Rethinking Justice to Recapture It: Lives Lost at the Hands of a Racist Police State do Not Have to be in Vain
Senseless Loss of Those Taken Too Soon
Their lives mattered. Taken too soon. Taken senselessly. Taken in the name of racism. The names are too many to remember them all. But we try because they deserve to be honored. Mike Brown, Aayana Stanley-Jones, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Korryn Gaines, Jamar Clark, Jonathan Crawford, Philando Castile, Thurman Blevins, Bobby Hutton. This list just scratches the surface. It represents the wanton murder of Black people by police. But of the tens of thousands of murderous agents for the white power structure that have stolen the lives of innocent Black people, only a handful of them have even faced prosecution for their callous racism. Even fewer have been convicted. Moreover, the convictions that have been doled out by a white power structure to a white power agent have grossly failed to commensurate the murder. Oscar Grant served more time in prison for a nonviolent drug offense than the cop who killed Oscar served for killing him. The repeated message being delivered has become unequivocally clear that Black lives cannot and will not receive any semblance of justice for their murder at the hands of people who enforce the same system being upheld by those who are supposed to ensure the service of justice. However, this does not automatically imply that justice for these lost lives can't be obtained. When we decide that justice is not constituted solely by retribution reserved exclusively for the state and can, in fact, be achieved through our communities, outside the limits of the very system that commits the injustice, then we can start to expand our options for how to go about getting justice.
Considering the word "justice" and it's derivatives. The words "justify" and "justification" come from the word "justice". This would imply that justice is reached through justification. If a murder can be justified, then justice is served. We are then left to ask, does a penal system based on slavery that is used to punish murder, justify the loss of an innocent life? If justice is achieved through justification, does punishment itself justify a murder? The answer is no. The only thing that can justify the loss of an innocent life, is the salvation of other innocent lives.
How We Get Justice
That's why it's time for us as a community to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. The fact is, the only way Jamar Clark, Terrance Franklin, Mike Brown, Aayanna Stanley-Jones, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and the countless others who have been murdered by police can get justice is by those of us who love them ensuring their deaths are not in vane. We must give their deaths a higher purpose than reactionary organizational responses to them. We must organize to protect and take active responsibility for the lives of our community that still live on. We need to organize our communities to protect and defend each other against any and all threats to our collective welfare. This includes state sanctioned police violence; even police presence in our neighborhoods. The sad fact is that Jamar Clark's death was preventable. If we as his community were able to fathom the idea that police are not invincible and organize ourselves according to this logic, we could have saved his life. In 2008 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that police are under no legal obligation to serve and protect. Legally, their only job is to enforce the law. When we take into consideration the role law has played throughout history, it becomes crystal clear that the law has nothing to do with justice. Slavery was legal, apartheid was legal, the holocaust was legal. The law is not a measure of justice; it is a measure of power. And it is enforced solely to protect those who have it at the expense of those who do not. We have got to stop buying into their propaganda and start doing for ourselves. We have to start doing this to make sure our community members can stay alive rather than waiting until after they're killed to take action. The idea is to protect each other while we are still breathing. It is not to wait until someone is murdered by police to express our discontent. Prevention is better than reaction. Self Organized Community Defense is the only way to actualize this reality. If the deaths of those we love, whose lives were taken too soon at the hands of racism can serve as the catalyst for community organizing that can save the lives of others in our communities, then their deaths can mean something. They can serve a greater purpose and some sense of justice can be had for these heroes.