(for Rufina and Moises Santos and Lisa Sanchez González)
legal immigrant puerto ricans never needed
a green card or naturalization papers
based on the technicality of yankee colonialism
they never had to learn the pledge of allegiance
or salute the stars and stripes
until they were made citizens to fill the gaps
left in the trenches of two world wars,
the korean war and the conflict in vietnam
canon fodder immigrants with drafted second class citizenship
conveniently filed under the selective service negro regiments
dying in service to a country that allowed them
to fill two needs with one grave
that’s one less dead american and one more dead porto rican
puerto ricans never needed papers to come from a nationless nation
mocked by american billboards to lift themselves up
by their bootstraps in an operation to make them dependent
on the american made heel pushing down on their throats
it’s an effort to choke the dignity out of them
but all they ever spit up was broken american english
from the asthmatic factory sweatshop floors
careful not to get any spanglish on the pennies paid piece work
as they sat at a singer that sang a song of oppression
always catching that sweet but dirty puerto rican sweat
in the palm of their hand before it hit the white porcelain
toilet seats they cleaned or the pale tile floors they scrubbed
they never needed papers to be encouraged or coerced
to leave a country they couldn’t fully claim as their own
to come to a country that would claim them as unknown
this in-betweenness this not here and not here
and not over there either
this 500 year plus limbo and counting
this nationalist purgatory that requires an ongoing penance
this nation squeezed into the space of a colony
contained by a fake autonomy
this nationless nation smuggled across borders
in the minds and bodies of puerto ricans
this fractured indigenous european african passport
is unacceptable i.d. and so it must be fake
since it defies the social science mythology of race and nationality
papers? we don’t need no stinking papers
we carry an identity that defies classification
our papers are the deed to a current imaginary nation
looking to be a former colony
but the americans have camouflaged their imperialism
with puerto rican olympic teams pan american games
miss universe beauty pageants titles
and the classification of international flights to domestic territories
and holding opinion polls called plebiscites
rigged as american propaganda
while the world scratches its head trying to understand
how these americans have rewritten the old rules of imperialism
and risked allowing such facades
to be the glue for such political schizophrenia
never understanding that its spectacle for divide and conquer
never understanding that its port-o rican against puerto rican
then the americans hold up a defaulted bank note and say
you port-o ricans haven’t yet paid for the right to be decolonized
and puerto ricans hold up political assassinations and
political prisoners and fbi files and prisoners of war
as a receipt that the rent’s been overpaid by the tenants
who look to serve the absentee landlord of yankee imperialism
with an eviction notice but the paper for that is invalid
because there are no refunds on theft
and the eviction notice was written in a disappearing ink
because puerto ricans don’t need papers
to validate their invalidation
they come from a set of coordinates left in a racial geopolitical void
from a place that exists without definition
from a omitted chapter in history books
because they exist without a nation
they carry within their existence an imagined nation
they’ve lived like this for so long they’ve grown accustomed
to the contradictions of imagined nationhood
and on a sunday in early june they celebrate it
with a fervor unmatched by any real nation
they march that imagination up 5th avenue
driving it uptown against the traffic
while pulling a float of dancing girls
with a permit from the mayor and flashing police escort
waving a real flag for a symbolic nation
parading the pride of their imagination as evidence to the world
that they have found a visceral way to exist
within this ether of colonialism
without a tolerance for the absurd or a propensity for the surreal
or a sense of humor about the nakedness
of an empire that wears no clothes
puerto ricans would’ve been a past tense without a future
but this blessing is a difficult poison to swallow
when they ask you for the claim check ticket
for the imaginary nation left in a parking garage
that only puerto rican parking lot attendants have access to
when they ask who was your mother and who was your father
and where’s your grandmother
and show me on the maps of nations where it is you’re from
when they ask to see the invalid papers
they’ve forced you not to carry
to validate your unrecognized existence
“It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” A US Major on the bombing of
Ben Tré in South Vietnam 2/8/1968
We seem to be in the midst of a huge paradigm shift here in the US… It feels as though some kind of critical mass has been reached in regard to the whole country catching up to the hell that mostly Black, Brown, Yellow and Red men, women and children and even some poor white people are catching when it comes to police brutality and police murders. The root of all this of course is that the US has never ever dealt with its racist history.
