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Sandra Bland is Dead Because a Supremacist With A Gun and Badge Insisted On Playing God

To disobey an unauthorized command is to defend one’s freedom. For a cop to demand obedience, under threat of arrest or execution, is to criminalize that freedom. Inside prison, it is unfreedom that is criminalized. On both sides of the wall, what is the same is the police demand for obedience, for acceptance of lesser status as a person and a withholding of rights. It marks the power to control. And insofar as it happens to people of color mostly, it is racialized control. Control, obedience, and the imposition of lesser status dimension a process of racialization.
—Steve Martinot
When most blacks encounter white police officers they don't
see a man who is standing for the law — they see a racist who
stands ready to violate their rights and take their lives. (Photo
by Jamie  Davies)

Sandra Bland is dead because a supremacist with a gun and a badge insisted on playing God.  A Texas trooper had Sandra Bland pull over for allegedly failing to use her signal while changing lanes. After having her sit and wait in her car for a time the trooper  handed her a written warning, then goads her by saying, "You seem irritated." She replied that she is irritated because she had changed lanes to make way for the trooper's car. Then the trooper goes into "God Mode": "Are you finished?" he asks and orders her to put out her cigarette, which she resisted doing and had every right to refuse to do. But she did in fact put out her cigarette (despite what the racist white media has been telling you). The trooper then ordered Bland to get out of her car.  When she resisted the trooper's unreasonable demands, he pulls out a taser and screams, "I will light you up!" Bland then exists her car and says, "Wow, really, for a failure to signal? You're doing all of this for a failure to signal?" The trooper ends up slamming her head into the ground and Sandra Bland was arrested — for not disobeying an unreasonable and pointless command from a man with a gun and badge who was posturing like a violent white supremacist. A few days later she was dead in her jail cell. 

Sandra Bland would be alive today had the supremacist with a gun and badge not insisted on playing God.
Ronald David Jackson

________________

Sandra Bland

The Violence of Police Politics

By Steve Martinot
Insofar as the state, and the prison administration, know that solitary confinement drives people insane through isolation and torture, its use signifies that the state desires this outcome. That is a political desire, a desire to do irrevocable damage to people. It happens silently, as punishment for thinking autonomously, for self-respect against the violence of imprisonment, as a political stance. On the street, however, when comparable irrevocable damage occurs, as when a cop shoots someone, he must give an account. “He was reaching in his waistband, and I felt threatened” (Gary King). “He attacked me and tried to grab my gun” (Michael Brown, shot as he stood a 100 feet away). “She became uncooperative, and made a threatening gesture.” These appear as mantras in all parts of the country. The uniformity of these excuses give them away as formulas, not reasons. They are tacit admissions that no threat existed, only disobedience, and self-defensive resistance.
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In California, a small 80 year old black woman, a grandmother, was shot 6 times as she stood in her driveway with a one inch kitchen paring knife in her hand for having ignored the cops’ screams to “drop your weapon.” A black teenager in North Carolina, while undergoing some emotional trauma, was shot on his own living room floor in front of his mother for resisting being handcuffed.




To disobey an unauthorized command is to defend one’s freedom. For a cop to demand obedience, under threat of arrest or execution, is to criminalize that freedom. Inside prison, it is unfreedom that is criminalized. On both sides of the wall, what is the same is the police demand for obedience, for acceptance of lesser status as a person and a withholding of rights. It marks the power to control. And insofar as it happens to people of color mostly, it is racialized control. Control, obedience, and the imposition of lesser status dimension a process of racialization.
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And like all anti-democracy, it deploys extremes. A homeless man, camped on a hill above Albuquerque, faces four cops training their rifles on him (in the police video). When he agrees to come down off the hill, picking up his bundles, the cops shoot a stun grenade, and then open fire with bullets. They approach his corpse, and like demented drunkards, shoot him again and again while shouting “drop your weapon.”



