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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Privilege or Solidarity?

    The name Sean Bell is probably very familiar to the residents of New York. We were briefly bombarded with the news of his gruesome killing. We can all remember the vivid story of that 24 year-old man with his friends, expecting to get married the next day, only to be gunned down senselessly outside of a Queens club by the NYPD. These overzealous police officers fired 50 shots at these unarmed men and then claimed that they thought they were under attack. However, not a single shot was fired in return. Many of us are familiar with state oppression, police violence, injustice, and state-sanctioned crimes going unanswered. Amadou Diallo, Rodney King, and Abner Louima are three familiar cases of these abuses.

    I don’t think that the name of 24 year-old Ronell Wilson is nearly as familiar. It has been in the media as well, but with quite different vigor. It is also a name the progressive community has completely avoided. This young man has just been convicted for the murder of two police officers in Staten Island, and is the first New Yorker in almost 53 years to have been sentenced to death. The prosecution claimed that he knew both of his victims were police officers, which is why he killed them execution style.

    What is the difference between these two cases? Bell was the victim of the police while Wilson was the aggressor. While in custody Wilson claimed that he thought, ‘the pigs’ were going to ‘try to take [his] life.’ Wilson had no respect or admiration for the police and obviously had no problem taking a few of them down with him.

    But what is the radical left’s stance on this? The American left claims to have a firm commitment against racism, war, and police brutality, but there is a huge contradiction. In these cases the ‘left’ accepts that Bell was innocent and Wilson was not. If Bell had realized the police were going to shoot him or arrest him and decided to get them first, he would have been a vicious criminal deserving life imprisonment or a state-sanctioned lynching. The left would barely have made a peep if this were the case. In that regard, their reasoning is very similar to that of the state they claim to oppose.

    This subjective morality is evident in many instances. When the left speaks about the victims in the Iraq war, they are either referring to the American soldiers or the Iraqi civilians, as if these are the only victims. The Iraqi insurgents are never acknowledged even though they are the people actively resisting an occupation the left claims it opposes. An Iraqi or a Palestinian has no choice but to be anti-war and it is similar with poor communities in America. In Far Rockaway, Harlem, or Brownsville, one has no choice but to be against police brutality. Police brutality comes with everyday life in these areas. Furthermore, a lot of people in these communities applaud when a Ronell Wilson commits an aggressive act like this.

    Several members of the progressive community are from fairly affluent backgrounds. They have never feared having their homes raided on a flimsy pretext or had a pistol pointed at their head because they were outside too late. These progressives have never had a police officer assault them in broad daylight, or rummage through their pockets right when they step out their door. In turn, these progressive do not accept when people take the law into their own hands.

    The ‘left’ has an admiration for people of color who are martyrs, but not for the active combatants. They adore Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. But why do they love these two? Because they assume they are innocent of the charges. If they had any indication that these two actually committed these crimes their support would vanish. This may be the main challenge the left must overcome. Solidarity means nothing when there is no sacrifice accompanied with it. In a speech in 1967, Che Guevara said, ‘To wish the victim success is not enough; one must share his fate. One must join him in death or victory.’ People who are currently taking actions that engender repression must be supported. There is no obligation for them to wait for the ‘left’ to find their acceptable path for the world’s salvation.

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