The truth is, the death of Mike Brown is not unusual. Black bodies appear to be disposable in the American psyche, and black men are major targets of police violence. Most of the time when a black man is the target of violence at the hands of the police, few of us outside their communities hear about it. But when cases are elevated to the mainstream, they are usually men or boys who are deemed “innocent” — which then is called into question by media outlets who seek to construct them as thugs (see #IfTheyGunnedMeDown). But an important question here is who is even allowed the privilege of being constructed as an innocent, ever?
How are the deaths and beatings of women — cis and trans — at the hands of the police or with their complicity so much less compelling? I think the obvious answer here is misogyny and transmisogyny, not on one specific occasion or by one specific person, but at the systemic level: what tweets get tweeted and retweeted, what events seem newsworthy, and what bodies are deemed to hold value.
I want to mourn the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, and I want to question why the deaths of Renisha McBride and Islan Nettles and Kathryn Johnston haven’t gotten similar traction. Why the beating of Marlene Pinnock isn’t on all of our lips. Why the nation is not familiar with the names of Stephanie Maldonado, or of Ersula Ore. And how many women’s names do we not know because they don’t dare come forward? Because the violence they experience at the hands of the police is sexual, and the shame and stigma around sexual violence silences them?
The truth is that, in the predominantly male-led civil rights organizations who lead efforts to respond to police brutality, in the male-dominated media that covers them, and in the hearts and minds of many people in this country, women who are of color, who are sex workers, undocumented immigrants, transgender (or, god forbid, more than one of those at once) are rarely candidates for “innocence,” and are often blamed for their own deaths, forgotten, or hardly counted at all. Women of color who are targeted by the police, and black women in particular, are seen as so disposable, so far from being moral actors, that their lives and deaths are just passed over by the mainstream — their victimization and murder just another facet of the American landscape.
We the undersigned Palestinian individuals and groups express our solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man gunned down by police on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. We wish to express our support and solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have taken their struggle to the street, facing a militarized police occupation.
From our families bleeding in streets of Gaza, Hebron, Jenin, Jerusalem; from the Zionist prisons overflowing with our political prisoners; from our endless refugee camps, ghettos and Bantustans; from our indigenous people living as second-class citizens in what became “Israel” in 1948, and our dislocated diaspora: We send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.
We understand your moral outrage. We understand your hurt and anger. We understand your impulse to burn the infrastructure of a racist capitalist system that systematically pushes you to the margins of humanity; we support your right to rebel in the face of injustice.
And we stand with you.
The disregard and disrespect for black bodies and black life is endemic to the white supremacist system that rules the land. Your struggles through the ages have been an inspiration to us as we fight daily for the most basic human dignities in our own homeland against the racist Zionist regime that considers us less human. As we navigate our own struggle against colonialism, ethnoreligious supremacy, capitalism and tyranny, we find inspiration and strength from your struggles and your revolutionary leaders, like Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis, Fred Hampton, Bobby Seale and others.
We honor the life of Michael Brown, cut short less than a week before he was due to begin university. And we honor the far too many black lives who were killed in similar circumstances, motivated by racism and contempt for black life: John Crawford, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tarika Wilson, Malcolm Ferguson, Renisha McBride, Amadou Diallo, Yvette Smith, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Kathryn Johnston, Rekia Boyd and too many others to count.
With a Black Power fist in the air, we salute the people of Ferguson and join in your demands for justice.❞