The sins of the past that have been ignored, in part, to not have to feel the collective pain and shame that would tarnish the well marketed image of the US as the land of the free and home of the brave. It also doesn’t want to revisit the transgressions of the past because america is built upon the genocide of Native Peoples and the enslavement of Africans and to admit that the wealth and power of the US is built upon genocide and enslavement is to make it no better than any other colonial european power.
The strategy of US domination hasn’t changed since it’s founding. The very same bully tactics that built the country into a world power are the same bully tactics used to maintain it’s place as a world power. When you reach deep into the reasons of why the US has a race problem that it doesn’t want to deal with, you can easily see that its because the US doesn’t know how to be any other way.
The problem of the US – is the problem of race. If the US were to reaches back and own up to its past it would then be forced to own up to its present. Honestly reassessing the present would lead to real changes in the future and not the kinds of changes that result in voting acts or civil rights bills but real change that would threaten american hegemony as a world power. For the US to honestly deal with its race problem is to threaten the US as a world power. The global domination of this country is a house of cards built on a foundation of genocide and enslavement and the ongoing police killings of unarmed Black, Brown, Red, Yellow and even White bodies could quite possibly be the crack in that foundation.
The microcosm of Mike Brown, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile and countless others becomes a reflection of the macrocosm of Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanemo Bay, CIA enhanced interrogation methods, the Cuban blockade and the unconditional support of Israel in the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, just to name a few parallels. In this new age of social media that allows the oppressed to bypass state and corporate media you can see the connections being made between the macrocosm and the microcosm. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip sending messages via twitter to protesters in Ferguson on how to deal with the tear gas enveloping them. The irony isn’t lost that the very same tear gas used by US military forces against protesters in Ferguson is the very same tear gas used by Israeli military against the Palestinians. That tear gas is made in the US and paid for by the Pentagon which distributed it to both military forces for the exact same reasons. The microcosm of Ferguson is the macrocosm of the Gaza Strip and the common denominator in all this is US domestic and foreign policy that’s has its root in the racism.
The police state in Ferguson and New York and Oakland is the police state in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel. Just look at the terminology that’s thrown around. Protesters and protest labeled as domestic “terrorists” and “terrorism”. The harassment and humiliation of “check points” in Gaza and Iraq has it’s equivalent in “stop and frisk” in New York. The police in the SU are an occupying force who see themselves in “hostile territory” and “surrounded” by a populace that they must “profile” in order to “survive” their “tour of duty”.
The post 9/11 heroic reverence for law enforcement in the US that elevated them from civil servants to saints allowed these agencies sworn to uphold the law to boldly become the very terrorists they were lauded for fighting. The politics of xenophobia and jingoism post 9/11 only inflated the problem and emboldened law enforcement with the idea that it would not need to be held to account for its brutality. From the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques “that went to far” to the NYPD choking of Eric Garner by one police officer using a choke hold banned by the NYPD in 1994 as three other officers held him down, law enforcement has taken that post 9/11 reverence (which was falsely placed to begin with) and used it to insulate themselves from ever having to answer for any of the brutality it imposes. Whether it’s CIA contractors who cannot legally be held responsible for illegally detaining and torturing “terrorists” or grand juries in Ferguson and New York unwilling to prosecute police for killing “suspects” – accountability is not something law enforcement agencies in the US ever have to concern themselves with.
