By Seelai Karzai
New York City
Have we contracted a prolonged cultural amnesia? Kabul. Fallujah. Gaza. Tehran. Why don’t these places incite the same fear in the American public of police militarization, brutality, and state violence as Ferguson? War does not belong anywhere, in any state, in any city, against any people.
In light of the recent militarized police occupation in Ferguson, there has been a slew of articles and one petition after another denouncing the escalated military response of local law enforcement agencies to nonviolent protests. These petitions have called for a de-militarized US police force, and many have declared, “Our communities are not war zones!” Reports were written, decrying: “War comes home.”
And, for the first time, a delegation of representatives from Amnesty International—who usually monitor the human rights crimes of places like Afghanistan or China—were dispatched to Ferguson, to monitor the growing crisis on American ground from a human rights angle.
Ever since the founding of the United States, among many other nations (predominantly Western/European states), the enslavement, the torture, and the violence committed against Black and Brown bodies, and all marginalized communities, has been—and continues to be—a war. A violent and morally bankrupt war. The racist and (hetero)sexist violence that we see today was built into the very fabric of our Constitution and our society. And, though it has been a focal point in the media for most of this summer, police militarization and state violence is not new.
In the United States, the colonizers who “founded” this amalgam of states did so at the expense of the native peoples living here. This nation was designed on the genocide of Native Americans.
In the United States, racist legal codes have permitted and normalized not only mass incarceration and the de-industrialization of urban America, educational inequality and generational poverty, but were also very much responsible for the long and despicable stain on history of 400 years of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow. The moment the first racist and capitalist venture set out to colonize, rape, brutalize, murder, and dehumanize entire populations in the name of making a dollar, was the moment those “human rights” envoys should have been deployed.
The South tried to secede from the union over its reluctance to end slavery. This nation erupted into a civil war over its unwillingness to abolish slavery.
In the United States, racially segregated institutions were written into law. Until 1973, people who identified as LGBTQ were thought to be mentally ill. People with disabilities continue to be discriminated against and many public buildings are largely inaccessible. Women- and trans-identifying people and their bodies continue to be regulated and demonized by a male-dominated Congress.
In the United States, the government-protected economy wages a war on the world everyday, crippling the non-rich with insurmountable debt and forcing people to take jobs with unlivable wages. The reality is jarring: 3 billion people live in poverty, itself a form of torture, and millions are homeless.
Are we forgetting the long and hideous history of the United States? Have we contracted a prolonged cultural amnesia?
Kabul. Fallujah. Gaza. Tehran. Why don’t these places incite the same fear in the American public of police militarization, brutality, and state violence as Ferguson?
Get out of here with your American exceptionalism. War does not belong anywhere, in any state, in any city, against any people.
About the author:
Seelai Karzai is a native New Yorker with cultural roots in Afghanistan. She is a graduate of Hunter College, where she studied English literature and political science. Seelai is currently an intern with the War Resisters League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), where she organizes against police militarization and works to preserve the civil rights of American Muslims.