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Colorblinded: Police Fundraiser for Cancer

The Unknown's picture

            This summer I went with my parents to Vancouver to celebrate my brother’s college graduation. One day, we decided to go to Vancouver Island and have lunch outside of the Farmer’s Market. It was a sunny day and there were children playing and running around the tables where people were devouring salmon, crab, lobster, turkey, and any of a variety of vibrant, fully juicy fruits. The indoor market had been rumbling with bargains- trying to persuade vendors that their grown produce, hand-crafted lotions, clothing, and jewelry was not worth what they had been asking. That their time, sweat, energy of crafting their land into purchasable goods were not were the price they were asking. The homemade goods could be configured better with different hands and minds seemed to be what people were suggesting as they reacted to the prices of the items they were interested in. The prices seemed to be more suggestions than demands. The heat was engulfing and stuck to the words flattened inside my mouth.  

            Outside the Farmer’s Market was an open-aired cell with a sign next to it that read, “Cops for Cancer.” The cell was tall and wide enough for everyone to “fit” into. The cell looked like a cage and only the police had the keys. About four or five police officers were positioned around the enclosure at all times. This exhibit? Cage was set-up so that a volunteer who happened to be at the market could tell a police officer positioned around the cage to handcuff and “arrest” one of this person’s friends or family members (the police officer put the person’s hands behind their back, handcuffed them and then put them in the cage). The cage was then locked and the longer the person remained in the cage, the more money the “friend” or family member had to pay to get the incarcerated person released.  

            Another option was that one could be “arrested” if his/hur/their friend spoke on behalf of that person saying he/shi/they could “last” a longtime in the cage. The person in the cell could have his/hur/their picture taken with a Canadian police officer, and then the police officer could/would often exit, leaving the other person alone in the cell, and the officer would lock the door behind him/hur/them. The friend, who was not arrested would then have to pay for his/hur/their friend to be released. The longer the person remained in the cell, the more the friend who had “ordered” that his/hur/their friend to be “jailed,” would have to pay to get his/hur/their friend released.   

            This was a fundraiser for cancer that police had organized and participated in, but what else was going on? The whole experience was made to look enjoyable; people were joking about who they wanted to be arrested and who could stay in the cage the longest. Only white people were arrested and only white people suggested that their friends be handcuffed. My stomach was making somersaults. How do I interrupt? Disrupt? End? Can we leave?

            The police seemed to be showing off, flaunting their aggressive, racist, violent power. Their power was taken, assumed, and then reinforced and given back through savagely acts of putting “friends” and family members in a cage. The cage- separating ones self- alone, individual. There was not a single outwardly-appearing womyn who was arrested. The men seemed to be proving their masculinity, toughness, ability to endure discomfort by willingly letting police officers strip them of mobility.

            The entire experience was camouflaged and veiled as a joke as if being stripped of one’s rights, which is what happens when one is put in a cell could ever be something humorous. Mass incarceration, where over 2.4 million people are behind bars, in the United States is not comical or light-hearted. One in eight black men in their twenties are locked up on any given day. 5.3 million Americans are denied their right to vote in the United States as a result of a racial caste system in the United States. Rape, murder, sexual harassment, torture, loss of connections to one’s home, unemployment, homelessness are just some of the forms of violence that prisons inflict on inmates, and inmates’ families, loved ones, and others implicated. It seemed that the police were masquerading cancer, a movement that has focused on research without any determined solutions, to actually defend and reinforce the Prison-Industrial Complex and the “morality,” of police. How repulsive and violent to black and brown bodies.