertwines in the everyday—that is to say, ordinary life. It is as near to us as glasses on our faces. That is, perhaps, the real horror of such violence. A modern nation, built upon the ideological tenets of anti-black racism, has immunized itself from witnessing the systematic killings of its black citizens. There is no color line for that kind of nation because it cannot see color. It can only see bodies.
Fate would see to it that modern life was a bureaucratic organism. Lived experiences are by virtue of birth an administrative process (birth certificates, social security cards, identification and hospital records, citizenship and residency verifications). It is not the state so much as the rote ordinances of the everyday that watch over us and instill in us a strange consciousness of “law” that molds us.
The police, as we know it, grew within this administrative embryo. The need for enforcement, the interweaving of policing with everyday action, became (so it seems) practical for modern social relations. But the underlying racism and sexism that forged founding documents traversed, unimpeded, into our modern cosmos. These tenets sought to arrange this cosmos in decidedly Anglo-American constellations. In the hands of the police officer is guaranteed the awful power ensure such arrangements. To kill on the spot, to brutalize those who would resist, and to instill fear in those who might look on with horror, or to call out its atrocity. How does one rebel against such a fragmented administration of racial hatred disguised as routinized life?