By: Amaryah Armstrong
Note: post originally appeared on the Women In Theology blog.
I’m tired of people sharing pictures of folks in Ferguson who are stopping looting.
While I understand the impulse, attempting to show that there are a multiplicity of responses to the verdict and that not everyone feels the same about property destruction, it also seems to repeat the criminalizing of folks who do loot and suggest a certain respectable propriety as what the “good” protestors are doing.
This continues a similar delegitimizing of property destruction and looting that the mainstream media panders in. But property destruction and looting are not senseless. They’re not dumb. They’re a response. An uncomfortable response for a society who thinks private property is an extension of our bodies.
But given that those who are descendents of people who were property, those dispossessed who through policing are made out to be property for the state, it would seem in the looting and property destruction is a critique of private property as the invention that produces public property, which is black flesh. And this production of public property as blackness is the production of its profitability as its expendability. Darren Wilson received 500k in support of his defense of this division of property, paid leave, a marriage celebration, and a public interview to top it off.
Is it any surprise, then, that so many public services, schools, healthcare, WIC, etc., have been made synonymous with black people and thus able to be hollowed out, evacuated, defunded, disregarded? This is precisely how poor black flesh is treated by the state.
Until we can come to terms with the fact that our faith in capitalist divisions of property, labor, and flesh, is faith in what keeps black lives expendable we will continue reading these disruptions to property as senseless. But perhaps these property destroyers are something akin to Jesus entering the temple and overturning the moneychangers tables, proclaiming “my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you’ve turned it into a den of thieves.” We all know that Ferguson’s/STL/The Nation’s political officials are nothing if not a den of thieves.
Why, then, do we keep talking don to and trying to distance ourselves from folks who know where the thieving is going on and point it out? And turn tables? And try to herd the robbers out of the sacred spaces of their homes?
If nonviolence as a strategy is only able to recognize property destruction as an act of violence it has already given it’s language over to a logic it claims to oppose, and doing so has repeated the cut that takes its legs, the dispossessed and despised, out from under it.
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