It is a form of “dementia,” able to shift from berserk activity to a calm voice in seconds. The cop in McKinney, Texas, ran around like a crazed man rounding up all the black kids in reach after an integrated swimming pool party, leaving the white kids alone. He threw a 14 year old black girl in a bathing suit to the ground twice and pulled his gun on another who came to help her. Then he goes over to two black teenagers he had handcuffed, and says:
“I personally told you to get on the ground, and stay there. What did you do when I walked away? You did just what everybody else did, which was illegal [indicating the others who had fled in self-defense]. You did it, and you got caught. Now you are going to pay for it.”
In the tones of a scolding housemother, he implies that we are all in some kind of military institution, under any cop’s command, who can then act as a commanding officer. This may be the fantasy these cops live under, but the racism and the arbitrary violence that this fantasy unleashes as institutional power is unconstitutional in its abrogation of due process. It is the atrocious character of this fantasy that it rationalizes shooting anyone who doesn’t acceed to be regimented in that way.
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This wanton withholding of the right to dignity, self-respect, or sanctity of personhood through the use of guns and fantasy constitutes a “political dementia.” The term “dementia” refers to a psychological condition of unbalanced reason or a crazed sense of reality. But it is political insofar as it involves profiling as the foundation for demanding obedience. As policy, it renders each cop a threat to humanity.

In 2013, in Liberty City, FL, Tremaine McMillan, a 14 year old black teenager, was attacked by cops for what they perceived as a “dehumanizing stare.” In a subsequent interview, an officer, speaking or the police department, calmly explained that McMillan’s “body language” was “already” resisting an officer, letting the officer know that this person could become “agitated and violent, and thus was an immediate threat to the officer.” Spoken in an academic tone of voice, the psychotic nature of what is said become demonic. The teenager was sentenced to two years probation for looking at a cop wrong.

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It is the element of profiling that renders each incident beyond the law, insofar as profiling contraverts law enforcement. In law enforcement (the proper domain and activity of the police), when a crime is committed, the police look for a suspect to charge with the crime. In profiling, the police commit an act of suspicion, and then look for a crime with which to charge their suspect. One has to be oneself beyond the law to place other people beyond the law. In addition, military regimentation is a form of absolute power over the individual. To have absolute power on the street is to have no one in control over oneself, and thus to be, in a political rather than a psychological sense, “out of control.”

Police dementia reflected in prison cruelty

In its wanton cruelty, the political dementia exhibited by the police parallels that of the prison system, and expresses most clearly the police-prison nexus. For the police to act as they do, harassing and violating whole communities (of color), they require a growing prison industry. And for prison industry to grow, it depends on the police acting as they do. They combine as a common political project. Neither can be understood without understanding the other.
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The cruelty in prison escapes being seen as demented because it has become routine. Solitary confinement is imposed on those who think critically and politically. And it can be imposed for decades, in order to drive a person mad. We know of those individuals who have withstood this torture and survived. But those who succumb remain unsung. It becomes an expression of “institutional” political dementia that prison administrations can regard prisoners as imprisoned in order to be punished, where legitimately prison itself is to be the punishment. For the most part, punishment is meted out (without judiciality) in prison for the crime of thinking of oneself as human, due some respect and dignity as a human being.

It is perhaps this facet of the police-prison nexus that explains why, after the huge upheavals in protest against police killings, the killings increase. Where, in 2012, 380 unarmed people of color were killed by the police (cf. Malcolm X Grassroots Movement), which averages one person killed every 28 hours, in 2014, that number jumped to around 1,100 (or close to 3 people a day killed by police). In March of 2015, over a hundred people have killed by police nationwide. It appears that the police not only instigate the outrage, but use it to increase their violence.
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It is a sign of institutional dementia. Because people protest their dehumanization, the violation of their humanity will be enhanced. It is a slaveholder mentality, to torture people until they abandon all hope of being seen, and seeing themselves, as human.

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