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Scary Negroes with Guns


The imaginary guns that white people perceive in black hands reveal a longstanding fear of black resistance

On a recent road trip we made a stop at gun range in Austin, Texas. I posted a picture on Instagram of myself aiming a Beretta pistol down the range, and a white friend posted a comment that read, “You’re scaring us.” The picture had no menacing intent; I felt it joined many images of men, women, children and even blind people with guns. This Instagram comment may have come from a sincere place. But it made me think about how guns are viewed in black hands.

Imagine a sweaty muscular white man kicking a door off its hinges with two machine guns in his hands. He pulls the triggers, massacring everyone in the room. Out of context, this moment is psychotic and disturbing. But reflected off many faces, premiered on televisions and smartphone screens, appearing in countless action movies, thrillers or even comedies, this Hollywood scene is a reflection of a nation with around 270 to 310 million civilian firearms. That’s the most in the industrialized world. It’s inevitable for children to look up at adults and want to gesture guns with their fingers, or play with water guns, paintball and laser-tag. In Cleveland, Ohio, police responding to a 911 call found Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy, playing with an empty BB gun. He was shot and killed two seconds after the police arrived.

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“revulsion and guilt must have shivered across him when we called out to him in that stolen name”

March 3, 2013

After Rod’s sudden disappearance, I began to thread together the disparate moments that had raised some suspicions. In 2001 we begun small meetings in my flat to discuss the logistics of blocking the Elephant and Castle roundabout to clog up a main artery into the City. Rod was a regular visitor, and even stayed the night there on occasion, most notably the night before the May Day 2001 protests. His reason for doing this was that he lived up in Hertfordshire and wanted to be in central London for the first actions of the day. Around this time, my flat was raided by the police – this seemed disproportionate when what we were actually arrested for was flyposting. We were held overnight in police cells, where even the duty sergeant expressed surprise that someone being held for “graffiti” would have their home raided.

When I was released from the police station at 5 am and made my way back to the flat, it looked as if it had been burgled. They had ransacked everything. Getting a “visit” from the police is a violation – they had trampled through my bedroom turning everything over, ransacking cupboards, drawers and wardrobes. After they had gone I started to wonder if the phones were tapped.

Read More | “How I met ‘Rod’, the suspected undercover police officer” | Laura Oldfield Ford | The Guardian | More info on “Rod Richardson”


“Plexiglass riot shields labeled THE MOB”

February 4, 2013

The call girl “Chelsea” is far more vulnerable and engaging than Mike—not because Sasha Grey is a more vulnerable or sympathetic actor than Channing Tatum but because there is no doubt that the great wave of financial catastrophe just cresting in her Manhattan will take her under, despite her maneuverings. Magic Mike can’t quite take this seriously. And certainly this concerns both gender and job. In the sex work movie, men get happy endings.

Which is to say: they get to dress up as cops. The interval from The Girlfriend Experience to Magic Mike might be marked, as a matter of economic affect, by a shift from rising dread to exhausted despond. It has also been marked by a rising tide of political ferment and, in response, state violence. Mostly, in the main markets of Magic Mike, this has meant riot cops: vs. racialized rebellions, vs. university struggles, vs. Occupy encampments.

The film started shooting in the middle week of September 2011 and finished near the end of October; this is a suggestive span, to say the least. Principal photography was almost precisely contemporaneous with the span from the founding of Occupy Wall Street on September 17 to the dramatic, violent, and internationally reported first eviction of Occupy Oakland and ensuing night-time streetfight on October 25, riot cops and their objects of affection whirling through eerie floodlights behind a ground layer of tear gas. It certainly sets Tatum’s big dance number in strange relief.

Read More | “Dance Dance Revolution” | Joshua Clover | Museum of The Moving Image


“the police have a special inclination toward confabulation”

February 4, 2013

In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.

That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly.  Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. In 2011, hundreds of drug cases were dismissed after several police officers were accused of mishandling evidence. That year, Justice Gustin L. Reichbach of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn condemned a widespread culture of lying and corruption in the department’s drug enforcement units. “I thought I was not naïve,” he said when announcing a guilty verdict involving a police detective who had planted crack cocaine on a pair of suspects. “But even this court was shocked, not only by the seeming pervasive scope of misconduct but even more distressingly by the seeming casualness by which such conduct is employed.”

Remarkably, New York City officers have been found to engage in patterns of deceit in cases involving charges as minor as trespass. In September it was reported that the Bronx district attorney’s office was so alarmed by police lying that it decided to stop prosecuting people who were stopped and arrested for trespassing at public housing projects, unless prosecutors first interviewed the arresting officer to ensure the arrest was actually warranted. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent. To justify the arrests, Ms. Rucker claimed, police officers provided false written statements, and in depositions, the arresting officers gave false testimony.

Read More | “Why Police Lie Under Oath” | Michelle Alexander | NY Times


“a car full of men pulled up next to us”

December 5, 2012

They trailed us down the street, shouting at us. Our crime: being 22-year-old women out at night.

First, they shouted out to ask if we were okay — fair enough, no harm done. But after we answered and kept walking, they continued trailing us, asking what we were carrying (we’d stopped to buy snacks), telling us to give it to them, and then, when we stopped answering, shouting at us to come over to the police car and get in. After our first answers, we stopped responding and kept walking straight ahead, as quickly as we could, not looking at them, not answering.

They trailed us in their car for over a block, always staying a few feet behind us and continuing to shout at us to come to them, even though we’d stopped responding. They only stopped when we hurried around the corner down a side street.

Read More | “I Was Street Harassed by The NYPD” | Erika W. Smith | Bust