Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill, is a phenomenal work that concisely discusses the way all of us – liberal and conservative, racist and humanist – have created the social conditions and political state that deem the poor and the black as Nobody’s. From the state violence by individual police officers and departments; to the court system inadequately funding criminal defense for the poor who are accused of crime in comparison to city and county funding of prosecution; to the prison industrial complex which relies on full occupancy to maximize profits and insure a community with jobs; to the broad attack on a community of poor and Black by poisoning their water system by a state’s decision to run a local government with business principles. Hill has achieved a deep and concise examination of current events and history that makes this 184-page book enlightening and thought-provoking.
I have included below some quotes from the book and videos tied to the topics within each chapter, to enhance your experience. I found that after reading about Michael Brown and Eric Garner, seeing the videos again hammered home Hill’s points. Other videos enhance the discussion, such as the video featuring the theory of how Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, and Democracy Now!’s interview of Heather Ann Thompson on the Attica uprising.
Chapter One: Nobody
The Ferguson Police Department released this video at the same time as the officer’s name. It was an attempt to paint Michael Brown as someone who was less than innocent. However, theft is not a capital offense in the United States, and police officers have no right to become executioners above and beyond the judicial system.
Chapter Two: Broken
Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo walked out of a grand jury that failed to indict him on a homicide charge. Ramsey Orta, the man filming the incident, was sentenced to four years in prison for unrelated charges on October 3, 2016 – over two years since the video. In this interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Orta states that he has been video recording NYPD officers “abusing their power,” and believes he became a target of NYPD.
Chapter Three: Bargained
In 2014, a Baltimore Sun report found that in the preceding four years, more than one hundred people had won judgments or earned settlements for police brutality…As recently as October 2015, the city paid $95,000 to a woman who claimed that she, like Freddie Gray, was subjected to a ‘rough ride’ by police. All of these claims likely represent only a small percentage of the people who were actually assaulted. Imagine how many others never reported such crimes or had their reports discarded or ignored. – Pg. 83
Chapter Four: Armed
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Dunn is supposed to be a good guy with a gun?
To have to endure the insults being flung his way, move his car to another parking space, or drive off to another convenience store, all to avoid confrontation with one who was “wrong” – well, that, according to the logic of “Stand Your Ground” would not only be unfair but unmanly. The prosecutor highlighted this theme when he offered that Dunn’s rage at Davis emerged not because he feared that Davis had a weapon but because he knew that Davis had a “big mouth” and that he felt disrespected by it. “That defendant didn’t shoot into a carful of kids to save his life,” he told the jury. “He shot into it to save his pride.” Page 105.
No-Knock Search Warrants
Chapter Five: Caged
Black Codes of the post-Civil War era…combined with the loopholes of the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime, conspired to create easy end runs around the Emancipation Proclamation. Simply put, slavery was allowed if Blacks committed crimes, so nearly everything they did was criminalized. Page 128.
Using the language of war (War on Drugs) to attack a social problem worked to distort the image of those who suffered, just as propaganda in real wartime serves to distort the image of the enemy into a subhuman monstrosity. In both instances, there is the need to transform the object of our rage into something hateful, deserving not of our mercy but of our brutal assault. Page 141.
In the fight over whether the criminal was “one of us” gone bad and in need of help, or “one of them” who was fundamentally flawed and disposable from the body politic, the “one of them” theory had won. Page 143.
Chapter Six: Emergency
(B)y definition, the emergency manager works for the State, not the public; her priority is not the people’s safety and welfare but fiscal discipline. Page 161.
“The general evolution is clear,” writes (Thomas) Piketty. “Bubbles aside, what we are witnessing is…the emergence of a new patrimonial capitalism.” Page 169.
Chapter Seven: Somebody
All around the country, people are engaging in profound acts of civil disobedience. Page 181.
The People have asserted that they are, in fact, Somebody. Page 184.