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Protecting Betsy DeVos: On the Nature and Function of Power

February 20, 2017

It has been reported in many news sources that the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, now is receiving protection from the US Marshal Service. 

This news comes just days after Betsy DeVos was confronted by protestors who preventer her from entering a public school in Washington, DC, as can be seen in this video. 

The decision to provide US Marshals to accompany Betsy DeVos, should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the nature and function of power in US politics.

Those who have power over others, those with political and economic power, will always be the beneficiaries of protection from state agents, like the US Marshal Service.  The nature and function of power in the US is such that those who have power will be protected at all costs and anyone who threatens that power will suffer the consequences.

Whether you are protestors trying to non-violently prevent a government official from entering a public school, water protectors trying to stop an oil pipeline from entering the land you care for or fast food workers fighting for a living wage, you are threatening power. When power is threatened, it will engage in various forms of repression to suppress those engaged in whatever form of resistance they chose to employ.

  • When was the last time you saw cops defend people from corporate greed?
  • When was the last time you saw ICE officials defend immigrants who are fleeing political or economic repression?
  • When was the last time you saw an FBI agent defend those fighting against Islamophobia and hate crimes?
  • When was the last time you saw a member of the Grand Rapids Police Department defend a black person from other law enforcement agents who wanted to do them harm?screen-shot-2017-02-20-at-2-50-09-am

The fact that Betsy DeVos is now receiving protection from federal law enforcement agents, is based upon how power functions in this society. She represents power and any threat to that power will not be tolerated.

Here we can turn to the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who has some very astute things to say about power, from an 1857 speech

“This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.”

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