George Floyd and state power: what do you expect to happen? The death of George Floyd is on a long list of unarmed black people murdered by the police. His death is sad and tragic. Unlike similar deaths of others, his has unleashed a national wave of violence and anger not seen in this country in decades. It revealed that issues of racism are reaching a boiling point.
What upsets me is how law enforcement officials and politicians want to label the violence we are seeing as criminal. I’m not a proponent for senseless violence, but one has to ask the question: when the very people entrusted to uphold and enforce the law, who are sworn to protect and serve, turn around and murder defenseless people, what do you expect will happen? When this happens over and over and over again, and nothing really changes after all the talk, what do you expect will happen?
There’s going to be an erosion of law and order. If law enforcers break the law, then people will lose respect for the law. Condemning the looters and rioters is to ignore the cause of their looting and rioting. The cause is the abuse of authority by those in authority. This abuse of authority happens every day, not just to black or brown people. It happens to all people: black, brown, and poor people simply get it the worst because racism is added into the mix along with classism, but poor white people catch hell, too.
What we are seeing is the spilling over of the anger and frustration at how the state apparatus keeps failing to serve and protect the people. Because they can’t. The condemnation of looters and rioters is a defensive reaction of the agents of the state and law enforcement hawks who are threatened by the exposure of the very contradiction of state power in America. And that contradiction is that state power in America doesn’t really serve the working class nor the poor, especially if you’re black or Hispanic, but yet it is upon the backs of the working class and the poor that the state derives its legitimacy.
In prison, you can see this contradiction so vividly. Most prisoners are black, Hispanic, and poor white people. Most prison guards are white, most prison administrators are white and upper-middle-class, and prison guards and prison administrators abuse their authority regularly.
They don’t respect the law, they violate the law to brutalize and harass prisoners. A prison guard punched my young [could not parse] Maurice Stanburn five times in the face. When his mother and my supporters complained, other prison guards sprayed him with fire extinguishers. And I’m not even going to mention the harassment I’m being subjected to. So who will be at fault when prison riots break out or when prison guards are attacked.
Me personally? I exhaust all my administrative and legal remedies to protect and vindicate my rights. But my administrative complaints are often ignored or swept under the rug, and my state and federal lawsuits somehow always end up before judges who are biased against prisoners. When the system doesn’t work, when peaceful means are ignored, what do you expect will happen?
This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadows Corrections Facility in Comstock, NY. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @freeDontieMitchell. Also, please join the Dontie Mitchell support committee’s Facebook group. If you want to support my clemency campaign, my legal battles, or my UFD outreach and mentorship work with young prisoners. Thank you for listening. God bless.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.