Police Brutality and Fair Weather Individualism

Yesterday our newest contributor recounted a story about witnessing – by way of a viral video – one of her former students being brutalized on the street.  By police.  The point of that story was not to provide context or talk about why these things happen or offer solutions.  Context isn’t always the helpful, things sometimes happen arbitrarily, and solutions are sometimes utterly absent.

The point was to remind the reader that the boy under the barrage of punches was just that.  A boy.

Those we incarcerate, deprive of dignity, deport, strip of the franchise, abuse, evict, kill, segregate, or ignore are individuals.  Individuals with neighbors who see, noses that break, friends who cry, skin that bruises, and families that long.

We live in a country that exalts the individual – individual liberty, economic agency, self-determination – over all else, but only up to the point at which it becomes inconvenient.  We insist upon the individuality of our fellow citizens so long as it absolves us of collective responsibility; for sustenance, health, stability, or education.  When seeing others as individuals implicates us in something brutal or oppressive or contradictory to our notion of ourselves, then we drop it without blinking and leave the pieces lying on the pavement.