02 November 2007

Seven Shots

A small measure of justice has been delivered in the case of the murder of innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes (left) by the London Metropolitan Police. In July 2005, de Menezes was running to catch a train in the London tube system when he was attacked by London police officers who, fearing that he might be suicide bomber, shot him seven times in the head. While police tried to make the case that they were forced into this position, prosecutors revealed that the police, prior to the shooting, had several opportunities to stop and question de Menezes before he entered the subway system.

This week, the London Metropolitan Police was found guilty of breaching health and safety laws and ordered to pay fines and costs of over half a million pounds. Jean Charles's family hopes that this decision will open the way to forcing the police to pay real damages.

In essence, de Menezes’s murder should be seen as the result of racial-profiling (poorly executed at that—mistaking a Brazilian for an Arab). Tram Nguyen posed this problem in American terms in a brilliant book two years ago: We Are All Suspects Now. I think one might also consider the problem in global terms, as migrant workers from the global South seek profitable employment and are targeted for state- and vigilante violence in the North. (If you haven't read Nguyen's book, I strongly recommend it--it's snappy, smart and tragic all at once. Appropriate for our times, in other words. You can get a sense of her work from a recent post over at RaceWire.)

On the rhetoric of "Muslim extremism" in US politics, Juan Cole has a smart piece in the Nation this week. It's a little partisan for my taste, but it's election season and the Republicans are uglier on this issue, though the Democratic hawks aren't too much better.