If you think that the connections between CIA tactics like black sites being used to torture “terrorists” and police wanton abuse in the form of frivolous arrests, beatings and even killings is going too far just look at the Chicago police department’s Homan Square. If Chicago police wanted you to “disappear” for a few hours before processing you or wanted to beat you without having to process you at all or even leave you dead in an interview room, they took you to Homan Square. If you’re political beliefs were something the Chicago police didn’t agree with then they brought you there as well. From Guantanamo to Homan Square the politic is the same and the tactics are the similar.
The bullet proof hubris of law enforcement in the face of accountability is like telling the emperor he has no clothes and the emperor telling you ‘So what?’. An example of this kind of naked hubris reared up it’s ugly head during the Trayvon Martin case when President Obama stated that Trayvon could be his son. Although Trayvon was not killed by law enforcement it was still a shot at law enforcement because of the way the case was handled from the eventual arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman to the not guilty verdict. Law enforcement didn’t like President Obama being Black for a moment and commenting on Trayvon Martin because although in this case it wasn’t law enforcement that killed Trayvon, it was someone with a similar mentality to law enforcement. And how many other cases of murder by law enforcement fit the profile of what happened to Trayvon?
In another direct indictment of law enforcement by a politician, the mayor of New York City Bill De Blasio whose son is Black and is placed in the unenviable position of having to choose between his role as a politician (which have historically always supported the idea that police not be held accountable for their actions) and being a father who can get a call in the middle of the night about his own Black son. When DeBlasio expressed how troubled he was over the grand jury deciding not to prosecute in the police choking death of Eric Garner he immediately called the Justice Department and asked for an investigation. He also talked about having to talk to his Black son about how to deal with the police. The NYPD PBA President Pat Lynch who never saw an incident of police misconduct, brutality or killing that he couldn’t defend immediately held a press conference and said Mayor DeBlasio “threw cops under the bus”.
When two NYC police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Lui were killed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a Baltimore man who it was sais killed them in retaliation for the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, Mayor De Blasio came to the hospital. All along the hallway police officers were lined up in support of the two fallen officers and as Mayor Di Blasio walked down the hall of the hospital these officers turned their backs on him. It was a protest against Mayor Di Blasio’s recent criticism against the NYPD.
The impunity that law enforcement operates under in the US has reached absurd new heights. Who do these law enforcement agencies think they work for if not Mayor’s or President’s? Whether it’s the CIA defending its enhanced interrogation techniques or it’s the NYPD not discipling an officer for using a banned chokehold that killed a man who posed a threat to no one, it feels as though law enforcement isn’t going to accept any criticism for its actions. The non-chalant attitude of law enforcement towards criticism from the very people they are sworn to protect and serve has always been an issue. From the revelation of COINTELPRO (COunter INTELligence PROgram) tactics by the FBI during the era of the Black Panthers or the American Indian Movement and beyond to civilian deaths at the hands of local police departments, the critique of american law enforcement techniques has always fallen on deaf ears due in large part to the political establishment always taking the side of law enforcement.
The daily protests in Ferguson that went on for months have dragged the issues of police brutality and the killing of unarmed Black men by police onto a national stage. From the massive protest in New York City over Eric Garner to the recent unrest in Baltimore over Freddie Gray the police brutality show is on a national tour. And if you think you’re immune just wait until the national show pulls into your town. That’s not to say that there isn’t a local or regional horror show of political theater of so-called “justifiable” police killings happening all across the country, it’s just that some shows rise to the level of national attention.
Whether the show is local or regional though a wave is building and the nation as a whole is starting to see and feel the injustice that passes for law enforcement on a daily basis. It’s gotten to the point where even many politicians who have historically always blindly defended law enforcement are questioning police tactics. You would think that law enforcement would be somewhat nervous and worried about the sudden erosion of their most ardent supporters but they seem be completely inoculated against any criticism. Instead law enforcement seems emboldened and is digging in for the long haul to defend the indefensible.
