Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thoughts + Poem: Claude McKay

Bell and familyJust some incoherent and incomplete thoughts: two days later, and I still don't have words to talk about the horrific Sean Bell verdict; not that I didn't think it would turn out this way, because when it comes down to a judge issuing a verdict about an unwarranted and insane police attack on Black men or people of color or poor folks, my first thought is that the judge, as this one did, is going to side with the cops. They usually do. That doesn't make it any easier, though.

I've been at a loss for words about this verdict and the long history, a litany, of miscarriages of justice, the injustice and anti-justice, against Black people in this country, against people of color, against women, against sexual, ethnic and religious minorities, against working-class and poor folks, about the structural impediments to change, the ways that the people in power maintain their power through various forms of violence and oppression, and make it diffuse, naturalize it, discursively and materially, how they attempt to and often succeed in industrializing our consciousnesses to accept it, to expect it, to participate in it, in part through silence...

Friday night I listened to Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers's PBS show Now, having to defend himself against the smears and distortions the Right Wing and establishment media have been propagating, to destroy the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, the electoral chances of the Democratic Party, and Black religious faith and traditions in general. I haven't been able to post since as a result, and even now, I really don't even have a free second to catch up with the missed posts, a number of which are still in half-finished form. (The school year's end is still more than a month away....)

So here's one poem by Claude McKay, about the kind of violence from an earlier period in our national history that just keeps playing out in different forms (50+ bullets vs. a noose on a tree limb or post), despite the many changes, which still are too few....

If you'd like information on the Sean Bell case from those seeking justice on his behalf, consider going to Justice for Sean.

Update: Here's Bernie's much more articulate take.

The Lynching

His Spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the cruelest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again;
The awful sin remained still unforgiven.
All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim)
Hung pitifully o'er the swinging char.
Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun
The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.

Copyright © Estate of Claude McKay, 2008.


  1. This judge has ruled on somewhat similar cases in the past, and ruled against the police. Also, reading the transcripts of the witness accounts, I can't say that I would have been convinced by them either. Consequently, I'm undecided on that case. My gut says the police were probably guilty, but there seems to be a lack of hard evidence that would have compelled me to convict.

    As for Rev Wright, I am also ambivalent. He was uncharacteristically silent for so long, I really thought he would stay quiet until Obama had the nomination. But with this fresh batch of sound bytes, I am left wondering why he changed his mind. Did he think Obama needed to be kicked while he was down after PA? Nonetheless, I was just at Trinity UCCC and the congregation is still very much affected by this situation. It is shameful the way he - and that entire congregation - have been so maligned. Now even funeral services are getting crashed by incognito reporters secretly taping them. Funerals! The media and the GOP have no scruples whatsoever.

  2. Anonymous, thanks for your thoughts on these two issues.

  3. I saw the exclusive interview with Sean Bell's parents last night on New York 1. It turns out that they waited for six hours with no information from the police or doctors concerning their son. When they left the waiting room of the hosipital they found their son's body handcuffed to a gurney.

    The interview was absolutely terrfying. Prostest were happening right outside my block on Malcom X last weekend. I missed it. More is to come.

    I am just exhausted, and deeply saddened. It seems to me that there is something particular about New York City politics and municipal authority that must be examined. I don't know if we will ever get to the true question of who makes up the police and fire departments, and how their value and social systems operate behind closed doors.

  4. Its me unbeached. Sorry, something has happened and my true identity has been unmasked to the world . . .:)