A Statement on the US Police State

A version of the following statement was approved on Friday by the section assembly of the American Anthropological Association. As the President of one of the sections (Society for the Anthropology of Work) I participated in the discussions and urged the assembly to pass the statement. Personally, I found some issues with the wording of the statement, but was in full agreement with the intend, the importance, and the timeliness of the resolution. What follows is my personal revision of the statement. 

As a professional Canadian anthropologist I share the outrage expressed by my U.S. colleagues over the failure of the Ferguson and Staten Island grad juries to indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the dismissal of the case against the officer who killed 7 year old Aiyanna Jones.  In the hundred days since the killing of Michael Brown, U.S. police forces have also killed 12 year old Tamar Rice, Ezell Ford, Darien Hunt, Aura Rain Rosser, Tanisha Anderso, Roshad McIntosh, Akai Gurley, Vonderitt Myers, and Rumain Brisbon, among others. These incidents reflect a blatant disregard for the value and dignity of their lives and the communities in which they live.  These events are representative of a broader U.S. history of systematic anti-black violence, dating back to enslavement, lynch laws, and the prison-industrial complex that affects black Latino, and Indigenous children, men, women, and gender queer people.

As a member of an academic discipline that rose on the backs of research conducted on and about my people, Indigenous North Americans, I understand the roots of state violence.  While U.S.  ideologies hold that we are all equal under the law, this has never been the case, and in fact inequality has been structured into the justice system from the start and is currently escalating in the U.S. via the militarization of local police forces.

To this end the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association is called upon to:

  • make a formal statement condemning these activities and structural conditions.
  • create a task force on police brutality and extra-judicial violence; and
  • call on the U.S. Justice Department to review the use of force by police and to make a commitment to working for the eradication of racism and racialized state violence.

Charles R Menzies