Wanted: People of Conscience to TAKE A STAND

by Lenny Wolff | April 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


I have just listened to some of the statements sent in for the April 6 emergency meeting headlined by Carl Dix and Cornel West. I found these moving—but unfortunately all too rare. In the weeks since Carl Dix and Cornel West initiated a statement of conscience, I have been frankly surprised at the resistance to taking such a stand by all too many people—especially white people of prominence—who SHOULD be rushing to put their names on such a statement. People who’ve done better—much better—in the past, including on this question.

How do they explain this reluctance? Let’s take four cases.

One person said he’s going to “take a pass” and complained that it “gets to be meaningless” if he signs every statement that comes across his desk. Meaningless? Unfortunately, your silence itself is extremely meaningFUL. Your silence, whatever your intent, gives your approval to the relentless drumbeat of police murder of Black and Latino people. Your silence gives your approval to the repression that the police have been and will surely continue to bring down on people who resist this—including those planning to be in the streets on April 14. And given that you have spoken out very powerfully in the past against police violence against other movements, your silence this time is, unfortunately, particularly eloquent—and particularly unconscionable.

Another person—again someone who has taken stands in the past, including on this question—declined because she doesn’t “feel qualified to speak. This movement has been driven so wonderfully by young people of color. I think people like me need to step back and not try to take the megaphone.” First, if you live on this planet and are awake—and this person is not just awake but well-versed in the whole situation of mass incarceration and what it does to people, and this is known—you are not only qualified to speak, you are obligated to. What is the logic here? Imagine that some people in Nazi Germany were asked to take a stand against the attacks on Jews and declined on the grounds that the Jews were doing such a wonderful job of driving their own movement.

This is also a bit overly naïve. There is not one monolithic “movement” against police brutality. Different individuals, trends, and organizations put forward and pursue varying analyses, strategies, and programs—sometimes these are opposed, and sometimes convergent, but they are different. The statement of conscience by Dix and West does not endorse any particular strategy or action, and has the virtue of clearly putting forth a stand that EVERYONE should be able to agree on, in the face of what the statement correctly points out has been a response of “repression and the false promises of ‘understanding’ and ‘reconciliation.’” The fact is that no matter how “wonderful” a job anyone is doing of “driving” this movement, the statement points out that “murder by police continues unchecked”—and since Eric Holder (the latest savior we were told to believe in) exonerated Darren Wilson and cooked testimony to falsely blame Michael Brown, the victim, for his own murder (which effectively gave a green light to the police), this epidemic of murder seems, if anything, to have intensified. This is a state of emergency!

If you have a difference with the statement, state it—and then let’s wrangle it out. It’s way too urgent to beg off on bogus grounds of “lack of qualification.” Again—your silence is in itself a statement. Finally, and not that it makes any difference whatsoever but—just “for the record”—it is somewhat ridiculous to have to point out that this statement was initiated by Carl Dix and Cornel West who are, the last time I looked, Black, and who have, in fact, been bringing forward more than a few young people into the movement.

A third person had her assistant write that she is “too busy” on “her own” issues. Sorry, but whether you like it or not police murder of unarmed Black and Latino people IS your “issue” by virtue of the fact that you live in the U.S. This murder is going on and you can’t be bothered? You can’t fucking sign a statement saying it’s wrong? PLEASE. Is it that you can’t even see the barest of connections between this and “your issue”—or is it that you intend to cut loose the people facing this horror to fend for themselves, so that “your issue” can get some attention and concessions from the powers-that-be? There’s a long—and despicable—history of that in America that you shouldn’t want to repeat and add to.

Finally, there’s the fellow who actually told us that he wouldn’t sign because he was worried his “brand might be contaminated.” Your “brand”??!?!? Why don’t you come explain that bullshit on Monday night to the parents who are going to be honored for going forward through the pain and grief for standing up and resisting when the police murdered their loved ones—and then murdered them a second time with slander, as they have done to Michael Brown. “Your brand”? What about their kids’ lives? Fuck your brand, my friend—seems to me that your BRAIN, your HEART, and yes, your SOUL are in grave danger of irreparable contamination by this market-mad, Midas-worshiping capitalist society. You need to get rid of that contamination by standing up for what’s right.

What’s really going on here? I’m serious—just what is it that’s hanging you up? And what is hanging up the rest of you, the majority of those to whom this has been sent, who have even more unconscionably refused to even respond? In looking over the names of those who HAVE sent statements, I am struck by the fact that many are no strangers to controversy—they have been attacked, sometimes relentlessly, often at great cost, for standing on principle and refusing to be silent. They have refused to back down. So is that it? Is it a question of intellectual courage, of backbone, of integrity, that rarest of qualities in this society? Are you really worried that someone is gonna criticize you for speaking up, or for the “company you keep”?

Come on, let’s be honest here. Again, what is the story? Is there some part of you that shrank at the way those who catch the hardest hell of police terror every day—those who in fact took great heart from the support that some white people DID begin to offer during the fall—began to get in the streets and defy the powers-that-be? That’s more comfortable with well-modulated voices and polite discourse in the halls where “those people” are not welcome? Yet I know that some of you have recognized their humanity in the past. So why now do you shrink from those who are condemned in today’s society to unpunished murder by those who have the power and those who serve the power, or to a life in prison or “on the run”?

Or is it that you’re a little bit freaked out by the way the fascists and racists have come back at this movement? Are you hoping things will cool out and those kluckers will return to their caves? Sorry, but there’s a long and dishonorable—and very disastrous—history of conciliating with fascists and racists in the hope of propitiating them, or finessing the danger they do in fact represent. You cannot finesse the need to resist!

Whatever it is, get over it. Most of you have taken principled stands in the past. That’s why we’ve called on you. You have been and can be—and the people facing this plague need you to be—better than this. With voices comes responsibility. Your voice—or your silence—makes a huge difference, to the people up against this horror and to the powers-that-be. Look at the reality concentrated here. Listen to the reality concentrated in the videos below, by the parents of police murder victims. And then sign that statement, and raise the voice you have.


Nicholas Heyward at John Collado memorial calling for A14  credit: Alex Seel

Families of Loved Ones Whose Lives were Stolen by the Police, Speak Out (Atlanta Conference February 2)
Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson - Uncle of Oscar Grant

Families of Loved Ones Whose Lives were Stolen by the Police, Speak Out (Chicago, November 5, 2014)

Video of the event by Kevin Gosztola of The Dissenter at Firedoglake


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