This exercise in creative and political writing should not be misunderstood. I would never run for mayor or public office. This is not a practice run toward that end. Instead, it is another way of clarifying what the St. Louis mayor does and does not stand for. It is also meant to spell out, as with all my writings, how ordinary people can arrive on their own authority. Some may say, why suggest criticism at a time when the city is in crisis? A self-governing people must be functional in a time of crisis, and politicians who serve the state and capital, can never be role models for such an awesome responsibility. The speech she didn’t make is consistent with what politicians who rule above society can never say, not because of the limitations of their individual personalities. Rather, you cannot perennially administer subordinate lives and tell deeper truths.
To My Fellow Citizens:
I am both disturbed and heartbroken that our beloved city has joined an infamous list of cities where school shootings have taken place and the lives of teachers and students have been stolen, leaving a gaping hole where we once felt confident in our safety and security. At least our first responders didn’t act like the police in Uvalde, Texas. They shot to kill, weren’t concerned about the legal process, and I know everyone agrees the job was well done. I don’t always get to cheer on the killing of people subtly or openly. But you should know that is a big part of my job as your mayor.
What happened at the Central Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) high school is indicative of how violent a society we have always been despite the fact, that many believe that violence that has become commonplace is unprecedented. The only difference between now and decades past is that we are inundated with information that we receive around the clock bringing the terrible news of more degradation and death. My job would be easier if we didn’t live in the Age of the Internet. I could cover up more schemes. But also, with the Internet I get to broadcast myself wearing t-shirts that say, “Trust Black Women.” And so, it’s sort of a break-even proposition for empowerment.
As mayor, I was present among these youth at the beginning of the school year in this very high school. They were bright-eyed, bushy tailed, laughing, and dancing. They conveyed a sense of innocence and welcoming, exactly because the dominant socialization wants both children and adults to be ill-informed about the systems of power that exploit and kill of which I am a part.
As humans get older, they perhaps show their alienation more, but in reality, especially where formally educated, they don’t know exactly what they want. The children are on the road to finding subordinate labor; a few will be paid a little more to conquer and manage the lives of others. On graduation day, parents and grandparents will see “the dream” in their children’s eyes. It will rarely be a cooperative or emancipatory dream. As mayor, our schools appear to fail in various ways. But I can assure you our schools are succeeding in that regard, spreading the miseducation that makes us identify with rulers above society, especially those who disempower ordinary people. In the past, grassroots St. Louis was getting tired of white men and women who were insufficient at conveying authenticity while lying. But luckily, personalities like me have been waiting in the wings for our time to rule.
As mayor of this city, I wish I could tell you that I had the power to change the course of a city that is plagued by violence at every turn and embodied in every institution that I preside over in this city. I cannot. I am powerless to do so. As mayor, my job is to preside over the most violent institution in the city, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD). I am a proud mother of a Black son, and I am the head of the institution that inflicts pain and seeks to suppress, not merely random Black males, but the better instincts of ordinary people in St. Louis to arrive on their own authority.
The best that I can offer you is a reconversion of the police. I throw my identity and body over it as an institution to convey its legitimacy. We use social workers and other mental health professionals to place a friendlier face on the police state as they mass incarcerate, conquer, and kill under the guise of public safety. Clearly, yet again, I fooled you. No social workers or mental health professionals were offered to the young shooter or the police that killed him. Everybody was in good enough health to be killed, especially those wielding the guns. Of course, I stand with those who wear the uniform, no matter their character. I tell the camera otherwise. But that is my brand that serves the rulers of St. Louis. If the city really has a crisis of legitimacy, we will have a show-trial of a handful of cops. If one is white, the other black, and one woman all the better. I understand diversity is a great diversion that keeps you on your heels, if choked up with emotion staring at me. How did such a charming woman of color get in this position? Easy, I am useful to the power structure I ritually denounce.
As a public official, my administration has failed in racial justice. But you must understand that is what I am supposed to do. And I really can’t cry tears for that. I only pretend to be a sob story, and emotionally moved in times of a crisis where there is irrational killing. There is always irrational killing, but my job is to justify it when it comes daily from government institutions.
Police officers and other first responders, we celebrate and salute today. When do I not celebrate and salute them? But whatever the undoubted courage of individuals who rushed in to limit the carnage today, as institutions they have failed and will fail the surviving students.
The students of CVPA in the days to come, will have to relive the trauma of having to escape for their lives. Individual students at this high school will likely be the subject of carnage inflicted by the police on the streets next. If they are associated with drugs or street gangs, I will not be able to perform being emotionally choked up when the police act again. If they are not, I will give a speech and say, it didn’t have to be this way, this youth was “one of the good ones.” I will express some internalized racism, but our people will not mind.
