– have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
(Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?)
The last part is in parentheses because the TV shows and movies generally don’t get that far before they cut to the next clip.
I wonder if people are actually read their Miranda rights when they are arrested, or if the police assume we all know since they feed it to us over and over on our favorite network shows. I wonder if George Floyd was read his rights before he was suffocated on the ground. Breonna Taylor certainly didn’t hear hers because she was asleep. It’s sad that there’s so much Black death that I have to remind myself beyond those that are most displayed in the media (or given post-humous Hulu documentaries. Like, come on. To say that makes me sick is an understatement), who was the most recent. For those who weren’t the “big names”, I have to dig into the pandora’s box of my subconscious, or take a moment to search, because those names, the seemingly infinite number of names, aren’t always at the top of my mind.
And I know they weren’t read their rights because, well, you know. You know that this system wasn’t designed with the necessity for their rights in question. This system wasn’t designed with our rights at top of mind — and by our, of course, I’m excluding any of my white friends reading this. Because you would get your “day in court” whatever the fuck that means. You would get your rights read to you, I presume, though we never see real life footage of this interaction taking place. We never see real life footage of this statement of basic human rights because usually, we see a human being being thrown to the ground. We see a human being being shot down. We see a human being losing their life with their families having to bear witness nearby. And what about their rights? To mental health care after being marked by a traumatic event? To an attorney to prosecute the murderers of their loved ones? To financial support after they lose someone who may have been an income earner for the family? Their right to be held by their communities without the media questioning whether it was actually “right” for their loved one to die?
And let me say this, because I cannot say it enough, and I don’t know if I’ve said it directly but I’ve indirectly said it, I’m sure, in many ways. I am so angry (and anger isn’t something I feel that I express often) that my life “mattering” gets to be theoretical for the white “you”. That I have to beg you for empathy. That I have to present facts and statistics and rationale of why people who look like me shouldn’t be executed on the street. When a cop is “scared”. That I have to watch you twist and turn and do all of the mental gymnastics it takes to tell me to my Black face that it’s “not all cops”, that “all lives matter”, that “blue lives matter” (like, hello?? It’s a damn job). I’ll say it out of parentheses, with my chest, HELLO?? IT’S A DAMN JOB. And I hope it’s not just my Facebook friends who agree with me who are reading this, because there are others of you that I see on my feed that this is more meant for. It’s a job. I am so angry that I have to watch white people around me going to every leap and bound to defend a job as if these oh so scared cops can’t just quit. As if the statement blue lives matter even means anything, when I can’t quit my skin.
This feels like a digression but it’s not because it feels like what I need to say.
But what happened to the idea of innocent until proven guilty? Unless, that’s just propaganda too (surprise, it is). Again, we hear this idea in our schools, on TV, in other aspects of life but more and more the people who get to hide in their whiteness realize that “innocent until proven guilty” really only applies to them. And even then, notice how in the cases where there is guilt to be proven and it’s a white human on the line, any proof seems to magically slip away. We’re really cutting ourselves short when we pretend that this system isn’t working as planned. When we pretend that it is supposed to be in service of anything other than white safety, white supremacy, white innocence, white violence, white- (anything else that makes that list end with something that wraps it up all nice and neat, like you pretend your criminal justice system is supposed to do. Even the phrase “criminal justice” is making less sense to me, we really need to be more diligent about asking what these words we’re using are even intended to mean).
If you’re with me, remember that it shouldn’t be a surprise that innocence until proven guilt doesn’t mean anything if you’re dead. That fact alone should tell everyone that something is wrong, and yet there are still countless living beings gaslighting us into thinking that somehow, some justice, some “justice for all”, was served within these displays of public death.
And all of this feels important to say but we’re tired y’all. I’m tired of talking about this, and I’m not even doing a fraction of what so many other activists are doing. But small steps are important so here I am, and here you are, and here we are bearing witness to the words and expressions that so many people can no longer hold back. I hope if you’re with me that you’re sharing some of the things I say, that other people have to say, especially those who’ve done more research on this topic than I, with those in your circle who won’t sit with us long enough to hear. Those who are still making us get down on our knees and shine their shoes while they kick us in the face and act like they did nothing wrong. You know who I’m talking about. And their acts of violence may be more subtle than that metaphor but the ripple effects are just as extreme as shooting someone in the back seven times (out of supposed “fear”, supposed “threat”, and probably with shock that the victim of their attempted homicide actually got to live to tell the tale).
I want to wrap this up even though, like always, there is so much more I could say. Maybe consider this as an invitation, depending on where you identify within this conversation, to sit with your discomfort. To share the thoughts you feel you’ve been holding back. To dig and dig and dig into yourself until you clear out all of the gunk and propaganda and mess that clouds your mind and your spirit and prevents you from helping to build the best world for us all.
I have this tendency to imagine conversations I might have with people. I craft these scenarios, write these scripts, often out of my own anxiousness and fear of what the other person might say, but as I dig and dig and dig into myself I’ve started to ask what these imagined conversations are for. Am I working my way up to have an exchange with the person I’m envisioning on this plane of reality? Sometimes yes. Is this day dreaming working to inform me of something that my subconscious wants to work out? Also yes. This time, as I envisioned myself having a conversation with someone I hold dear, I was imagining myself in tears as I expressed to them that I was not sure how I could convince them that the lives of people who look similar to me should matter. Should matter and should be worth living for no other reason than that they are alive. I was imagining myself in tears as I explained that it hurt me that we had to even have that conversation, that I had to beg and force them to empathize with me in the hopes that they’ll start to see all of the Black people (or any one else “not like them”) through the lens of care and love through which I hope they see me. Remember, this entire exchange was all going on in my head before I took the time to write it out.
And I share that with you because I’m relearning that the imagination is important. That it can be used as a tool. It can be used just for fun, too, but it’s also an important tool in envisioning the world we want to see and bringing that world to life. So I’m learning, that maybe I don’t need to write all of my imagined scenarios off as blanket anxiety and decide they need to be stuffed away. Maybe if I take a minute to ask what my mind is trying to work out with these imagined conversations, I might ask what part of me needs to be soothed. I might ask about what idea wants to be worked out further. I might start to ask if there is a world possible where I’m comfortable enough in myself, where I’m no longer worried about how this other person perceives me, where I have enough trust for them that we might have this conversation in real life. Maybe, we’re having this conversation now, if they’re reading this, and I don’t know what that would feel like if I could know that they were receiving these words but maybe I would feel some release, or fear, or hope, with the potential that they are hearing me and letting these words soak in.
(To come back to the entry point, I have since learned via the internet that “It is important to note that police are only required to Mirandize a suspect if they intend to interrogate that person under custody. Arrests can occur without the Miranda Warning being given. If the police later decide to interrogate the suspect, the warning must be given at that time.” So as your FYI, no, they do not have to read people these rights. And again, if it wasn’t clear to you already, many of the “suspects” we have seen dead on TV were never executed with the intent of being interrogated, or spoken to as a human being at all. Again, this is by design).
But if you’re hearing me, if you who I imagined in my head are having this conversation with me… I’m not sure where to go from there but here we are, and I guess, here’s to hoping that we both get to stay.