by Latoya Peterson
Stiffer stipulations attached to each sentence
Budget cutbacks but increased police presence
And even if you get out of prison still livin
join the other five million under state supervision
This is business, no faces just lines and statistics
from your phone, your zip code, to S-S-I digits
The system break man child and women into figures
Two columns for who is, and who ain’t niggaz
Numbers is hardly real and they never have feelings
but you push too hard, even numbers got limits
Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret:
the million other straws underneath it – it’s all mathematics
—“Mathematics,” Mos Def, Black on Both Sides
Near the beginning of the episode, Davis is in lock up after being harassed by the National Guard. Still, he yelled “Go the fuck back to Fallujah!” and got put in lock up as Toni tries to calm him down. Her grim reminder that the police and the guard are on edge serves as foreshadowing for later events – it is worthwhile to note that Davis is still more or less in one piece after the altercation.
Later on, Antoine is not so fortunate. After singing on the street with Annie and Sonny after his gig at the strip club, he drunkenly stumbles into a police car. The police react swiftly and brutally, kicking Antoine’s horn and punching him in the face. Horrified, Annie and Sonny look on, but cannot protest much for fear of retribution. The SMO squad is especially effective in this portrayal: at this point in the series, a police car in the background of a shot provides a sense of fear and foreboding. None of the characters as of yet have had a positive interaction with the police, which mimics the dynamics in a lot of communities of color – instead of a welcome sight, police presence means something horrible is about to happen -not crime prevention.
The concept of state violence extends further throughout the episode – Ladonna’s struggle to locate her brother within the criminal justice system, and being stymied at every turn also demonstrates the pernicious nature of state control over incarcerated citizens. Law enforcement appears to be unconcerned with who they have in custody and why – only that a prisoner is accounted for.
It’s understood that the police are under pressure – but what about the other citizens? Read the Post “We Get Shit Done to Us:” Economic and State Sponsored Violence in Treme