We, the government, have failed the parents who had to live through the experience of not knowing whether their children survived this harrowing ordeal. Their anxiety was not a product of a sudden impact, but an instinct that the city is in crisis every day and it may impact their family next. But for me, this calls for tears and being choked up, as if, for a special occasion.
I know you might be surprised to hear me say this. But the fact is, the instincts of parents about the jeopardy of their children’s daily lives, even though we try to reassure them, is correct.
Further, as a woman of color, a mother of a Black son, who is also the executive over the top police administrators, I ran for office claiming to fight institutional and systemic racism. But I lied. I have no control over it, and my genuine tears come from a place that my political leadership is bankrupt exactly because I can’t guarantee the safety of my own child.
But I come out here to tell you I am horrified but we are doing our best. I am actually horrified at my own inadequacies. Still, I can’t tell you the truth about popular self-government and taking matters into your own hands. My job is to suppress all that. In this regard, I am very successful, what national magazines owned by the rich call “an emerging leader.”
We have failed the shooter who lost his life as a result of his own decisions. I can’t say this in public. But we have to wonder what type of society and environment has been fostered within a school community that compels someone to desire to take life as a solution to a problem. We have to wonder about it because, certainly I, can’t think intelligently about it, as an administer of subordinate lives and police murder. If I could, I would never have run for mayor and the rulers of St. Louis wouldn’t have put money in my pocket and found me useful.
In the past month, our police and corrections institutions have been at the center of loss of life and violence. Today’s events are directly connected to that violence that is exacted on our streets by the police and behind prison walls. I am not supposed to tell you that. And besides, it’s easy for me, because I don’t believe it either.
We cannot say that institutional violence is rational and necessary while seemingly interpersonal instances of violence are irrational and disconnected from civilized society. Despite the fact that I suggest this all the time. That is my job as new millennium plantation master.
I have cried tears for the children and families who lost their lives in today’s school shooting. I did not shed tears after the deaths of 16-year-old Darryl Ross and Sudanese refugee, Bada Ali, who were recently killed by the SLMPD. But I did a good job of pretending.
You will notice, that in response to those who died or were killed in the city jail, I didn’t even pretend. My pollsters told me a majority of St. Louis doesn’t identify with people in the jail anyway. Little do they know that I, in fact, am the corrections officer of the wider society, especially post-Ferguson St. Louis. And on my watch, Black people can kill themselves (or we can make it look like that) but property will go undisturbed.
I perform crying when I feel the city wants to be mothered. And when people are hungry, homeless, and unemployed well… I am still working on an appropriate routine. Our high school of the performing arts (CVPA) may be pleased to know, I watch re-runs of Inside the Actors Studio for tips.
I have had to question myself, what does all this violence mean? If I only shed tears at the loss of some Black lives, do all Black lives really matter? Certainly, my peers in the Black political class in St. Louis and across America are not an endangered species. We have our own security details. We have special needs as Black politicians because angry whites like to think Blacks are unethical when we hold office. But anti-racists know this is not true. And that is why nobody has rebelled after my police and incarceration system has killed more than eight Black people.
As mayor of this city, I cannot call for a halt to gun violence while the SLMPD kills with impunity. Well, I play around with the idea. But that is silly when the police and army have more guns than any private citizen. The important thing is to disarm “our people” literally and figuratively. When my name goes down in history, that is what they will say about Mayor Tishaura Jones.
If we are to be a city that takes public safety and security seriously, the police must be disarmed, and the way must be made for community members to organize and carry out their own judicial affairs and patrol the streets. At least that is what sisters and brothers on the block say to themselves when I walk by. Some whisper because they have no trust to dialogue with me for real. And why should they? I was elected to make them an endangered species and carry it out more efficiently.
The only way that violence in St. Louis can be reduced is when everyone is armed in self-defense and ordinary people are first responders. But I can’t tell you this. Partially, because my place among the ruling elite is based on me being a force of mystification and suppressing this truth in the name of new millennium black power. Frankly, because I am bougie but like a lot among the professional classes, not that smart. And I have severe limitations. But the ruling class and I have both wagered that the city, and especially the Black community, will not discover that I am actually a threat to them, especially youth and toiling families.
At moments such as this school shooting, it seems I am embodying and fulfilling my true campaign promises. Everybody is confused about the origins of alienation and violence in our city. Most do not know, but my tears are tears of joy- not for the killing of youth (though it will inevitably happen again on my watch), but for my undoubted success in leading the city.
In Closing, Trust Black Women.