Sep 28, 2020
The cops who put six bullets in Breonna Taylor’s body murdered her. But the whole system stands accused in the loss of her life. A judge signed off on a defective, cobbled-together warrant that allowed for the raid. Police officials authorized a gang of cops to break into someone’s home in the middle of the night, based on what even the police now admit was “faulty information.” Officials and legislators continue to act on the so-called “war on drugs,” which was the pretext for the raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment. A Kentucky attorney general refused to prosecute anyone in her death.
It’s a deadly system. What else would you call it but deadly? Police kill more than 1,000 people every year. What else could you call it but deadly and racist? Black people are killed three times more often than anyone white.
Almost none of the people killed came from the privileged layers of society. Very many were working people, like Breonna Taylor or George Floyd. Some were people without the hope of a job in a system whose high unemployment condemns too many people to petty crime. But whoever they were, their deaths were the inevitable result of a system that produces poverty as the necessary consequence of its rush to produce profit, and also requires the use of deadly force against the population it impoverishes. It requires a police authorized to kill.
Daniel Cameron, Kentucky’s first black attorney general, refused to prosecute. Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, then issued a statement: “He knew he had the power to do the right thing. He had the power to start the healing of the city. He had the power to help mend over 400 years of oppression. What he helped me realize is it will always be us against them. We are never safe.”
No, the black population is not safe in this society born in slavery 400 years ago, within a system that has condemned a large part of the black population to the lowest rungs of the labor force ever since: first as slaves, then as sharecroppers, then as the part of the work force that absorbs the worst of the unemployment. The existence of black officials or black cops changes nothing basic about the way the system functions.
This system, the capitalist system, produces wealth for those at the top by stealing part of what the laboring population produces through its work. Within such a system, no one is safe.
Violence is inevitably produced by this system. The answer to it will not come from officials, but from the laboring population itself, which has the capacity to take on the whole system. The black population has already shown in the past that it has the ability to defend itself. The whole labor force has shown that capacity.
Even in today’s situation, when we are far from seeing the ordinary laboring population organized, ongoing protests in the streets of Louisville forced an acknowledgment. The city administration, de facto, admitted guilt when it rushed to pay out a 12-million-dollar “wrongful death” settlement to Breonna Taylor’s family. On the scale of a human life, it’s only a token. It can never make up for what was lost. But let’s be clear. Payment did not come because of the “good will” of any politician, black or white. It was produced because people in Louisville kept Breonna Taylor’s name alive. Ever since her death, there were people in the streets of Louisville, one day after another, saying her name.
That’s what was required just to get this admission. This tells us how rotten the whole system is, that it will not reform itself, that it cannot be reformed.
But it can be overthrown. It can be pulled up, rooted out, and replaced by a system the laboring population itself can create. They are the only ones who can create a humane system responding to the needs of everyone. And the black laboring population, like it has done several times before, can play a leading role in this transformation. Militant black workers, entering the factories in the 1960s, pulled the rest of the working class after them in a wave of strikes that crescendoed in 1974.
This generation, when it comes to understand that the system must go, can open the door to a new life for everyone.