It seem that this idea that law enforcement can do no wrong, propagated by politicians, the media and the majority of white america has convinced law enforcement itself that it can do no wrong. And now we have a law enforcement system in america that fears nothing in terms of accountability. Not its citizenry, not the politicians who always defend them, not the district attorneys they work with or the judges they face or the grand juries they must answer to. And why would or should law enforcement fear any part of the system when that system on a whole has historically always encouraged a hands off approach to law enforcement? A part of this emboldened behavior of law enforcement is also coming from that misplaced post 9/11 hero worship of law enforcement.
The other part of that unrepentant and emboldened attitude that law enforcement has taken is coming from the history of racism in the US. The very foundation of the US is built on a racialized genocide and enslavement and so it follows that its institutions are also going to be built on that very same foundation. Law enforcement in the US has always been racist because the US is a racist nation. The front line of white supremacy in america has always been law enforcement. The hiring of Black and Brown officers means nothing when the institutions of law enforcement demand that they stop being Black and Brown and be Blue. The racial integration of law enforcement doesn’t negate white supremacy because what was once white supremacy is now blue supremacy.
In a strange way the flagrant disregard of criticism by law enforcement whether by people at the bottom who suffer the most at the hands of police brutality or by politicians at the top who have always blindly supported police and their brutality and are suddenly seeing the monster they have created, is something that really shouldn’t shock anyone. The guiding force in US policing both in terms of its foreign policy and domestic policy is one in which the US can do no wrong. The criticism leveled at the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques that amount to torture falls on ears that are as deaf as police unions.
In the face of a broad nationwide movement to take stock of how law enforcement deals with this epidemic of killing the very citizens its sworn to protect, the Fraternal Order Of Police is asking the US Congress that police be included in hate crimes legislation. Hating police would be a hate crime. Instead of law enforcement trying to investigate their procedures, they are looking to defend them. “Right now, it’s a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their skin, but it ought to be a hate crime if you attack someone solely because of the color of their uniform as well,” said Jim Pasco, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police. White supremacy looks for some protection under the cover of Blue supremacy in order to nullify any leveling of the playing field.
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is asking law makers in NY to consider making resisting arrest a felony instead of a misdemeanor. This would further solidify the current thinking by police and their supporters that if you are resisting arrest then you are guilty. Resisting arrest opens you up to police brutality and in many cases a “justified” killing by police. So instead of law enforcement seeing if their policing tactics are too aggressive they are doubling down by defending those tactics with attempts at more legislation that will protect police in cases of police misconduct. We now live in a Kafkaesque world of Orewellian double speak where you can be charged with resisting arrest without having been charged with a crime to be arrested for, in the first place.
In another instance of white supremacy exercising it’s might in police culture there is a lawsuit in New York City by officers of color who say that they must meet arrest and summons quotas or face reprimands. The officers claim that they must make at least one arrest a day and write at least 20 summonses in precincts where the majority of people are people of color. So if a person of color wants to join the police force to “do some good” or “change it from the inside” they are thwarted by a system that is forcing them to continue a long tradition of white supremacy in US policing.
Over 5000 people have been killed by police in america since 9/11. That’s more people than soldiers killed in the Iraq war. The chances of being killed by a cop in america are 29 times greater than being killed by a terrorist. If you’re a Black male you are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than if you are a white male. When you think about how worried people are about the threat of terrorism and the amount of time, money and energy spent on combatting it and you look at the actual terror of police brutality and killings you wonder how priorities can be so misplaced. Or maybe you can have a more cynical view of it and realize that the priorities of terrorism and policing are historically in keeping with american racism.
The consistent protests in Ferguson went viral thanks to the savvy use by protesters of social media and the world started sending messages of support and solidarity. It was this global support and solidarity which helped open the door to the parents of Mike Brown going before the United Nations to speak about police brutality and police killings of unarmed Black men in the US. It seems to have made an impact. Following that the UN began pressuring the US to review it’s record and make substantial changes in the way it polices its citizens. This strategy of going before the UN is not a new idea. It was Malcolm X who made the argument that the race issue in america should go before the United Nations and not before the US Government. Malcolm X argued that the race problem in the US was a problem of human rights not of second class citizenry. He knew that exposing the race problem in the US to a world stage would erode it’s ceaseless marketing attempts at being the greatest nation of freedom and democracy in the world.
