Who Killed Aura Rosser?

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Today, November 10th, 2016, marks two years since the murder of a Black woman, an artist and a mother of three named Aura Rain Rosser. Today, we still assemble to honor her memory and to affirm that Black Lives Matter. Today, more than ever, we ask: Who killed Aura Rosser?

Posing this very question should give us pause. In a strict sense, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ann Arbor Police Officer David Ried fired the shots that literally broke Aura’s heart. But if we understand that the who in our question is always-already a collectivewho” then we begin to understand that Ried is only a single node in a broad web of relations that materially and symbolically murdered Aura both before and after her death.

Materially, is it not true that the city of Ann Arbor purchased the vehicle, weapon, and bullets that Ried utilized that night and extinguished Aura’s life? As we have said before, Washtenaw County currently spends about 3.6 times more on Police and Jails than on Social Services.[1] Materially, is it not true that there is a certain desire to resolve our conflicts by dialing the magic number—911—that directly led to Ann Arbor police showing up that night to “resolve” the problem with bullets? What if we spent less money on police and jails and more money on social services? Furthermore, we know that Aura was possibly going through a mental health crisis. As such, what if we organize to solve problems ourselves without resorting to calling the police? In a sense, then, there were conditions that preceded the events that unfolded that night. Which is to say, the problem is not only about how Aura died but how Aura lived. Her very conditions of life in our society already implied a certain kind of precarious existence—a certain kind of premature death.

As longtime abolitionist and intellectual Ruth Wilson Gilmore writes, “Racism, specifically, is the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” In other words, the racism that “killed” Aura is not a racism that can be simply be solved by removing the “few bad apples,” that “bad cop,” because, again, the who in the question “Who Killed Aura Rosser?” is always already a collective “who.” Aura’s life was already made disposable before the night of November 10th by the material web of social relations that structured how she lived.

Symbolically, Aura was also murdered post-mortem by the Michigan State Police’s non-investigative investigation and by non-prosecuting Prosecutor Mackie’s non-prosecution of Officer Ried. Both ex-Police Chief John Seto (currently the director of Housing Security for the University of Michigan) as well as Ann Arbor liberal Mayor Taylor continuously justified Ried’s action—he murdered Aura because he “feared for his life.” Media outlets such the Ann Arbor News then reproduced and legitimized these justifications. In other words, the whole State apparatus—the Mayor, the Police Chief, the Prosecutor, and the media—mobilized to “maintain order,” to keep things as they are—to uphold the patriarchal racial capitalist system that made this “deranged” Black woman’s actions cause her own death.[2]

And so we begin to get a partial answer to the question we posed in the beginning—Who killed Aura? The patriarchal and racial capitalist State killed Aura.[3] This is what we mean when we affirm that The Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell.

It is that same State and its colonial legacies that made Aura’s life disposable that makes other lives disposable—the lives of immigrants crossing deserts and seas across the world; the lives of Muslim populations extinguished by Obama’s drones abroad and surveillance programs at “home”; the lives of thousands of workers who are forced to sell their labor, that is, be exploited, in order to survive; the lives of millions of prisoners and parolees caged behind walls and then shackled with monitoring devices; the lives of trans women whose very existence is a threat; the lives of women in Latin America and across the world who affirm “Ni Una Menos—Vivas nos Queremos” (Not one more death! We want ourselves alive!); as well as the lives of Indigenous people in North Dakota, Palestine and Chiapas. In short, the State makes disposable the lives of the global racialized and gendered proletariat, the lives of the dispossessed, the lives of Fanon’s “wretched of the earth” caught up in the Manichean world of segregated ghettos and favelas.

If we do not make these material connections then we will dupe ourselves into thinking that putting a pig in prison will solve our problems. The task is not to imprison cops but to abolish the very conditions of the possibility of police—its function to maintain order—that is, maintain our racist and patriarchal capitalist society. And so when we ask Who Murdered Aura Rosser we are also asking what kind of society we currently live in, and more importantly, what kind of society we want to live in.

Furthermore, it is when we ask the question of whose lives are disposable and affirm that Black Lives Matter that we begin to unearth the fascism that was always already here—as imprisoned intellectual and Black Panther George Jackson already figured out long ago.[4] After all, what is fascism if not also the desire to resolve our problems by building more cages, erecting more walls, funding more cops, and demanding “better” jobs (that is, desire our own exploitation)? What is fascism if not also the insistence that certain lives are disposable? It is in this respect that we take an abolitionist vision and affirm our task to make the world anew. That is, make a world where Black Lives Matter. That is, make a world where Aura not only would still be alive, but a world in which she could truly live—a world where her basic needs would be met and where she would be free to do as she willed: to paint, to cook, to love, and to live.

—A3BL

Notes

[1]Understanding Structural Racism: Police and Jails in Washtenaw County.”

[2] Aura “opened her eyes very wide … [and] … appeared to be in a deranged state … [with] a blank stare”—for holding a 4-inch knife she was cooking with. See pg. 8 of the People’s Retort to the Prosecutor’s Report.

[3] See our flyer to clarify what we mean by “racial capitalism.”

[4] George Jackson, Blood in my Eye.

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