Introduction to Series*
As we have seen in the long history of the battle for racial equality and Civil Rights, state-sanctioned police violence is a strong arm of racist power. Exaltation of the police is too often a lesson in white entitlement that authorizes and inheres the brutalization of Black and Brown people. The following bundles of articles and essays from The Black Scholar archive consider policing and intersecting structures of injustice. They also explore the long history of criticism and insurgence practiced by communities and scholars passionate about anti-racism, equality, and freedom. The research and reflection drawn together here attest not only to the rigor of how these issues have been assailed over time, but also to the sensitivity of our redress in analyzing the character of consciousness. The collection signals racism, sexism, homophobia, incarceration, and militarism as interlocking systems of oppression. The first bundle, “Rehearse, Resist, Riot, Repeat: Policing Through Time,” hails our sense of déjà vu and repetition (with difference) in the incidence and impacts of anti-Black police violence. An epidemic in the United States, police violence and murder creates conditions of rage, riot, and mourning. The second bundle, “Imagining a Global Resistance,” acknowledges W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1903 observation that the color-line divides towns and cities, and also circles the globe. In the wake of centuries of European imperialist practice, racial hierarchy and structures of white-supremacy impact every nation. In fact, nationhood itself seems a symptom of race-based (as well as ethnic) oppressions, where policing reflects and inflicts broader systems of power. The third grouping marks a gathering of transformational awareness and consciousness over time in the process of diagnosing abusive policies, practices, and institutions. It is called “Creating another World: Gathering(s) Against Injustice.” In each grouping, analytical engagements identify structures and systems that reproduce racism and sexism. At the same time the insurgency of critical creative address testifies to the long history of brilliant struggle to provide all people with inalienable endowments of humanity, to forge systems of justice and just consciousness.
These words, oppression, injustice, protest, freedom, consciousness, resistance might seem overly familiar, perhaps overused or idealistic. This is only because racism, sexism — the inequities and entitlements of racial capital, as such — are also old and inert in self-perpetuation. It is old too to say that bigotry and race hatred, biases that foreclose possibility and cultivate suffering and death, are wrong. It means that these old hopes, these long struggles, persist still towards further fulfillment. It takes the knee of a white police officer blithely crushing the neck of a Black man into the concrete, suffocating him with confidence in his own blameless power, the “no-knock” police shooting of a Black woman safer-at-home in her bed while we reach a watershed viral death toll during a pandemic, to feel together the affront of homicidal collective consent to police brutality and public lynching. It takes, perhaps, the quiet of quarantine for some to realize or admit that racist ideology pervades social and political systems and the ways that they operate to impact human life. The struggle has been so long, so brutal. Fighting has been so long, so tiring, so demanding. This horror (as horror) is not new. There have been so many losses. Hopelessness, jadedness, and despair lurk just on the other side of assault, murder, and the next failure. We grieve together. For as long as racism and dispossession persist, so too does pride in the power of their dismantling. We take turns being energized by history and vision, helping and teaching each other through—and anew. This is the work. The work is hard. It demands insistence, great patience, great fury, and great love. These wearied, stalwart words–resistance, consciousness, freedom, oppression, injustice, protest–march on because their purveyors are relentless. Capacious local and transnational vision, a courageous letting go of what has been normalized, are demanded to address the enormous humanitarian and environmental challenges of our times. Practices of transformation, cultural shift, radical break, abolition, and even wokeness become fresh once again — different, renewed, and productive.
TBS presents these collections as provocation to anti-racist thought and activism, as reminder and inspiration, as context and guide for our 21st century aspirations towards justice and the dismantling of automatic and aggressive institutional, social, and interpersonal structures of violence. We present them in honor of those lost and in honor of the continuing struggle.
– Stephanie Leigh Batiste
 Du Bois, W. E. B., and Brent Hayes. Edwards. The Souls of Black Folk. Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford University Press). New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
*All articles linked to (below in red) in this series are free to read through 2020. To access, click on the green PDF button above the article. Publisher platform may require registration (free).
“Rehearse, Resist, Riot, Repeat: Policing through Time” offers a grouping of articles from The Black Scholar’s archives as brief but deep history, context, and sinew for the insurgent clarity and possibility of the movement for Black lives. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and too many other Black people at the hands of militarized police officers, while seeming to wake many to structural violence for the first time, continues the U.S.’s long history of militarized occupation and anti-Black violence. Police murder, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy are not new, and these acts of state-sanctioned violence are not discrete. Today there is “a nightmarish sense of déjà vu in the atmosphere,” akin to the one Maya Angelou powerfully evokes in her short narrative about Black Panther George Jackson’s funeral, “Rehearsal for a Funeral,” which opens this bundle.
In Angelou’s narrative of aggrieved rehearsal, the anti-Black oppression of the 1970s feels suspended in time. The grieving of George Jackson on a “solemn Saturday” mingles with the collective grief for the recent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. We take our use of “rehearse” from Angelou’s description. Rehearsal is a form of performative repetition (with difference), and in Angelou’s rehearsal, there is an uncanny sense of repetition at play with the seemingly endless incidents of police violence that are directed toward Black people and the murders that are often a result of that violence. Angelou describes “[a] feeling that all the happenings . . . had been done on this very street since life began . . . A textured perception that all the mourners were bit players, in an eternally running drama.” Angelou’s narrative account of this “rehearsal for the next rehearsal” embodies and employs repetition as a literary form, from her accounts of the lack of disbelief registered in the faces of attendees, to the absence of amazement, surprise, and wonder, which “had been scraped away by the ceaseless repetitions of the scene down too many years.” The experience of returning to Angelou as a reader in 2020—bringing the past several months of rebellion, police brutality, murder, and hope to her pages—changes what we notice and takeaway from her writing, embodying a repetitive practice of emotive readership that is responsive to the current moment and, as such, is different with each read. The repetition sustained throughout her work is ultimately broken at the end, creating a new order of repetition with a difference, as Angelou’s account imagines a break from the rehearsal. The potential for “newness” emerges in the piece’s culmination, at once mitigating the repetition of the narrative and portending a resistance to the monotonous rehearsal of Black death.