The powder keg that is the race problem problem in the US was bound to explode in the front lines of law enforcement because it’s where the US race problem is most blatant, most raw and most naked. The police murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley John Crawford, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile were all unarmed Black people and the capture of actual suspected Pennsylvania cop killer Eric Frein, the capture of James Egan Holmes who went on a shooting rampage in a movie theater in Colorado, or the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the suspected Boston marathon bomber who are all white, is a glaring example of the racism in the US. That’s not to say that Eric Frein, or James Egan Holmes or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have been killed by police (an absurd statement that i must qualify because racism is such an explosive issue and because i’m not white it might be construed that in my critique of a white supremacy system that i might want to call for their deaths) but if actual suspected cop killers and movie theater shooters and marathon bombers can face the police and live to tell the tale why can’t unarmed Black people? The answer is simple and plain. Because race is a problem that the US won’t tend to and the reason it won’t tend to it is because it threatens the very existence of this nation as we know it, both on a foreign and domestic scale.
The problem with the US maintaining white supremacy in a domestic sense is that america is becoming less white everyday. The problem with the US maintaining white supremacy in a foreign policy sense is that the power of the US is eroding everyday to so called developing and third world nations with the rise of China, Brazil, and India and the defiance of these nations to those policies in Venezuela and Bolivia. In order for the US to maintain it’s ideology of white supremacy domestically it must transform that white supremacy to a blue supremacy. White supremacy has been allowed to evolve into blue supremacy in the name of law and order. The problem is that with the US imprisoning more people than anyone else in the world and 60% of that prison population coming from Black and Brown people who make up 29% of the US population it’s not difficult for people of color to accept the idea that white supremacy to blue supremacy.
The same analogy applies to the US foreign policy as world cop. Every nation that the US has invaded and attacked since World War II has been a nation of non-white people with the possible exception of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. The problem it’s running up against in moving from white supremacy to blue supremacy is that both domestically and abroad people of all races and nations see the pattern of systemic US racism for what it is and are standing in resistance to the Blue supremacy of the US.
The convergence of this new Blue supremacy and its ideology both domestically with the killing of unarmed Black men and internationally with the enhanced interrogation techniques of the CIA and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is most evident in the Pentagon bringing it’s surplus equipment from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to local police departments. The new blue supremacy like the old white supremacy uses law and order as its smoke screen for its ongoing brutality. The problem with this new Blue supremacy is that the law comes from the same white supremacy it always has. There is an equivalency in how the US wants to deal with its global hegemony and those who oppose it whether that be domestically or abroad.
