Coming Home to Roost

By Kehinde Andrews

The shooting of eleven police officers in Dallas is a surprise, not because of the violence itself but because it does not happen more often. Such horrific violence against the police is a product of the condition of Black life in the US, and the brutal role that the police force play in enforcing systematic racial oppression.

Black life does not matter. Black life has never mattered to the Western empire that emerged after Columbus’s wrong turn in 1492. In fact, the entire system is built on the premise that Black life is worthless. The transatlantic slave trade reduced Black life to the value of disposable chattel to be bought, sold, raped, tortured and discarded. Colonialism continued the atrocities that slavery ignited, decimating whole regions. If you think that these are problems from the past then you only need to look to the 3 million children under the age of five who died in Sub-Saharan Africa last year. Black life does matter and it is certainly worth less in the USA.

Blacklivesmatter has raised the profile of police killings of Black people, drawing needed attention to the abuses of state violence. But the deficit of Black life extends beyond the police. Since 1980 over 260,000 Black men alone have been killed in the US, and murder rates are on the rise. The Black ghetto in America has been abandoned by the State, society and most Black folk who have ‘made it’. The crippling poverty and marginalisation have created conditions that breed crime, violence and murder.

The State’s approach has been to contain the ghetto. Keep the violence, poverty and the Blacks separate from the rest of society. As long as war-zone murder rates remain in the hood then they will be ignored. The police’s role in Black communities is to ensure that the niggers are controlled. They are an occupying force who harass, detain and murder Black so-called citizens to keep them in their place. The police are the boots on the ground, racism made flesh. They kill with impunity, infused with the same power the overseers had on the plantation. The police are the visceral face of a criminal injustice system that transfers Black people into prisons at rates only previously seen in war time internment. Almost 1 million Black men feed the prison industrial complex, which destroys communities. 1 in 12 Black men in America between the ages of 25 and 54 are currently in a prison cell.

In a society that has more guns than people; has created ghettos where murder is routine and; that ritually abuses and kill its Black citizens, we should not be surprised that the police are targets of violence. As Malcolm said of Kennedy’s assassination, this is ‘chickens coming to roost’. The logical consequence of the system of violence and racial oppression that is America. Please do not misinterperet me here: the murder of police officers is no more justifiable than the murder of Black people at the hands of the police. It is the worst kind of response to the oppression that we face, because it will lead to more of the brutal over-policing that we are protesting. But as long as the conditions of oppression exist and Black blood is spilled in the streets like it were Koolaid, then attacks against the police are inevitable.

Malcolm predicted and explained these kinds of attacks back in 1964. In a speech to the Militant Labor Forum he argued that because people were frustrated at the conditions they faced and the lack of progress we would:

‘…see terrorism that will terrify you, and if you don’t think you’ll see it, you’re trying to blind yourself to the historic development of everything that’s taking place on this earth today’. Why will you see it? Because as soon as people realize that it’s impossible for a chicken to produce a duck egg- even though they both belong to the same family of fowl–a chicken just doesn’t have within its system to produce a duck egg. It can’t do it. It can only produce according to what that particular system was constructed to produce. The system in this country cannot produce freedom for an Afro-American. It is impossible for this system, this economic system, this political system, this social system, this system, period. It’s impossible it as it stands to produce freedom right now for the Black man in this country’.

Over 50 years later we are still waiting, cap in hand, dimly hoping for at a Black president to deliver racial justice on a slave plantation. People are waking up to the reality of the society that we have become integrated into, and marginalised from. The only way to stop the kind of senseless killings in Dallas is to build a movement that does not try to polish a duck egg, to to make it look like it came from a chicken. The system will always fail Black people so we need a politics that reimagines society. Malcolm always left a vision for the solution to both the problems of police killing Black people, and retaliatory violence. It is long past time we started learning from his lessons:

If ever a chicken did produce a duck egg, I’m certain you would say it was certainly a revolutionary chicken!

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