Friday, April 24, 2009

"Naming" it "Police Pre-Trial Electrocution and Execution"


When I first proposed renaming "tasering" "police pre-trial electrocution and execution", some raised their eyebrows, pointing out, for example, that not everyone who is "tasered" dies. But, I argued the case last year (e.g. in the following essay), analyzing our use of language and explaining why failing to name "electrocution" powerfully was so harmful to the cause of stopping it:

Call An Electrocution An Electrocution

"Tasing" someone to death and electrocuting them is the same thing. Look up the verb "tase" in the Merriam Webster dictionary. It doesn't exist.

Look up the word "Taser" in the Merriam Webster dictionary. It exists only as a trade mark name, but NOT as a noun that could be applied to all electrical shock devices.

When the media begins to report that Black people are tired of being "electrocuted", they will understand that Blacks are serous, we are definiing our own reality, acting in self-determination, and they will realize that we are determined to stop being electrocuted.

But, for so long as we accept and adopt the "tase" euphemism created by one corporation for the self-serving purpose of marketing their own weapons, we will be acceding to THEIR version of how WE died. Those who define and name history control history and destiny.

A person who dies when seven Twinkies or Snickers bars are stuffed down his throat at once has not been "Twinkied" or "Snickered"; He has been intentionally and forcibly "asphyxiated." That's the scientific and dictionary-accepted name for that, not "Twinkied" or "Snickered", no matter what self-serving names the Twinkie and Snickers corporations and the media adopt.

Likewise, a person who is strangled to death with a Guchi belt has not been "Guchied". He has quite simply been "strangled" and "asphyxiated", regardless of the trademark name of the belt with which he has been strangled and asphyxiated.

Electrocuted While Black, Sunday, August 3, 2008

Over the last few weeks and months -- over the last year -- so many young Black children have been electrically shocked to death by police, without ever having so much as an arraignment, much less a trial, that now it is apparent to us all that "pre-trial electrocution" is precisely what is happening to Black people all over America.

We can no longer permit this torture and murder to be referred to with the corporate white euphemism "tasing", because that is like using the brand name of the rope instead of using the word "lynching". It makes the manufacturer of the rope more important than the hideous act for which the rope was used.

Last July, which seems like just yesterday, we all watched the video in utter horror as a suicidal Black man was shocked off a bridge by police and broke two arms and his eye socket in a fall several meters to the highway below. I remember being shocked to observe that the police would never electrically shock a wild dog on an overpass as they did that Black man off the overpass that day. The (white) public would simply never tolerate that mistreatment of a dog, and then seeing a dog fall to the highway below.

Around July 23, 2008, I started the "Electrocuted While Black" blog, with African American Political Pundit's Tasered While Black as inspiration, and with both AAPP and Villager of Electronic Village as co-editors. I have followed the example of AAPP, posting accounts from newspapers across America of the almost daily toll of Black people electrocuted before any court could adjudicated their guilt or innocence.

On that same day, July 23, 2008, I designed and uploaded the WidgetBox widget design (left) that is now used, in 3 dimensions (right) at 133 afrosphere blogs to vividly highlight what is most important about this issue: that Blacks are being lynched by policewithout trial, by massive electrical current applied to their bodies, and there is no justifiable or reason for it. There is onlyextremely color-aroused police ideation, emotion and behaviortoward the Black victims, who would not be dead if their skin color was white instead. Regardless of the painfully repetitive "testilying" justifications that police offer to rationalize what they've done, "The Price Is Just Too High."

(And yet the price isn't high enough for police, because they continue executing us at curbside, almost as in the New York Post propaganda "cartoon" that caused such an uproar a couple of months ago, because it targeted newly-elected President Barack Obama.)

