I truly believe that to be a good teacher, a decent writer or a perfunctory scholar one has to concede the limits of evidence, reason, and rationality.
It is no wonder I believe that. Evidence, reason and rationality can rarely explain my place in this world. I know the limits even as I try to stretch them. It is either futile or the human experience or, I suspect, it is both.
For months I have participated and supported the ground work of activists, scholars, teachers, preachers, parents, young people, old people, and people people in Ferguson, MO. My contribution amounts to little more than nil on the grand scale of things. Mostly, I have hoped that people would persist.
It is an unreasonable hope.
Representatives of the State, of a public that includes black people who are also a public, were defiant when they announced the grand jury results of Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson this week. If I accept the argument of every person who thinks it was a good clean kill, there is still little to explain the anger of those who, by all accounts, won. Why are police advocates, prosecutors, white people in online comments, the white guy who yelled at me to get a job as I crossed the street last night so angry? They won.
Mike Brown was a pest, exterminated by the police.
The officer is uninjured, married, employed and un-charged.
People who believe that these things are right and just and proper won. Yet, I find they are still angry.
It stretches the bounds of reason.
Unless, of course, nothing about this is reasonable.
When the accusation is that looting and riots constitute unacceptable violence, the rest of the statement goes thusly: every life has a price and these lives are cheaper than any property damaged.
I do not see many people arguing that extra-judicial homicide is unavoidable but that it is an acceptable price to pay for having police who are willing to do the job we ask them to do.
We ask the police to enforce our unreasonable reasons for fairness without justice and if people have to die for that job to be done, then so be it.
But it should never be spoken. We should never have to admit that we have sanctioned murder so that we can have stuff. Stuff, loosely defined, runs the gamut from televisions and plate glass windows to whiteness and bike lanes. We should never be forced to articulate that we have accepted a minimum threshold for murders so that we can have stuff.
I mean really, who is mad when they win? I can only imagine that anger when a winner knows that the trophy will bring inquiries about doping.
Winners are mad when winning lights the shadows.
It is about legitimacy and articles of faith, not actual lives and death.
The police must remain legitimate so that no one ever asks us, baldly and directly, how many people are we are okay with killing today so that we can have our stuff.
That is what we pay the police for and we pay them, in part, with the right to kill human pests.
Here is why evidence and reason fails; why your cousin-friend-favorite troll refutes every indicator that somehow the police kills more black people than they do any other kind of people. The only acceptable evidence for the collateral damage clause of policing is invisibility. And, evidence is by definition observed, measured, theorized, talked and lived into visibility.
No data, no tape, no pictures, no story, no argument, no reason can convince the winners in the game of police violence that black lives matter. If the black lives can be seen, then they fail the basic litmus test of the prevailing argument. They are not invisible.
Of course, some of us will continue to argue that death is an unacceptable sentence for shoplifting blunt papers. Many of us will argue that a human being is more valuable than a television. We will make the audacious claim that visibility is a human right, conditioned on not a single law of man or nation.
People will be angry. Many of those people have more guns and more right to use them on us than we will ever have. But when they have to pull them out, they have to admit that we’re visible.
That strikes me as a type of reason to riot.