Photo: Kerry James Marshall. Untitled (policeman). 2015.

Introduction to Series

As we have seen in the long history of the battle for racial equality and Civil Rights, state-sanctioned police violence is a strong arm of racist power. Exaltation of the police is too often a lesson in white entitlement that authorizes and inheres the brutalization of Black and Brown people. The following bundles of articles and essays from The Black Scholar archive consider policing and intersecting structures of injustice. They also explore the long history of criticism and insurgence practiced by communities and scholars passionate about anti-racism, equality, and freedom. The research and reflection drawn together here attest not only to the rigor of how these issues have been assailed over time, but also to the sensitivity of our redress in analyzing the character of consciousness. The collection signals racism, sexism, homophobia, incarceration, and militarism as interlocking systems of oppression. The first bundle, “Rehearse, Resist, Riot, Repeat: Policing Through Time,” hails our sense of déjà vu and repetition (with difference) in the incidence and impacts of anti-Black police violence. An epidemic in the United States, police violence and murder creates conditions of rage, riot, and mourning. The second bundle, “Imagining a Global Resistance,” acknowledges W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1903 observation that the color-line divides towns and cities, and also circles the globe.[1] In the wake of centuries of European imperialist practice, racial hierarchy and structures of white-supremacy impact every nation. In fact, nationhood itself seems a symptom of race-based (as well as ethnic) oppressions, where policing reflects and inflicts broader systems of power. The third grouping marks a gathering of transformational awareness and consciousness over time in the process of diagnosing abusive policies, practices, and institutions. It is called “Creating another World: Gathering(s) Against Injustice.” In each grouping, analytical engagements identify structures and systems that reproduce racism and sexism. At the same time the insurgency of critical creative address testifies to the long history of brilliant struggle to provide all people with inalienable endowments of humanity, to forge systems of justice and just consciousness.

These words, oppression, injustice, protest, freedom, consciousness, resistance might seem overly familiar, perhaps overused or idealistic. This is only because racism, sexism — the inequities and entitlements of racial capital, as such — are also old and inert in self-perpetuation. It is old too to say that bigotry and race hatred, biases that foreclose possibility and cultivate suffering and death, are wrong. It means that these old hopes, these long struggles, persist still towards further fulfillment. It takes the knee of a white police officer blithely crushing the neck of a Black man into the concrete, suffocating him with confidence in his own blameless power, the “no-knock” police shooting of a Black woman safer-at-home in her bed while we reach a watershed viral death toll during a pandemic, to feel together the affront of homicidal collective consent to police brutality and public lynching. It takes, perhaps, the quiet of quarantine for some to realize or admit that racist ideology pervades social and political systems and the ways that they operate to impact human life. The struggle has been so long, so brutal. Fighting has been so long, so tiring, so demanding. This horror (as horror) is not new. There have been so many losses. Hopelessness, jadedness, and despair lurk just on the other side of assault, murder, and the next failure. We grieve together. For as long as racism and dispossession persist, so too does pride in the power of their dismantling. We take turns being energized by history and vision, helping and teaching each other through—and anew. This is the work. The work is hard. It demands insistence, great patience, great fury, and great love. These wearied, stalwart words–resistance, consciousness, freedom, oppression, injustice, protest–march on because their purveyors are relentless. Capacious local and transnational vision, a courageous letting go of what has been normalized, are demanded to address the enormous humanitarian and environmental challenges of our times. Practices of transformation, cultural shift, radical break, abolition, and even wokeness become fresh once again — different, renewed, and productive.

TBS presents these collections as provocation to anti-racist thought and activism, as reminder and inspiration, as context and guide for our 21st century aspirations towards justice and the dismantling of automatic and aggressive institutional, social, and interpersonal structures of violence. We present them in honor of those lost and in honor of the continuing struggle.

– Stephanie Leigh Batiste

[1] Du Bois, W. E. B., and Brent Hayes. Edwards. The Souls of Black Folk. Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford University Press). New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Graduate Student Introductions to The Social Justice Handbook Series

“Rehearse, Resist, Riot, Repeat: Policing through Time” (2020), by Sage Gerson, Taylor Holmes, and Nirvana Shahriar

“Imagining A Global Resistance” (2020), by Jamiee Cook, Maria Sintura, and Maile Young

“Creating Another World: Gathering(s) Against Injustice” (2020), by Nadia Ahmed, Anita Raychawdhuri, Erick John Rodriguez, and Maite Urcaregui