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Prosecuting Cops Does Not Equal Justice

Celebrating charges is like celebrating crumbs.

I’ll admit to being alarmed that people who call themselves having a structural analysis are rejoicing over cops being charged for Freddie Gray’s death. I am even more alarmed that smart people who know that the current system is unable to offer any actual ‘justice’ are all over my timeline canonizing a state’s attorney whose actual JOB it is in a system that would be ‘functioning’ to prosecute killer cops. The expectations are so low as to be self-defeating. I understand. But I am supremely dismayed.

I want to also add that those of us who have studied, researched, experienced and lived the criminal punishment system cannot suffer from the collective amnesia that pervades at times like these. If your concept of ‘justice’ means convictions for cops, then you should be very concerned because this current system as designed is unlikely to deliver. If your concept of ‘justice’ means prison time for cops, then you should be despondent because this system as currently constituted almost NEVER delivers that either. If your concept of ‘justice’ means Black people being able to live our lives free from state violence, then today is not a day of celebration. Sorry but I have to say it since others are selling something else.

I know for sure that there would not even have been charges against these cops without the uprising of young Black people and others in Baltimore and across the country. And activism, organizing matter tremendously. They do. But to transform a death-making system, our expectations have to be much higher. Celebrating charges is like celebrating crumbs. It really, really is. I understand why people do it but I think according great significance to charges misses the point and it also freezes people in place. It has the effect of demobilizing collective action. Just watch what happens over the next couple of days. The “wait and see” chorus, the “let the system work” chorus will be out in full force. Organizers have our work cut out for us in that climate.

Finally, it feels terrible to have to depend on a system that you know is illegitimate to adjudicate your “worth.” It really does. The criminal punishment system has ALWAYS been a tool in this country for enforcing and maintaining white supremacy. Yet that ‘analysis’ goes out the window as we are compelled by some to ‘celebrate’ charges and to ‘canonize’ public officials who under the rules of said system are SUPPOSED to prosecute killer cops.

P.S. That same State’s Attorney is also likely to be prosecuting protesters and so called ‘looters.’ She’s the STATE’s attorney. Not the “people’s attorney.” Please stay awake. Challenge the conventional narratives that you will be fed. Always be critical. (thanks to Tamara Nopper for always being on the ball).

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