I wrote the following words in 2015:
The diminution of a murder to ‘gang related’ has promoted a (group think) consciousness that some deaths are acceptable. Moreso, we embraced extra judicial killings as a justifiable response to a situation which is out of control.
“Kill everybody an done!”
However, there is no statistical correlation between these extrajudicial killings and a reduction in crime. We have justified ‘street justice’ and asked the street not to participate!
Unless and until the state can demonstrate that its institutions are capable of delivering justice then what we are seeing is, unfortunately, only the beginning of worse to come.
I repeat that our embrace of extrajudicial killings has sent a clear signal that even those who uphold the law expect no justice from the state apparatus and therefore it should be obvious that others in the society who are searching for justice would also do so outside of the State apparatus…and therefore outside of the law!
Here we are! Again!
I was not surprised at all by the deliberate strategy to depoliticise the response to actions by several communities yesterday. The objective is clear—to delegitimise the protests.
By militarising the response, the narrative is changed from communities trying to carve out an equitable space for themselves, to communities attempting to destabilise the country and make the ‘rest of us’ unsafe. A situation that the police must protect us from rather than one which the politician must address.
The problem with this response is that the issue will not go away. The irony is that are many who do not believe that there is an issue!
We have the same debate all the time. We hear certain phrases all the time like, ‘take personal responsibility’ or ‘they have themselves so’ or ‘they too lazy to take up the opportunities’. Then we ask where are the protests against the criminal element in your own community.
I wonder if we realise the fundamental problem with trying to hold the TTPS and criminals to the same standard? Or maybe its Freudian and subconsciously we do make that comparison. But that is for another time.
For these choirs, the notion that there is an actual injustice in the State policy toward these communities is a fabrication of people who just want to protest to destabilise the country.
Imagine protesting for justice and the first objective is to convince persons that there is injustice; even in the face of glaring evidence. Well played to the State on this one!
Convince the choir and ‘law abiding’ citizens that the protests are really criminal activity and galvanise more of the society against these communities.
What could go wrong? It’s the TTPS on the frontline anyway; they will handle it.
This is not about the people vs the TTPS. It is the people vs the colonial state!
How many times will we have to remove burning barricades from the streets? It should be obvious by now that our response of suppression and ‘running people home’ has not worked.
Until we address the fundamental inequity in the society, which is a political issue, we had better strap in. The outcry for justice will get progressively louder and a lot more ‘uncomfortable’ and if we care to read any of our history, a lot more ‘violent’.
Michelle Maiese in a 2003 paper entitled ‘Social Structural Change’ focuses on the supra structure of societies and examines the attendant characteristics which act as forces that influence and direct the power relations within a society.
She suggests that in particular societies: “structural forces often create a system of winners and losers in which people become trapped in a particular social situation. Structural violence often results, in the form of power inequity, poverty, and the denial of basic human rights.
“Basic human needs go unmet, and groups suffer from inadequate access to resources and exclusion from institutional patterns of decision-making.
“[…] There will be protracted conflict until there are changes made to these basic social structures. And in many cases, if social structural changes are not made, eventually change [oftentimes for the worse] will occur by means of violence.”
How many of the persons who condemn the violent possibility of protests also openly applaud extra judicial killings? The fact of the matter is that there seems to be two States which co-exist and, from time to time, they overlap; and we see a side of ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge.
In 2003, there was a drive by shooting at Movie Towne. A reporter interviewed a patron and I will never forget her words.
The young lady said that: “she didn’t expect that to happen here.” She did not live in the State where the violence was. That was somewhere else.
Whatever has been done to address the deficiencies in the justice system is simply not enough. Our process of decolonisation and march to independence are incomplete exercises. We have to come to terms with this fact.
Moreover, it is difficult in a majority black and brown community to understand the internalisation of racial profiling, and institutional racism because those people who profile us look like us.
I have made the point before that we live in a society where there was a large free black population, which for the most part steered clear of any anti-slavery or emancipation movement. So I am not surprised by the callous indifference to blatant injustice and inequity meted out to some communities.
In my humble view, the PM needs to find himself on the ground in these communities. Listen to what these communities are saying. These are PNM strong holds, act like it.
We have to address the failure of successive governments to address the basic needs of these communities. The intervention has to be made by the seat of power because what we are seeing is a challenge to power.
Contemplate if you will, the irony of the success of the Black Power movement of the 1970s. The actions of the hills of Laventille, East Port of Spain and Shanty Town gave rise to another acceleration of the black middle class, which now looks upon these communities with scorn and contempt.
If as some teachers say in the classroom there are enough A’s for everyone, why do so many of us behave as if there is limited justice to go around? Justice cannot be a privilege.
In the words of Peter Tosh, ‘peace is diploma you get in the cemetery’—what people want is equal rights and justice!