Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) recited a one-minute poem on the House floor a few days ago. His heartfelt call for justice is simple and truthful. The refrain, “I can’t breathe” is repeated eleven times, the same number of times Eric Garner said the same words, his final words. The poem speaks for itself and it speaks for many.

Black men and boys killed by police.

I can’t breathe.

Impunity for the killers – no justice, no peace.

I can’t breathe.

Militarized police met peaceful protesters on their knees.

I can’t breathe.

Weapons of war – a show of force on our streets.

I can’t breathe.

Disenfranchised youth driven to violence as speech.

I can’t breathe.

Cynical media think this makes great TV.

I can’t breathe.

This cowardly Congress afraid of losing our seats.

I can’t breathe.

Half-hearted reform when there’s more that we need.

I can’t breathe.

Just thinking about the despair that this breeds.

I can’t breathe.

Black lives matter. Hear my pleas.

I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.

How can a man be choked to death in the street by police in broad daylight, and how can a prosecutor then use a grand jury specifically not to indict? Perhaps it is the result of a ‘justice system’ that is fundamentally flawed and working fine, for some people, but not others.  Albert Burneko writes:

Policing in America is not broken. The judicial system is not broken. American society is not broken. All are functioning perfectly, doing exactly what they have done since before some of this nation’s most prosperous slave-murdering robber-barons came together to consecrate into statehood the mechanisms of their barbarism. Democracy functions. Politicians, deriving their legitimacy from the public, have discerned the will of the people and used it to design and enact policies that carry it out, among them those that govern the allowable levels of violence which state can visit upon citizen. Taken together with the myriad other indignities, thefts, and cruelties it visits upon black and brown people, and the work common white Americans do on its behalf by telling themselves bald fictions of some deep and true America of apple pies, Jesus, and people being neighborly to each other and betrayed by those few and nonrepresentative bad apples with their isolated acts of meanness, the public will demands and enables a whirring and efficient machine that does what it does for the benefit of those who own it. It processes black and brown bodies into white power.

That is what America does. It is not broken. That is exactly what is wrong with it.

The American Justice System is Not Broken

Crane-Station

Crane-Station

32 Comments