Carl Williams

CarlWilliamsLaw for Black lives. The law is our enemy. The law is our enemy.

The law as it stands today in this country and in this time is our enemy. Historically, it's what's enslaved us as Black people. It's what's Jim Crow-ed us. It's what gave us anti-miscegenation laws. Those were laws, structures that were in place in this country, and today we have even more of them. They have different names. They're parts of different systems. They're mandatory minimums. They're the school-to-prison pipelines. They're the war on drugs. They're stop-and-frisk procedures. All across the country from Portland, Maine [to] Portland, Oregon, from Miami to San Diego. Those laws that exist today are part of the core of what makes up the system of white supremacy in this country.

And those laws didn't just appear from nowhere. They appeared at the foundational points of this country. Vince was talking about the Constitution and sort of the ways to amend it and change it. The Constitution, and I always point this out, the very easy place to remember when it was first written. It's Article 1, section 2, [clause] 3 explicitly talks--it doesn't use the words “Black people”--but it explicitly talks about Black people, and many of you all know, maybe all of you know what it says right about Black people. Three-fifths of a human being. So it talked about us, at the core, specifically are not human beings. And I would be remiss if I left out our Native brothers and sisters--I'm arrogant myself--if we left our Native brothers and sisters. What does it say about Native brothers and sisters in that same Article 1, section 2, clause 3 . . . of the Constitution? Not even three-fifths. Don't count. Zero.

So our Constitution--or their Constitution, excuse me--talks about people of color. And it says we're maybe three-fifths, a little bit more than half, or zero, and that's the foundational document of this country. And the Declaration of Independence also speaks specifically about Native American people and refers to them as bloodthirsty savages. Right? So that's from whence we come. That's where we come from. We need a wholesale change to the legal system of this country. We need that for ourselves, for Black people, for oppressed people inside the borders of this country, and we need it for the rest of the world.

And more than that, we need to change the culture around it. I was at an activist gathering, and someone came up to me and said, “Couldn't we make it against the law so when a policemen kills somebody, that that should be murder? It should be illegal.” And I said, “So what you're saying is when someone takes a gun and shoots a person, there should be a law that says that that's something and we could call that murder?” He said, “Yeah, we should have a law that says that.” I said “There's probably, I don't [know], maybe fifteen [laws] in this state, and there's federal ones. We have those laws, but it isn't that law. It's the culture that surrounds it. It's the district attorneys. It's federal prosecutors. It's defense attorneys sometimes.

And it's the judges, and it's the grand juries, and it's the juries that look and say, “Doesn't look like that to me.” It's that system, and it's that culture that we need to get to the root at, rip out and change.

We all know what Audre Lorde said: “The master's tools will never [dismantle] the master's house.” With some apologies to the sister, I'm going to change it a little bit and say the master's laws will never destroy the master's system: white supremacy.

We can use those laws to bail ourselves out when we're on that journey, right? To get some people out of jail, to maybe have some less harsh conditions when people are behind enemy lines when people are in prison. We can use it to bail people out. Sometimes we can use our bar card to assist that process, but that is not going to destroy this system of white supremacy that is crushing human beings in this country.

So, where does that leave us? Right? Because that's the depressing part. Someone asked me, and I'm sure everyone in this audience has been asked, “Well, what does this Black Lives Matter movement want?” And I hate that question. But I thought about it, and I said, “We need to answer [to] these white supremacist people who keep saying this stuff.” Right? We have to have some response to that. And I'm a trial lawyer at heart, so you'll forgive me for answering that. When I answer that for people, I answer it in a story.

I'm going to start out by asking a question to folks. How many people here have very young Black children? Put your hands up. First of all, everybody should clap for them because they're raising young Black children right?

Now. Wait, wait. Keep your hands up. Keep your hands up. So for all of those folks, what I want to see happen . . . and y'all can tell me if it's what you want to see, too. I want to know the time when this happens, because I know that it will happen. I want that young child, not in the very far future, to grow up and come to their parent, their mother, their father, other folks, and [ask], “Is it true that in this country”--or maybe there won't be countries anymore, because we'll all be free--but, “When you were younger, was it true that Black people weren't free?” And you're going to be absolutely eloquent, absolutely on point, and explain exactly what it was like to live in this country today. And your beautiful Black child is going to look at you and go, “I don't understand. I don't understand what you mean. That doesn't make any sense. How could people live like that? How could people let other people-- for our allies and accomplices in the room--let other people, let us, let you, mom, dad, other folks live like that?” And then you're going to try to explain again and they're just going to [say], “I don't understand that. It doesn't make any sense to me.” That's the day we win.

That day is coming. The only question is, how far that day is off? How far is it away? And that brings us to who we are and why we're here. So the only thing that all of this, the gathering in Cleveland, the movement for Black lives that happened, and everything that's happening around this country, everything that's happening around the world, for Black liberation, for racial justice, and for the liberation of people. The only thing that we are all doing is making that day come a little bit sooner. Right? So all we're doing is there's an X on the calendar, and we're just saying, “Let's move the date up a little bit, just a little bit closer to today,” right? Let's have it so that child is a little bit more confused at this situation that was in this country today a little bit sooner. We want to invoke that. We want to speed up that confusion. And I think one of the things on a very core emotional level that we need to do to bring that day sooner, and one of the things that we can do right now in this room, is to believe.

[Imagine] if all of us were to get together, and we were a society of civil engineers, and we said, “We're going to go out and build a skyscraper.” But a lot of us said, “Well, I don't believe that that's possible really. It's a nice dream, and we like to talk about it, and we write poems about it, and we sing about it, and we chant about it, and we have workshops about it, but I don't really actually believe it's a possibility. It's an impossible thing to happen.”

How many of you have sometimes doubted that we actually can be free? Fully free? I'm going to put my hand up, because I believe sometimes I doubt it. We have to one hundred percent commit ourselves to the belief that human beings want to be free, that we yearn to be free, and that we can make and believe in our own power in making ourselves free. Because like the engineers who don't believe in the skyscraper, it ain't never gonna get built. If we start to believe right now, right here--we may be wrong in the end--we one hundred percent have to believe that it is possible.

And in that, I want you all to put your hand against your heart and feel a little bit of your life inside. And I don't need you to chant it, because I don't want you to say it out loud so everybody outside can hear. I want you to say it inside, but with your voice. Say it. Say the words. Say, “I believe. I believe. I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.”

[Audience chants, “I believe that we will win.” ]

I got a little bit more for you. I'm not done. Just one last piece. Put your fist in the air. And now say, “I fuckin' know that we will.”

Don't laugh. Say it. I'm going to [say] that again. “I fuckin' know that we will.”