[CN: rape, rape culture, police violence]
In Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities, Marco Polo describes 55 cities he has seen on his journeys to an aging Kublai Khan. His descriptions are lyrical imaginings of cities that are fantastical and impossible.
Late in the book, the Khan points out that the explorer has yet to mention Venice:
Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’
The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’
And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice. Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased. Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or, perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.’
Like Marco Polo, I never mention Venice.
And Venice runs beneath everything that I say.
Three days ago, the Associated Press released the results of a year-long investigation of sexual misconduct by US law enforcement. Counting only those who lost their badges (how many did not?), counting only those in states that track it (how many missed from New York and California?), not counting those the states themselves did not count (how many headlines missing from the statistics?), not counting those whose misdeeds were never reported (how many fear reporting police to police?) — in six years, one thousand officers lost their badges.
1,000 officers. Not 1,000 violations.
How many victims does that math work out to?
Do you really want to know?
Two days ago, the trial of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw began. Holtzclaw is charged with rape, sexual battery, and stalking, among other crimes. He faces 36 charges, related to 13 victims. (care to revisit the math above?) When he was initially charged, there were seven identified victims; others came forward after seeing reports on the news. (how many do not watch the news?) The six-month investigation began with only one woman, reporting only one crime. The rest of the case built as police looked for other victims…and found them. (who already knew that ‘one’ always means ‘more’?)
The woman who reported Holtzclaw, a 57yo grandmother identified only as J.L., did not already have a record, as his other victims did. (rape or imprisonment, which do you choose) J.L. did not live in the poor neighborhood he targeted; she was only driving through. (blow job or death, which frightens you more) Holtzclaw is on trial today not because he assaulted women, but because the last woman he assaulted was less vulnerable than the first twelve.
When charges were filed last year, The Guardian reported: “All 13 of the victims are black; Holtzclaw is listed as Asian or Pacific Islander in court records. It’s not clear whether race played a role in the alleged crimes.”
How “clear” does something need to be, before we know what we know?
You knew before you read this far in my story, didn’t you, how likely that Holtzclaw’s perfectly-precarious, vulnerable victims would turn out to be black? Continue reading “We already know. We already don’t want to know.”