The paradigm shift in the US in recent years against this Blue supremacy has the potential to be the catalyst that the US needs to face its racist history and all that it’s wrought. If that dialogue and the work that surely must come after it is done then there is a chance at making a substantial change that is too long in coming. The most difficult thing that the US has to face in putting down its racism is all the benefits that it’s reaped from that racism. This is perhaps the real reason that the US will never look at its race problem because the race problem has always been only the frosting on the layer cake that is class war. If racism were ever to fall in the US not only would everyone find some equality in terms of race but also in terms of class both domestically and potentially internationally. The police and the military have always been the front line troops in helping elites amass wealth and so the battle against the white supremacy that amassed that wealth has become the Blue supremacy that runs deeper than any of us care to imagine…
This is my film No Way Home if you want to watch it, it’s $1.50… If you want to buy it it’s $3… Could i let you see it for free? Sure… But shit cost me $15K to make… and that doesn’t include the labor of my friends and family who worked for free… These co-conspirators are named in the credits of the film, i won’t bore you with names you’ve never heard of (but deserve to be known) and that have no bearing on anything since you haven’t yet seen the film… It would only make this post longer and we all know how shorter is better on the internets… But damn, they are an incredibly talented bunch… and i’m blessed to be able to call them friends and doubly blessed to count them as artistic co-conspirators…
i shot it on film… Yeah film, 100′ rolls of Kodak Vision 3 • 7213 • 500T stock … On a Bolex connected to a battery belt to power the motor… We shot some of it in Queens and Brooklyn and Washington Heights in upper Manhattan in New York City and we shot some in Valley Of Fire in Nevada and in Red Rock Canyon just outside of Vegas… Some more friends of mine who are musicians and also worked for love, not pay… created a beautiful original improvised score… They’re names are in the credits too…
It’s 20 minutes long… It’s about finding god in yourself and in others and fusing the fractured pieces together… It could be a narrative if you believe narratives can be a simple as this… It could also be a non-narrative… i’m too close to know… or care… i hope you like it but i don’t really give a fuck if you do… My friends and i made some beautiful unforgettable memories making the film… and if you watch the film and pay close attention you’ll feel that beauty coming through wrapped up in the images and the sound… Anyway the beautiful unforgettable memories we made are enough with or without a film… There are pieces of this in the film to prove these statements… Watch it… look closely, listen intently, leave yourself open and the reward will come…
i don’t do this film thing for the money… i don’t do it for the love either… Although maybe there’s a kind of love there but if there is, it’s a complicated love… i do this to stay safe, to sane, to stay secure in my own soul, to stay stabile in my own mind… When i’m not making films my blood goes bad, the saliva in my mouth drys up, my muscles get tight and nothing feels right… The demons squat my well being and evict my peace and my worthlessness threatens to rise above my head and drown me… Only making the films eases the pain, reduces the fever, alleviates the ache of feeling too much, makes the waters of worthlessness recede…
Not to say that making the films is not without its own pain, fever and ache… But it’s different… It’s tangible… it’s something that can be touched and held and the problems of filmmaking can all be solved… Unlike trying to find the god within yourself or within someone else and trying to fuse the fracture…
It would be nice if you saw the film… and even better if you got something more than beautiful images and honest poetry and incredible music… It would be good to even make a few dollars to recoup and reinvest into the next film that’s building in me like a storm in the distance ready to test me… again…
31 years ago the Philadelphia Police Department dropped a bomb on the home of the MOVE organization… Six adults and five children were killed and 65 other homes in the area were destroyed due to the fire that consumed the area…
it sounds good
is a cancer that
that needs surgery
an operation that will
free us both
and if they won’t
and stay still
for us to carefully
remove the growth
cut them open
and they can die
must be shed
we can be surgeons
or we can be butchers
but this thing
must be settled
satellites and cameras
have replaced faith with fear
the evidence of this has been recorded
as constant reminder of the failure
god forgive us for not doing more
the frontline has us surrounded
if only we could forget
long enough to imagine
if only the satellite and camera looked away
long enough for us to improvise
Note: April being poetry month i wanted to challenge myself to have a poem with an accompanying piece of art for each day of the month posted in this space here… Share what you like… both on line and off…
tear gas dancers (for ferguson and baltimore and blm)
are you still
firing tear gas
to try and stop us?
we have no more tears
we dance in the smoke
that you can’t hide in any longer
advancing in the tear gas
making our sorrow visceral
to give our worth weight
we dance over your tear gas canister
unable to choke
like the spirits of vengeance
we are required
because you refuse
to let go of this premise
we dance in the smoke
as we come for you
to clear the air
to an understanding
face to face
so you can mourn the loss
of your hate
as we whisper the names
of those you shot down
on the street
Note: April being poetry month i wanted to challenge myself to have a poem with an accompanying piece of art for each day of the month posted in this space here… Share what you like… both on line and off…