Checks and Balances


DJ Jon Snow tonight … I copped two backstage passes—you down?
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I’ll pass. You know knuckleheads are just gonna shoot up the club like always …estab_apt_bldg_eve

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Why do you even go?

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Anthropological research …

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Report’s titled “Ballistic Ballin’: Negros, Nay-Naying, and TEC-9s in the Nightclub.”

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A dissertation?

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Nah, this is strictly for street cred.

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… Where are you calling from, anyway?


On the move—finally broke down and bought a cell phone.
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Seriously!? Mister tinfoil fedora, “Big Brother’s Watching” bought a high-end LoJack??

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It’s a 24-hour burner. I’ll incinerate it as soon as—HOLY SMOKES!!

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… Wh-what happened?


A bike cop just bumrushed the South Congress Metro bus! …
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He’s choking this brother out by the wheelchair securement area!


Well, don’t just stand there—record a video!
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OK … Hmm … Gimme a minute …

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Just press the icon for the camera app!!

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This is flip phone. Eve. I’m working with numerals, asterisks, and hashtags here.

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Wwwhhhy would you buy—???

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OK, found it!


Ha, ha!! … This is priceless ethnographic data!
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Look for y’ boy’s handiwork on the 10 o’clock news!
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Shaky cellphone video emerges of an alleged officer-involved altercation that hospitalized local resident Draymond Perkins earlier this evening.
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The following recording was texted to KPPQ via a cheap unregistered mobile device with a 1-megapixel camera.
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We warn you: The images you’re about to see may be indecipherable.
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H-hey, man! Get up off me!! HEEELLLPPP!!!
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It looks like Q*bert being played on a busted Atari 2600.
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z_charley

What are you talking about? That’s clearly—


Unfortunately, the authenticity—much less the content—of this video cannot be independently verified by KPPQ.
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Fantastic. Yet another ethically questionable, potentially criminal police officer evades public or judicial accountability.

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I … I don’t understand what went wrong.

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It’s this middle-school-science-experiment of a cell phone, Charley! …


As far as I’m concerned, every James Weldon Johnson-singing brother and sister who pledges allegiance to the black community has a moral obligation to be armed at all times with a reliable recording device …
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And to use it!

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But aren’t cops increasingly being required to wear body cams anyway?

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Yes, cams which they switch off—and which “malfunction”—at their sole discretion.


And wouldn’t requiring all black folks to be constantly “camera ready” ultimately just swap our racially colonized and carceral state for an infinitely expanded surveillance state?
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z_charley_headright

Require us to relinquish ever-increasing degrees of personal privacy in order to be granted—by virtue of still-refutable video evidence—the benefit of the doubt in the courts of public and judicial opinion?

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Come on, Charley. Courtesy of the Patriot Act, we’re very likely being recorded every minute of the day anyway.

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Is there not a violence, too, in video recording? …


In the constant interloping gaze—in having our intimate pain and struggle ever-accessible for public display?
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Better shot by a GoPro than a Glock.

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Where does this line of civil liberty concessions end, though? …


At the point wherein everyone records each other constantly? At the point in which all micro-aggressions, implicit biases, “thought crimes” are relayed instantaneously to authorities?
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What have we lost at that point? What have we gained?
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And how do we black folks ever redeem that which has been so disproportionately stripped from us to begin with?
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z_charley

That for which we struggle now—freedom?

z_eve_side

It sounds like you’re groping your way toward answering your own question …


Breaking news! 12 Dallas police officers shot, 5 killed by snipers at what was—until this outbreak of violence—a peaceful demonstration by the Black Lives Matter movement …
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More on this developing story as details emerge.
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Well, I’m hitting the streets—coming?

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Sigh, of course. Let me dig out my VHS camcorder—and my Kevlar vest—first.

Jackson Brown is the writer and illustrator of the graphic-novel-in-progress The Grand Bargain and of the serial comic Cake and Potatoes, as well as a contributing and advisory editor for Callaloo literary journal. He is endowed with the uncanny ability to, whenever necessary, relinquish his own will for the greater good—except when it comes to dark chocolate, which is never necessary but always good. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, daughter, and, when he’s lucky, his mother-in-law.