Institutional violence in America is a manifestation of America’s ideology. It’s become not just a part of American culture but the defining characteristic. In America, might makes right, therefore those who are in power get to determine what justice is, leaving the rest of us to grapple with fundamental questions. If a law is unjust, must I still obey? Or worse, whenever I had to impose an injustice upon another, or have an injustice imposed upon me, even our struggles are an effect of America’s culture of violence. The chokehold that killed Eric Garner and the knee that killed George Floyd weren’t technically illegal, but they should have been, the same way that lynching still hasn’t been designated as a federal hate crime or an act of terrorism.
Sometimes we tend to forget that we’re not really so far removed from slavery. My grandmother recently passed away; she was born in 1925, which means that her grandmother was likely enslaved and forced to endure the most heinous forms of American violence on record. She likely picked cotton in the field, and may even have been whipped and raped. It’s amazing that these forms of violence aren’t only still taking place in America today but are still being used in the same capacity as state-sanctioned terrorism. The fact that these acts of violence still aren’t illegal shows just how opposed America really is to stopping violence. This nation has a long history of violence, so much so that many of the policies designed to stop violence have effectively created more of it. For example, riot police have only escalated the looting. Mass incarceration has only further destroyed families, homes, and communities. Hunger, poverty, and inadequate healthcare are the intended consequences of shady, illegal redlining policies. If the objective is to stop violence in America, we have to address it on all fronts and in all forms. That is especially true when it comes to the obvious and not so obvious forms of state-sanctioned violence.
My name is Sergio Hyland. Thank you for listening. You can follow me at @uptownserg on Instagram.