This is the same narrative we always hear from the authorities. First, we must submit to their control; then they will address our concerns. All the problems we face, they insist, are caused by our refusal to cooperate. This argument sounds most persuasive when it is dressed up in the rhetoric of democracy: those are “our” laws we should shut up and obey—“our” cops who are shooting and gassing us—“our” politicians and leaders begging us to return to business as usual. But to return to business as usual is to step daintily over the bodies of countless Michael Browns, consigning them to the cemetery and oblivion.
Permit us to propose another idea about how to address conflicts—what we might call the anarchist approach. The basic idea is straightforward enough. Real peace cannot be imposed; it can only emerge as a consequence of the resolution of conflict. Hence the classic chant: no justice, no peace.
Left to itself, a state of imbalance tends to return to equilibrium. To maintain imbalances, you have to introduce force into the situation. The greater the disparities, the more force it takes to preserve them. This is as true in society as it is in physics.
That means you can’t have rich people and poor people without police to impose that unequal relation to resources. You can’t have whiteness, which inflects and stabilizes that class divide, without a vast infrastructure of racist courts and prisons. You can’t keep two and a half million people—nearly a million of them black men—behind bars without the constant exertion of potentially lethal violence. You can’t enforce the laws that protect the wealth of good liberals like Governor Nixon without officers like Darren Wilson killing black men by the hundred.