Who Do You Serve? Who Do You Protect?: Police Violence and Resistance in the United States by Truth Out is a collection of critical essays by community organizers and leaders that deconstruct the history and evolution of police violence in the U.S. against Black, Brown, and indigenous communities. The voices of the murdered, their families and of other victims of police violence take the stage in this text, allowing us to cross into the depths of the human spirit as we venture through the aftermath of violence at the personal and community levels. Stories detailing the widespread culture of impunity within police departments across the country shed light on the inner workings of government systems and their biased (self-perpetuating) legal/legislative mechanisms that justify torture and facilitate ongoing human rights violations. That Black, Brown and Indigenous communities feel the same effects from this violence is no coincidence, as white supremacy is what underlies this abuse, at home, abroad, and at the global and corporate levels.
Despite the focus on Black male deaths recently in the media, the text reminds us that this issue is not exclusive to gender, as Black womyn, trans, and LGBTQ are subjected to these same types of abuses on top of systemic patterns of sexual assault by police. In many cases, being a pregnant womyn adds another layer of vulnerability that subjects womyn to additional and particular forms of torture that in another setting (outside of incarceration) would have that same mother arrested for child endangerment.
Families are left to cope and attempt to grow under specific conditions that result from police violence, leaving concerned parents dealing with very young children who must be taught how to act or not act during police encounters…that may easily result in death despite submission and compliance.
While the first half of Who Do You Serve? Who Do You Protect? ties the history of slavery to modern policing and today’s police violence epidemic, the second half of the book is dedicated to discussing solutions by sharing stories of communities who resist and the methods they use as an alternative to policing. Some communities have implemented programs to strengthen ties locally amongst communities and neighborhoods, and others have mobilized to address the issue at the international level through appealing to the United Nations for assistance. The centering of Black womyn, trans, LGBTQ experiences within the Black Lives Matter movement has birthed a dynamic, multi-layered, strategically diverse movement that defies the claims of “lack of leadership” and clear demands. The text reveals that the coming together of these voices has brought a particular fire to the national/international stage that is guiding a renewed vision of collective resistance and liberation and redefining collective/individual self-perception through the conscious remembering of the strength and resilience within Black culture that starts well before the slave ships arrived to the western hemisphere.
Other essays in the book offer fresh perspectives by sharing stories groups that work to strengthen the ties that Native and Black resistance movements both have, seeing as their suffering and liberation are intertwined. Others resolve to create a culture of not depending on police intervention or strive to provide emergency medical alternatives to families and communities that do not involve police. The final essay reminds us that collective resistance requires the elements of community-building, small but bold steps, time, and less judgement amongst ourselves as victims of abuse.
This anthology is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand American culture in the present day.