What Sandra Bland Illustrates About the “Right to Abuse”
Note that she did nothing which would warrant arrest and was taken into custody on what amounts to a freestanding “resisting arrest” warrant.
Her real crime was “disrespect of cop,” of course. She didn’t put out her cigarette when asked, she was annoyed to be stopped.
Racism appears to have been operative here, but I want to point out something else. Being black is also a proxy for “no one important.” “No one important” is proxy for “as a cop or other authority figure, I can do what I want to you.”
Sandra Bland clearly knew her rights. Sandra Bland is dead. (Sandra Bland may well be dead because she knew her rights and the cop didn’t want to go to trial over that arrest. Or it may have been punishment for an “uppity black.”)
You have precisely and only the rights that you can enforce, the rights that you have the power to enforce. You have no other rights, and you never did.
“You” can be a group. If a group of citizens is strong enough, it can insist upon being treated according to what the law actually requires (or even better than the law requires, as in the case of, say, bankers). Such a group has rights. But they have those rights only because they can hold anyone who violates those rights accountable and that ability is well-known.
People don’t like when powerful individuals say “Do you know who I am?” but that’s a simple assertion of rights. It’s a way of saying, “You can’t do certain things to me, because I can retaliate.”
We have an ideology that everyone should be treated the same before the law. In America, and indeed every country, it is untrue. Some people are always more equal before the law. Of course, that it is always untrue does not mean that in some places and times it is more true than others.
Here in Toronto, the man who filmed former mayor Rob Ford doing crack was sentenced to jail. Ford was followed by police for months, so in addition to the crack video, they have plenty of other evidence of his drug use. Rob Ford has never seen the inside of a courtroom, let alone a jail cell. He never will.
But a message has been sent: Dare to try and blackmail someone important like Ford for committing a crime, and you will go to jail, and the “important” criminal will not.
Some animals are more equal than others.
The Black Lives Matter movement is an attempt to notify police that blacks are no longer fair game for abusers; that you can’t get your rocks off killing them; that there are consequences. It is an attempt to say, “Blacks have rights.” They aren’t even really trying to stop the sort of abuse in the arrest video; they’re just trying to stop it from turning into the final abuse: murder by cop.
This is America. And this is your lesson in power. Real power.
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