In the next piece included here, “The Police in America: A Black Viewpoint,” Terry Jones provides the sociohistorical context for these repetitive rehearsals, tracking, in particular, the relationship between American law enforcement and Black communities from the early 19th century to the 1970s. His historical analysis “demonstrates the major role played by the police in subordinating one race to another,” Black to White. Jones provides us with statistical evidence proving the large, unavoidable discrepancies between arrest rates of Black people and White people, which he attributes to the function of “police discretion,” and he provides us with data on the (dis)proportion of Black people on city police forces in relation to those cities’ Black populations. Jones also points us in the direction of the perspective of Black policemen, which serves as an effective preface and gesture to Edward Palmer’s “Black Police in America,” an article that will appear in the third bundle of this series, “Creating another World: Gathering(s) Against Injustice.” Jones asks his readers to resist systems of oppression, in thought, in action, and in behavior, and to ask whether “police efforts and their expenses [are] really the most efficient way of maintaining stability in society.” Jones postulates that anti-Black, discretionary police power serves the function of protecting the White power structure. Like Angelou’s portended “newness,” Jones suggests that “the real issue . . . may be in developing something entirely new,” calling to mind the current push among activists for the abolition of American police forces and the replacement of police power with community-driven solutions.
The anti-Black violence of the U.S. police system leads to the repetition of riots, which U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. expands upon in his 1989 article, “Police Violence and Riots,” the third and final selection of this grouping. John Conyers, Jr. was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus and served for more than 50 years as U.S. Congressman. His extensive career in Civil Rights governance and anti-racist policymaking, and his later departure from Congress, demonstrate the complexity of his contributions. In 2017, Conyers resigned as a result of multiple harassment allegations. His resignation displays the transformative power of Black woman-led organizing and the re-orientation of public consciousness about gender equity brought about by the “Me Too” movement. Conyers’s resignation illustrates the evolution of historical and contemporary struggles for structural transformation that do not take masculinity as an invisible norm, but instead work to address systemic violence at the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.
In “Police Violence and Riots,” Conyers examines why Black people riot. He asserts that riots are the culmination of the triplicate harms of an inequitable criminal justice system, economic inequalities, and a lack of political power. Conyers explains that the repetition of riots is indicative of an unchanging system of police violence perpetrated by White police against Black people: “The event that triggers the riot is frequently the same. A white policeman unmercifully and publicly beats a black person who is often innocent of any criminal act . . . The past pattern of violence is not easily forgotten.” To disrupt the repetitive patterns and constant rehearsals, we must abolish the systems in place that foster and support such violent law enforcement, as well as systems that create “the idleness and bitterness caused by unemployment [that help] bring on the riots.” Like Angelou’s piece, Conyers’s feels eerily timeless, as his present so closely resembles our own. Like Jones’s, Conyers’s research reveals that Black people are over-policed in proportion to the crimes they commit. But unlike Angelou’s and Jones’s calls for newness, Conyers calls for police reform, reflecting a fissure in the current public discourse on policing. The second bundle of this series, “Imagining a Global Resistance,” tracks the “global paradigm of the colonial relationship,” emphasizing that reforming the police system and other superstructures of colonial violence that function to uphold an unjust social, political, and economic order is not enough.
As you read these selections in 2020, you may feel a dispiriting sense of being stuck in time. Angelou’s, Jones’s, and Conyers’s America, where police are free to use their “discretion” to control the fates of Black people, where the criminal justice system disproportionately targets Black people, and where economic inequality robs millions of their dignity, is our America. In light of this, we may be tempted to believe that the rehearsal for the funeral will never end. But each work here, and those from the generations before and since, are palimpsests, mapping the lived experience of Blackness, the feeling of being Black, and the stories of Black people in America. In each of these repetitions, in each of these rehearsals, there is a conspicuous fortification of activism, knowledge, and understanding. As you experience, or perhaps reexperience, the rehearsal, the resistance, and the riot through these thinkers, know that weariness is merely evidence of a repetitious and assiduous effort, and that “the struggle for freedom is a right and clear effort which concerns all the people, all the time.”
May all those whose lives have been taken by police violence and murder rest in power, and may we work to honor their lives through unyielding anti-racist thought and practice.
– Sage Gerson, Taylor Holmes, Nirvana Shahriar
UCSB Hemispheric South/s Research Initiative
 Maya Angelou, “Rehearsal for a Funeral,” The Black Scholar, 1975, p. 6.
 Ibid., p. 3.
 Ibid., p. 6.
 Ibid., p. 6.
 Ibid., p. 4.
 Terry Jones, “The Police in America: A Black Viewpoint,” The Black Scholar, 1977, p. 24.
 Ibid., p. 25.
 Ibid., p. 37.
 Ibid., p. 36.
 John Conyers, Jr., “Police Violence and Riots,” The Black Scholar, 1981, p. 3.
 Ibid., p. 5.
 Robert L. Allen, “Reassessing the Internal (Neo)Colonialism Theory,” The Black Scholar, 2005, p. 10.
 Maya Angelou, “Rehearsal for a Funeral,” p. 7.