In Defense of Punching Cops
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Black Lives Matter or any affiliations thereof.
I have a friend who punched a cop — or as he describes it, he “two-pieced his white ass and laid him out on the street.” This is doubly impressive because my friend is a queer Black man and he lived to tell about it.
As legend has it, a white cop was witnessed aggressively harassing Black school children for exhibiting Black joy (aka running), and my friend (we’ll call him “Pigslayer”), was so overcome with emotion that he confronted the cop and the situation escalated from there. Before Pigslayer knew what came over him, he knocked the cop on his ass and made his escape by hopping on a conveniently departing bus nearby. Pigslayer watched from the moving window as the officer got to his feet and tried to regain his composure. Assuming the bus would get pulled over, my friend gave his belongings to a random passenger who volunteered to keep them safe upon his arrest.
But an arrest never happened.
The cop — presumably too embarrassed to report he’d just gotten his ass whooped by an angry faggot with frosted tips — never so much as called in the incident. Folks on the bus thanked Pigslayer for intervening to protect the Black youth, and now my friend re-tells the story whenever he has three or more drinks in his system. And no matter how many times he tells the story I think it’s going to end with his funeral, because 9 times out of 10 that’s exactly what would have happened. And 10 times out of 10 the cop would have gotten away with it. It’s no secret that in the United States, police have a license to kill.
In the United States, police have a license to kill.
It’s for this reason that I own a hoodie that reads, “Police Murder People.” I don’t wear it ironically; I wear it because (spoiler alert) police have a habit of murdering people. Call me antagonistic, but I think that warrants some acknowledgement.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is the fact that many Americans are under the belief that police are murdering us for our own good. Sometimes we eagerly call them to our houses so they can murder us in front of our families. Just two weeks ago, police killed a pregnant Black woman named Charleena Lyles, who had called to report a burglary at her home. The fact her death barely interrupted the news cycle should scare the shit out of all of us. Instead, most Americans remain unfazed. I’m not one to give cops credit, but that’s an impressive public relations feat.
Convincing Americans that killer cops are performing a public service is the fascist equivalent of selling road kill as “free-range organic.” Bravo. I might even respect the deception if it didn’t put a huge target on my back — and the backs of all marginalized folks. In fact, the prevailing message that law enforcement has a right to brutalize us is so normalized that most of us don’t even find it odd. And why would we?
This past spring, I watched a new TV show in which cops were given high-tech military grade weaponry to patrol and terrorize low income minority communities. In a rational world, we’d recognize this as blatant fascist propaganda. But in 2017 America, it’s just the third most racist show on Hulu Plus. It’s part of an ongoing PR campaign which allows police to assault everybody from children to old ladies with relative impunity. That sentiment is frightening enough in its own right, but this PR stunt has an added side effect I hadn’t considered until recently: The higher we place law enforcement on a seemingly immovable social pedestal, the more blasphemous statements like, “cops murder people,” become — even when undeniably true.
This explains why I’m frequently referred to as a fanatic and an extremist in the comment sections of my articles and social media posts. I’ve even internalized this, and (like many queer Black organizers) have started referring to myself as a radical. I wear it as a badge of honor, but I don’t know if I’m prepared to live in a world where single moms who blog and actually pay for Hulu Plus are considered radical. If I’m radical, what does that make Pigslayer? If I’m an extremist, what does that make of the folks behind this violent NRA ad?
Inevitably, as the status quo shifts to the far right, it drags all of us along with it. That’s why Democrats today are about as liberal as stormtroopers®, and Pride festivals are patrolled by cops driving rainbow colored paddy wagons. Even the “liberal media” recently praised mass-murderer-turned-oil-painter George W. Bush for criticizing Donald Trump’s overt racism. This is the same guy who called for a constitutional amendment permanently banning gay marriage. Why is he suddenly doing light-hearted guest spots on Ellen? How did George “Mission Accomplished” Bush become the golden boy of the Huffington fucking Post? It’s likely for the same reason I’m now being lumped in with radical freedom fighters like Assata Shakur and Korryn Gaines, even though I thought a Molotov cocktail was a mixed drink until I was 28.
One of the best examples of this glaring political shift happened back in January, when actual neo-Nazi, Richard Spencer, was punched in the face. Twice. It’s not the punches that highlighted the shift, but the fact they caused a national discussion on the morality of punching Nazis. I shit you not.
Being civil in the face of oppression is to be a spectator — or, more accurately, a perpetrator.
There was a time when punching Nazis was the only thing all Americans agreed upon — even before most Americans were cool with Black folks drinking from public water fountains. We set aside our differences when it came to understanding that Nazis ought to have their bells rung on sight. Here’s a short list of fictional characters who have physically assaulted Nazis over the years: Wonder Woman, Deadpool, Captain America, Rafael from the Ninja Turtles, Indiana Jones, Superman, and Captain Planet. Even Daffy Duck gave Hitler a concussion with a croquet mallet, and we all agreed it was fine because Nazis obviously deserve concussions. Or at least they used to. Today, it’s up for debate.
As Isaac Hayes¹ once said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” That seems to be true for everything except American liberalism, which has largely decided that acts of resistance should not extend beyond clever memes and stern words of admonishment. Being civil in the face of oppression is to be a spectator — or, more accurately, a perpetrator. During the course of my life, I’ve seen the far right crank the dial up to 10, while the left has tried to politely reason with them over the deafening noise. They want to be remembered as the voice of reason, not the voice of revolution. In essence, liberals are the fuckboys of America — screenshotting their seemingly righteous indignation so they can gaslight us later and stake claim to the moral high ground.
From where I’m sitting, there are only two possible solutions for re-calibrating the political spectrum to redefine leftist radicalism and far right conservatism. We can continue to slowly build grassroots movements and increase pressure on the powers that be to abandon their regressive and oppressive regimes…. or we can punch cops.
I think both of these solutions have merit, but cop punching might solve our problem faster. For starters, we don’t need a lot of people punching cops. We just need enough so that Fox and Friends will think twice before labeling people like me extremists. The goal is to burst the bubbles of those who view my boring ass opinions and lifestyle as “extreme” in any way. Nothing puts that in perspective faster than Officer O’Mally getting laid out in front of 1 Police Plaza.
I know that if my child one day becomes a victim of police abuse and harassment (and statistically they will), I’d want somebody to intervene and defend them. But I also know that aside from myself and Pigslayer, not many people would. I find that realization frightening. Does that make me an unhinged extremist, or a mother concerned about a legitimate threat to my child and a violation of my reproductive rights?
As a bonus, decking cops would make decking Nazis seem tame by comparison, and essentially end that debate once and for all. If history is any guide, we know how this plays out anyway. It ALWAYS comes down to the people rebelling and punching cops. It’s only a question of when. The new normal is not sustainable. I’ve been to the mountain top, and trust me; it’s covered in knuckle sandwiches with extra bacon.
Punching cops would be the perfect plan, if it weren’t for one glaring reality: You’ll probably end up getting murdered. Which sounds terrible, until you come to grips with the fact that cops are already murdering us. Maybe if more people knew, my idea wouldn’t sound so radical. Maybe I should stock up on more hoodies.
¹I said what I said.