The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence by Laurence Ralph

The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence by Laurence Ralph

Author:Laurence Ralph [Ralph, Laurence]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: SOC000000 Social Science / General
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Published: 2020-01-10T00:00:00+00:00

An Open Letter to the Late Dominique “Damo” Franklin

I didn’t know you, Damo, while you were living. But I do know you in death. You died at twenty-three and were much loved by your friends and family. Nevertheless, as a teenager and as a young adult, you had experienced several run-ins with the Chicago police that had instilled in you a healthy fear of the cops—a fear familiar to many African American youth. I also know that on May 7, 2014, you had stolen a bottle of liquor from a convenience store, and when the police showed up, you ran. The officers chased you down the street and caught you. Once they handcuffed you, they used a Taser on you three different times. The third time, you fell and hit your head on a pole, lapsing into a coma from which you never awoke.

When I think about the circumstances of your death, I can’t help but remember the first man to expose police torture in Chicago, Andrew Wilson. I often think of you and Andrew together because his life and your death lead us to question what kinds of police violence we, as Black people living in this country, are willing to accept.

The police electrocuted Andrew with a mysterious device called the black box. Jon Burge supposedly engineered that box for the sole purpose of inflicting pain. The City of Chicago has now apologized to Andrew and the other Black men who were tortured in this way. What Burge did to Andrew Wilson is now considered unacceptable—unlike what the Chicago police did to you.

The police electrocuted you with a weapon we have all become familiar with, a device called the Taser. The Taser Company engineered the device for the sole purpose of incapacitating people who were deemed dangerous. The police tased you in broad daylight as a consequence of your alleged actions. But the City of Chicago has never apologized to you or the other people the police have fatally injured in this way. When it comes to you, our government believes that the police acted within the scope of the law, and therefore, what those officers did to you—how they killed you—has been deemed “reasonable.”

I want to tell you, Damo, about the people in Chicago who disagree with this, as well as the efforts of your friends to protest your death. Eight young people from your hometown—some of whom you were extremely close to, others who you knew in passing—formed a group called We Charge Genocide. They made a case, on the international stage, that the forms of police violence that we have come to accept, like tasering someone, can be just as horrifying as the forms that our government regards as intolerable, like planned torture. From the Taser to the black box, all the violence that exists on the use-of-force continuum has at least one thing in common: to some extent or degree, it is indicative of our country’s genocidal impulse to deliberately control marginalized groups.

I’m writing you


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