Although the brutal murders of Joel and Isaiah Henry took place only three months ago, it has already begun to fade from the minds of many. That’s unfortunately how many things go here. Anger burns bright and hot for a few mornings then the media cycle moves on to another violent act, because if it’s one thing that Guyana never lacks, it’s constant violent acts. It is understandable that many may want to take advantage of the repeated abuse being considered against their fellow humans. It is very difficult to be tuned in daily to the atrocities around us, especially when trapped in a mad rush for survival.
Lately though, I’ve been thinking about the plethora of photos and videos depicting violence against Black bodies. In the age of mass media and fighting for equal rights and equality, some things are understood to be more effective once it has a visual element. I can’t help but feel however that the spread of Black pain and violence has become very voyeuristic.
I am always wary whenever I see events and specific details slavishly shared / reported around Black trauma, because I wonder the reason behind it. I’m sure some will do it out of moral concern but the logic behind others is less obvious. One of the things that stood out to me after the murders of Joel and Isaiah Henry was how the family was barely allowed a place to mourn. The media and strangers were constantly drowning them. They were dealing with the fresh wounds of acknowledging the hateful cruelty behind the murder of their children, while they were expected to constantly report certain incidents and make room for people. We can’t help but wonder about the damage inherent in that.
The trauma these accounts can cause on the Black collective psyche has become too great a risk, as I don’t think they help push the envelope where it needs to go.
While some highly publicized events continue to reveal the sudden cuts in our society, I have come to realize that people were not oblivious to the facts; much has been invested in selling the myth of ethnic unity. By selling this myth, they can still sell other victim-versus-victor stories, in which Black people are always the adversary, even when they are the ones being persecuted.
Unfortunately this contributes to the lack of progress on many criminal cases. The families and communities of the Henry and Haresh Singh boys are still in pain, with the lack of accountability making itself more noticeable with each passing day. However, if not surprisingly. The police have never been reliable or worked in favor of the poor, especially if they are Black.
With the trauma inflicted on Henry’s family, one would have hoped that they would not be subjected to further trauma. But this is Guyana and when dealing with our racist policing systems, it is only a matter of time. It is an embarrassingly open secret that our policing systems are corrupt and extremely dangerous. I have already written on the apparent anti-Blackness of our policing systems and how, regardless of race, they remain true to the foundation of serving classist interests against minority populations.
The police are well aware of how the law protects them and how few civilians are available other than accepting the abuse measured against them or facing ramp charges, serious injuries and / or death.
They regularly abuse their power because they know they are protected. The recent arrest and violent abuse of Colwyn Henry and Gail Johnson is an obvious example of this. Those who do not follow the specific script of police officers, feel the full weight of their wrath. The police do not know how to deconstruct situations, they have one approach, escalation. Yet, they continue to expect praise and respect for doing the bare minimum, which in most cases is extremely damaging.