What Does It Mean When Black Victims Of Police Brutality Suffer A Social Death?

person in a fetal position
Zain Murdock
September 12, 2023

On January 24, 2023, a white neighbor called the police on Eddie Terrell Parker and Michael Jenkins. A group of white Mississippi police officers self-named “The Goon Squad,”  responded. They tortured the men with waterboarding, sexual assault, tasing, psychological abuse, and more, until a violent shooting thwarted their plan to leave “no scars.” 

Now, Parker and Jenkins have lasting trauma from the officers deputized to “protect and serve.”

But understanding the logic of anti-Blackness means understanding we can’t expect the protection we deserve from cops. Afropessimist scholar Frank Wilderson explains this well.

Wilderson explained all white people are “deputized in the face of Black people.” White people “are not simply ‘protected’ by the police,” he wrote. “[T]hey are … the police."

The police badge is only a legal formality. It’s why the neighbor felt entitled to call 911 in the first place.

The criminal legal system enables white civilian vigilantism. It arms the police who brutalize us. The recent incarceration of the “Goon Squad'' doesn't change this fact. “I’m still in survival mode,” says Parker.

The torture Parker and Jenkins underwent wasn’t a singular event. It’s part of a violent, institutional legacy of enslavement that excludes us from a life of humanization. Wilderson calls this Social Death. 

But we all deserve a world where our Death is no longer inevitable. We deserve a world where we live protected, loved, and free.

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