For People Using Brooklyn To Prove We’re At War

This is a word for the people out there who actually say “we’re at war” as a justification for cop killing, and when they say it they’re not being, how shall we say, allegorical. Since there are variations of this thought I’ve broken this article into parts. I’m saying this once for the record and then I’m back on everything I was doing anyway because it’s something that should be assumed (but since it’s 2014 and common sense is practically a rare metal, here we are). Please note that this will have more to do with the actions and philosophies of activists at large – protesters and organizers – and almost nothing to do with the actions of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, save the outcome. As he was almost completely apolitical, his motivations are largely irrelevant on this issue.

Here’s why, regardless of your political agenda, you don’t kill a cop in America in 2014:

1) Killing a cop is morally wrong.
This is true, not because it’s a cop, but because killing is ultimately morally wrong.
That it’s a cop adds things to the killing, but it doesn’t morally outweigh the killing of, say, a black person every 28 hours. We’ve been kind of fighting against the whole killing thing up to this point, and as near as I can tell, an overwhelming majority of people want to stick to that as a goal because it’s extremely difficult to stop killing with more killing.

For some people, that’s good enough.
If you agree with that, I agree with you, and we’re done.

2) Killing a cop is counterproductive.
It adds nothing and costs everything to a movement that isn’t engaged in an actual ground war whose goal is the decimation of their enemies. It’s politically and socially unsound. The cops are on the side of people who control everything. You lose what little ability you have to negotiate should you choose to. So not only is it immoral; it’s unwise.

For some people, that’s good enough.
If you agree with that, I agree with you, and we’re done.

3) Killing a cop is a horrible strategy, even if you are at war.
If we were in an actual faction-to-faction/hand-to-hand urban ground war with the police and not the allegorically phrased war we keep referring to, we’d be outnumbered, outgunned and would be starting the battle with no training, from behind enemy lines, largely unarmed (contrary to what FOX News would have us think) and completely surrounded. An actual war would last as long as it took to put up fencing around ghettos and start shuffling (the rest of) black people and what allies didn’t magically disappear into them. That would take about a week. So it’s also a strategy that’s doomed to fail.

For some people, that should be good enough, but we do love our analogies.
If you agree with that, I agree with you, and we’re done.

Conclusion: Don’t kill cops.

You’d be surprised how necessary it is to say that out loud, but trust that I get it. Killing is a part of war. That’s why all of the killing that’s been happening to black people for years by police alone feels like a war. Killing is part of how oppression is being measured in the case of minorities in this country. It’s not an unreasonable leap to make. It happens so much that you could compare the body count to some actual wars, and Lord knows that, with all of the discounted militarization of the police in this country, some of us are dressed for the part. But calling it “war” beyond analogy – trying to organize people and resources as if under an actual fog of war – that muddies everything, and we need to be clear on not only what we stand for, but what we want. We have better words and ideas to frame what’s happening to us in a literal sense than “war.” Those contexts, ideas and goals need to be omnipresent in our work at all times. There may be a time when those things don’t actually work, that the enemies of justice have shown to be 100% impenetrable to reason, change and non-violence. Some of the rhetoric coming out of the NYPD today sure sounds like it, save that there isn’t actually an opposing faction for their ire. Their opposition shot himself in a subway station. That’s not a war either.

Nobody should want to see dead police officers for a number of reasons. I just gave you three pretty easy ones. I’m not saying you have to care about the police. Feelings are defined by what you value, and only you know what you value. I’m not judging your feelings. I am especially not judging the feelings of people who have been, sans hyperbole, oppressed for 400 years. If you’re not satisfied with black people saying “That’s wrong” and getting back to work on this oppression thing – if you somehow need them to keep saying it over and over to qualify that they care about your feelings first – then you don’t want it to be wrong. You want something else. You’re looking for a fight, and I’m telling you now: it’s the wrong one.

“I think that the greatest betrayal that a revolutionary can participate in is to become like the people you are struggling against. To become like your persecutors. I think that is a betrayal and a sin.”
~ Assata Shakur

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