Last July, we were catalyzed by AfroSpear-member African American Political Pundit, who started the Tasered While Black blog, to hold the first "Day of Blogging For Justice - Blogging Against Extra-Judicial Electrocution (Tasers)" almost a year ago:
Today, Wednesday July 30th 2008, black and other bloggers from across America are holding "A Day of Blogging for Justice - Blogging Against Extra-Judicial Electrocution (Tasers)"

Many Americans have seen the
outrageous police tasing and attempted murder videoImagine! Tasing a suicidal man and causing him to fall OFF AN OVERPASS AND ONTO THE HIGHWAY, in clear violation of tasing instructions!
Almost as soon as we in the AfroSpear and afrosphere started using the term "police pre-trial electrocution", particularly when African American Political Pundit featured the term in is "Tasered While Black" Blog, the term "police pre-trial electrocution" was picked up and highlighted by "The Root" blog, which is owned by the Washington Post:
Another blog, Tasered While Black, keeps a running log of black Americans killed or abused in what it calls "police pre-trial electrocution."
I am a "controversial African American blogger" precisely because I intentionally and laboriously devise and use and popularize, in the most stark and alarming manners possible, "naming" words that describe what most afflicts Blacks, in order to wake us and our tormentors up to the need for immediate and fearless change.

Blacks have a long history of using provocative language to wake up, educate and mobilize each other and our oppressors to stop the oppression. The 1970 testimony Frank Benson Jones to a US House Committee on Internal Security provides an example when Jones is asked why the Panther Party used the slogan, "off the pigs":
You have to remember the articles that appear in the Black Panther paper are articles that are submitted by people in the community. These articles are going to reflect the feelings of the people who write the articles. In the black community I have seen and experienced a great deal of frustration in my association with the police. This frustration is brought about by the fact that many black people feel they have no place to take their grievances expect to the Black Panther paper. When a man is frustrated and feels he is not going to receive proper consideration in the normal course of legal proceedings, he will find other ways to rectify his situation.

You might look at the Black Panther paper as this: It might serve as a steam whistle on a kettle that is boiling, you see, and as long as there is an outlet for that type frustration, and the paper serves as an outlet for people to vent their frustrations, the kettle won’t explode. You silence that steam whistle and the kettle will explode.

Source: Congress, House, Committee on Internal Security, Black Panther Party, Part 4, 91st Congress, 1970 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1971).

And yet the slogan "off the pigs" was more than just "letting of steam". The term "pigs" was part of the "naming" process that allowed Blacks to identify the occupying force in the ghetto, while suggesting that killing police officers was the only solution to police brutality that could be carried out without the help of white Americans, too many of whom seemed then and still seem now to be all-too-often willfully blind to what is happening to Blacks.

In my case, my additional inspiration for working to name what happens to Blacks in ways that ignite us to oppose our oppression comes from Brazilian revolutionary sociologist Paulo Freire, in whose book entitled "Pedogogy of the Oppressed" I first saw the term "naming". The term is explained to mean the use of language to define our circumstances from our own perspective (not that of Taser International), thereby arousing a new revolutionary consciousness among oppressed peoples.

And yet our goal today is not revolution that kills whites out of a conviction that they will never willingly stop oppressing us. After all, the election of President Barack Obama has given us the real hope that there are at least some whites who do not viscerally hate us just because our skin is brown. And yet there are still sufficient numbers of whites who do viscerally hate Blacks in that way, many of them wearing police badges (and including house negro police officers) , to guarantee a steady current of electrocutions of Blacks from Louisiana to Michigan and Texas.

We will not, we can not, and we must not tolerate the electrocution of our brothers and sisters, and of our very children. Still, among the remaining questions are what we are going to do about it, and whether whites -- from police departments to the US Congress -- will help turn down or instead turn up the fire under the pressure cooker of the police's extra-judicial imposition of the death penalty by their portable waist-mounted electric chairs.

Today, unlike 1970, when the Panthers were urging Blacks to "off the pigs", we have a Black president and a Black Attorney General, both of whom have it within their authority and responsibility to act to stop the pre-trial electrocution of Blacks. Will they do so in a way that gathers whites behind them to stop the murders, or will they and white America forget that the riots in France a couple of years ago began with the electrocution of Black youth being chased by police?

1 comment:

Villager said...

Very, very powerful post. Thanks for the naming suggestion and for the historical context of the Day of Blogging Justice taking place today.

I invite your blog readers to see what I had to say about taser torture in America and sign online petition seeking congressional hearings.

peace, Villager