This week our class continued its consideration of a “world of possibility” for Black folk. Through my engagement with numerous texts this semester I have wholeheartedly come to believe that Black life cannot thrive within the current structures in place; destruction is required. As I mentioned in my last post, amid the nationwide protests for Black liberation following the rampant police killings of Black folx, activists are demanding more than just an affirmation that #BlackLivesMatter. They are demanding a massive shift in our criminal justice system, one of their most controversial demands being their call to defund the police and abolish the prison system.
In the second part of her podcast, Ruth Wilson Gilmore poses the question “how is it that police in the United States can do what they do with impunity?” This is a question that many, including myself, have grappled with. Who deserves justice? Who needs to be held accountable? And most importantly, what does it mean to police the police? Ruth Wilson Gilmore makes the assertion that the reason this is able to happen is because the police “combine their warfare against vulnerable communities with lawfare that covers them when the blue thread, or code of silence, that stitches warfare and lawfare together comes undone.”
But what does God have to say about this? In their piece on the political theology of mass incarceration, Dubler and Lloyd highlight the Evangelical perspective on the issue. The Evangelical’s championing of individual piety and equating God’s law with state law results in an emphasis on individual accountability and punishment, which they believe is executed through the criminal justice system. As a result, some may believe that mass incarceration and the treatment of black bodies under the law is the work of God. Reading this, along with the sermon we watched in class was quite unsettling to me. I find the belief that the police are “ministers of God sent to punish evil” and that those who are policed brought this condemnation onto themselves extremely problematic and dangerous. By saying that police are doing God’s work and to go against them is to go against God gives them a very conflated sense of power. As a result we see a lot of officers who believe they are the law, if not above it. This backing of the church has the potential to do a lot of harm and leaves very little room for accountability for the police on both a religious and secular level.