I will never forget the day I was introduced to Marilyn Mosby or the day I stopped believing her.
Last year, I was sitting in a cold, blue airport seat watching the row of television screens intently. I was chomping on a Starbuck’s croissant and getting crumbs all over myself in the process. But, none of that mattered to me because I wanted to see this powerful woman named Marilyn Mosby.
She was the new young Baltimore State’s Attorney everyone was talking about. They said she was the “take no prisoners type.” They whispered about how she was about to regulate on those six officers who used a police vehicle and the hand of systemic racism to murder Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr. on April 12, 2015. She was the Black girl whose magic we had been waiting for to see manifest and dismantle the wrongs of police brutality in the United States.
Gray’s death had just been deemed a homicide by the Baltimore medical examiner. When Mosby announced that, the crowd could be heard cheering in celebration. We were convinced by her moving speech following the gruesome murder of Freddie Gray that she was the right person to get justice for his death.
She gave Freddie Gray’s family assurance. She commended us for standing up for justice. She brought charges of second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter by means of gross negligence, assault in the second degree, and a host of other charges that made us all hope for a sea change in the juridical processes that have far too often punished Black and Brown folx simply for existing while “other.”
I remember sitting in that airport seat and feeling incredibly Black. It was like when Zora Neale Hurston explained that she felt most colored with thrust upon a “sharp white background.”
I made eye contact with two other Black gentlemen as the broadcast played on. We smirked like we were winning for once. But, I think we knew better deep down.
This week, I watched Marilyn Mosby again. I watched her try and muster the same fervor and heft in her voice that invigorated us over a year ago. I watched her attempt to explain how her losses in every single case against every single police officer responsible for the Freddie Gray’s death were still wins because body cams and police van cams and policies and protocols and procedures and mechanisms and all the policey things a police reformer could ever dream of ever.
I watched her try and convince us all that yet another disappointment after a senseless taking of life from the Black community of Baltimore was going to somehow be salvaged or remediated with more and more and more Band-aids.
She raised her eyebrow. She pointed her well-manicured finger. She pursed her nude glossed lips. She told us “never again.” And, she bullshitted her entire way through a victory speech about her massive loss.
It was painful to watch. But I’m glad I did.
Watching Marilyn Mosby concede defeat while simultaneously not made me realize that believing she could somehow single-handedly sit at the helm of a neo-capitalist, White supremacist, policing institution and veer it off its course for the eradication of Black life was not only unfair; it was naive.
Marilyn Mosby was never the solution to our problems. Even her victory would not have ended the struggle for liberation. The fact is: there is no reforming, wrist-slapping, short-game politics playing method to ensuring that what happened to Freddie Gray will never happen again. Short of dismantling the carceral state (or the prison nation), there are no solutions.
I can’t be sure that Mosby was given a fair shot to win the cases before her. I can’t even be sure that they were ever winnable (or that “winning” in this case would actually mean us getting ahead). But, what I can be sure of is that the system will continue to protect itself. And, no matter how much Black Girl Magic we throw at the problem, this isn’t going to be solved with fairy dust, hope, or the tagging in of Black women into a racist institution that runs on autopilot.