Last Words: Humanizing Victims of Police Brutality

Iranian journalist, photographer, and filmmaker, Shirin Barghi, has been observing the turmoil in Ferguson following the murder of Michael Brown, and in response, she created a simple but moving project that humanizes Brown and those who, like him, suffered at the hands of law enforcement or the justice system. If this topic is feeling a bit like a “flavor of the month,” it’s because it’s happening, and I’d like to think it’s impossible to ignore. On the other hand, others have favored focusing on Robin Williams’ passing without making a peep about government endorsed violence and anti-Blackness. This makes Barghi’s “Last Words” all the more important. Barghi says the struggles against police violence from or following the deaths reminded her of her own struggles in Iran. “In a moment I felt connected and created a series of images to raise awareness and express solidarity in my immediate middle eastern and south Asian community.”

As news outlets and the police are attempting to paint Brown, and those before him, as thugs, criminals, rapists, and whatever else, we must remember that this is an attempt to change the conversation. Conversations about whether Brown was suspect shift the focus to whether we should care about Brown. It shifts it to “did he or didn’t he” and whether his actions were right, so we effectively stop talking about the police and whether their actions were right. Every 28 hours a black man is killed by a police officer, security guard, or vigilante. Brown’s murder is not an isolated incident. It’s part of a mosaic, whose larger image is that of a racist law enforcement.

It’s upsetting to think about these menmany who were my age or younger when they were killedand their lives outside of their deaths. We are taught that the law is fair and just, as seen when people sat back and declared George Zimmerman’s innocence as proof of this after the Trayvon Martin trial. We are taught that Black lives do not matter by default. We make appeals to their families to prove their sons were worthwhile enough. That they were good kids, that they were college bound, or “promising.” We are taught that resisting arrest justifies excessive force. We are taught that these men are dangerous and criminal, and that their murder is the best course of action. We are not taught to see them as we should see them. The police are well practiced in protecting their own, but who will sing about the others?


One thought on “Last Words: Humanizing Victims of Police Brutality

  1. We are not living in an Adult Society if you want a look at one that is trying to evolve into one; look to Britain and check how many deaths by firearms they have per year. Anglos, Latinos, and other ethnicities have been duped by Southern Guilt Ridden Whites that are scared of Blacks from before the civil war. If you are an American you own America’s history. It doesn’t matter if you were born yesterday or became nationalized yesterday you own it. You own the genocide of the American Indian and the enslavement of the African. Immature childish humans walk around scared every day in our society. There is a constant propaganda of fear deemed necessary by profiteers that want you to listen and do as they say. Prejudice hate filled people love living in this “free” society as long as they have their weapons handy.
    Most Weapon enthusiasts are very responsible and go through a weapons safety class yearly and put their children through weapons safety classes. They keep weapons in a locked metal cabinet and have trigger locks on all of them. This does not make them model citizens if they have never met talked to or befriended any minority. They are merely living the dream no one else is living and are of no real use to forming a more perfect union.
    Don’t expect to find too many law enforcement officers that are and maintain a completely neutral stance regarding society after a few years of service. They have to use humor to keep from letting the ignorance that we the public put them through each day with our heinous crimes that could and does at times drive them over the edge.
    One fact we all agree on is that Police Departments cannot Police themselves and mistakenly higher authority must usually side with police otherwise we lose confidence in our systems.
    The answer lies at the center that joins us together. If we don’t come together and become inclusive dissolving all the racist organizations in this nation and around the world and become a humane society that builds more than adequate housing for everyone, pays every adult a living wage whether they are working or not, offer a free education no matter what age, and afford everyone free health care; we will fall back into being led by those who profit by it into killing each other in wars and in the street in a never ending cycle.

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