Sunday, July 16, 2017 By Tasasha Henderson, Truthout | Interview
In his new book Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?, author and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal explores this question over 75 essays, spanning from the late 1990s to 2017. Each essay explores the violence of policing and the criminal legal system, whether from a historical perspective or through the stories of people who have died by the hands of police. In the first essay, “Hate Crimes,” Abu-Jamal questions the legitimacy of the idea of hate crimes, pointing out that police are never charged with a hate crime when they brutalize and kill Black and Brown people. Abu-Jamal’s essays discuss the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, the killing of Tamir Rice by Cleveland, Ohio, police officer Timothy Loehmann, and what the aftermath of these slayings reveals about how the United States views Black people. His conclusion is perfectly summed up in the first two lines of his October 2015 essay titled, “Tamir Rice of Cleveland” — “Question: When is a child not a child? Answer: When it’s a Black child.”
Abu-Jamal spoke with Truthout about some of the issues he engages with in Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?, including police violence and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
“…Look, we can look at Trump as the Great Boogeyman, or we can soberly examine the roles of Clinton and Obama, where the former perfected the machinery of mass incarceration, and the latter tinkered with it, just as he all but ignored the greatest loss of Black wealth (i.e. criminal mortgage thefts of Black homes) since Reconstruction. We must develop a deeper, refined analysis that gives us all a clear vision of the inherent repression of the state against Black life, a historical continuum that shows no sign of abatement. Or we can play “Republicans bad/Democrats good” like children looking for shadow plays.
The system is bad; we need deep reconstruction to make new ways of living, growing and becoming possible.”