After Dallas, Preparing for Repression

(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout)

The United States will never be at peace with itself until it resolves the fact that it was birthed through injustice, exploitation and genocide. America, as many call it, was never great for everyone. Now, as problems that have existed since the earliest days of the US project boil over yet again, we should be prepared for what is to come. It shouldn’t be hard to imagine what we can expect next from a reactionary state apparatus, when we know what’s happened before. Activists and those who resist oppression and the state’s attempts at social control should be prepared for the coming repression.

Late last year, I wrote that the question wasn’t whether the police would use robots to kill Black people, the question was when. Now, some months later, the police in Dallas have used a robot to kill someone for the first time, and that person was Black, as I felt they likely would be. The suspected Dallas shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, was also apparently a frustrated Black military veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Last year, I also wrote about the frustration Black military veterans feel when they return to a nation plagued by police violence and realize that their Blackness detrimentally outweighs any military service they can provide to this country. Both of these pieces that I’ve mentioned were written based on looking at US history and juxtaposing it with the present. Therefore, it’s not hard to foresee what I believe is an unnerving impending doom. With that said, there are necessary steps that can be taken.

The state encourages violence only when one is fighting in the name of empire, and not against it.

The state, government and its various arms are currently subject to international derision. The US is once again exposed, not as a beacon of hope for freedom and justice, but yet again as a hypocrite. Black people are not free here, and the failure of the state to use its hand to ensure at least some advances in equality calls the entire structure into question, putting its international legitimacy and reputation at risk. This is true throughout the Western world, where citizens are leaving their often comfortable and privileged lives to join terrorist organizations.

Alternatively, international solidarity is being extended to movements within US borders — like Black Lives Matter — highlighting not only global frustration, but also a sympathy with the Black plight (which is transnational and has been for some time). With people gravitating toward different outlets — violent and nonviolent, civic and external outlets — to engage their frustrations, what’s consistent is an air of disillusionment. Understanding and drawing from the fact the whole world — not simply one state or country — is full of oppressed and disillusioned people might be key to advancing our struggles. I believe, as Malcolm X once said, that freedom will come when we start identifying ourselves with oppressed people around the world, building with them, and forming effective movements against imperialism.

Another step we must take is to be fully conscious of what activists may be facing. The state will most likely meet activists, organizers and resisters with more repression than was used prior to Dallas. It will likely label this repression as “defense” efforts, allowing it to exert itself even more, particularly via the police. This would mean an increase in militarization, as well as the use of non-human robotic policing elements to avoid the risk of lost human (police) life.

As we saw in Baltimore, Ferguson and elsewhere, the state seeks to make examples of those who dare react violently. After all, the state encourages violence only when one is fighting in the name of empire, and not against it. The officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray have seen little to no consequences for their actions thus far. Meanwhile, Allan Bullock, who broke police car windows at a protest, was sentenced to to 12 years in prison, with all but six months suspended as part of a plea deal. Activist Jasmine Abdullah was convicted of “felony lynching” after attempting to de-arrest someone being detained by police. (She is now released on bail.) The only person at the scene of Eric Garner’s death who will be serving time is Ramsey Orta, who filmed the killing and faced harassment afterwards — not the officer who choked Garner to death. These types of decisions are slaps in the face of a movement fed up with injustice, but they are also meant to inject fear into the lifeblood of uprising.

Surveillance, including social media monitoring and corporate collusion with authorities, will be increased. Even those who do not identify with the targeted movements will be punished to discourage them from joining. Therefore, activists must always act with an awareness of the risks at hand. Speaking recklessly in a surveillance state and putting oneself at risk for nothing serves no one. The state will use and has used whatever means it can to detain and punish those who make statements it sees as “too bold,” as well as those who are whistleblowers. All of our online communications are monitored, our protests and our most private conversations are vulnerable to infiltration. Therefore, it’s important to be careful about how we speak and what we say, lest we hope to remove ourselves completely and be subject to the whims of a state seeking to make more examples of us.

After Dallas, we should expect “security” to be used as a justification of surveillance and encroachment on our communities at the hands of the state.

Everyone should be as vigilant as possible about making their communications more secure as well as more strategic. Organizing can and will be criminalized where the state sees fit; therefore, it’s up to us to resist that in whatever ways we can. Being careful is not equivalent to being “cowardly.” What we face is much bigger than us in many ways, so caution and comprehension are vital.

In times of increased repression, white people and others who experience relative privilege through access to power should be thinking about additional steps they can take, including reaching out to varied communities. There are people among the white working class and poor (the groups that are being targeted by Donald Trump during this election) who should be organized just as much as their non-white counterparts. White people who consider themselves allies to non-white people should be working to organize these communities.

Meanwhile, the need for an international Black movement is ever more clear. Generally speaking, we should all be organizing the people who are most disenfranchised among our respective peoples — not just here, but worldwide.

In times like these, we must also understand how the concept of “safety” can be warped. After Dallas, we should expect “security” to be used as a justification of surveillance and encroachment on our communities at the hands of the state. It’s important to not accept the myths that will be spoonfed to the US public in the name of safety.

Even though I expect the worst, as someone who is descended from people who survived enslavement, I know my people are capable. Still, that doesn’t mean that my people, as well as everyone else, shouldn’t prepare for what is to come. I would hope that governments and their enforcers will do the right thing or have a change of heart for once, but the bruises of a Black existence have not healed enough for that optimism to feel realistic. We must take notice. We must not be naive.