The recent demonstrations that began in Minnesota following the murder of George Floyd by a white cop are not only a continuation of the past seven years of the Black Lives Matter movement but of decades of struggle by black people against a racist police force, which functions to uphold a white supremacist system in the United States for the benefit of the ruling class.
The poem “Power” by Audre Lorde was written in 1978 and gives voice to the writer’s feelings of anger, dispossession and hopelessness in the face of such a barbarous society. The poem itself is based on a true event: in 1973 a white cop in New York shot ten-year-old Clifford Glover, murdering him as he fled with his stepfather.
Lorde’s words expose the prejudicial nature of policing in America, which has remained wholly unchanged in the four decades since they were written. The increased militarisation of police forces to oppress black communities is required to maintain the hegemony of the capitalist order; and unless the violence of this system is met with equal and greater forces of united class struggle, all will continue to dwell in hopelessness.
—Ciara Ní Mhaoilfhinn
The difference between poetry and rhetoric is being ready to kill yourself instead of your children. I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds and a dead child dragging his shattered black face off the edge of my sleep blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders is the only liquid for miles and my stomach churns at the imagined taste while my mouth splits into dry lips without loyalty or reason thirsting for the wetness of his blood as it sinks into the whiteness of the desert where I am lost without imagery or magic trying to make power out of hatred and destruction trying to heal my dying son with kisses only the sun will bleach his bones quicker. A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and there are tapes to prove it. At his trial this policeman said in his own defense “I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else only the color”. And there are tapes to prove that, too. Today that 37 year old white man with 13 years of police forcing was set free by eleven white men who said they were satisfied justice had been done and one Black Woman who said “They convinced me” meaning they had dragged her 4′10″ black Woman’s frame over the hot coals of four centuries of white male approval until she let go the first real power she ever had and lined her own womb with cement to make a graveyard for our children. I have not been able to touch the destruction within me. But unless I learn to use the difference between poetry and rhetoric my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire and one day I will take my teenaged plug and connect it to the nearest socket raping an 85 year old white woman who is somebody’s mother and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed a Greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time “Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”