Op-Ed: Jacob Blake, Another Casualty of Deja Vu by Design

Despite the movement in the streets, the uprisings at city halls, the chants of Black Lives Matter reverberating through our neighborhoods, after all the upheaval, we’re still here. 

The deeply rooted, well oiled, centuries old constructs of mass incarceration and the police state woven into the fabric of our flag and country still maintain.

The system—rooted in slavery, lynching, white supremacy, the suppression and dehumanization of Black people—still holds.

Call it deja vu by design.

We have programmed the machine to produce these outcomes: Rodney King, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Stephon Clark, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Jacob Blake.

Nothing has truly or fundamentally changed. Because we stubbornly deny the blood on our hands, because we’re still unwilling to defund the police state. Because we choose not to divest from the criminal punishment system. Because we’re satisfied with superficial, surface level “change.” Because we collectively refuse to reimagine, to be radical.

We are still doing the same thing everyday everywhere across this country.

We send the same police into our communities armed with guns, in the same name of public safety, to ultimately terrorize, shackle, arrest, maim, shoot and kill Black and brown people, sending those that survive into the same jails and same prisons.

The state-sponsored trauma inflicted on Jacob Blake, his children, family and community, after all that we’ve been fighting, battling and scraping for in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, reminds us of the reality of all that we’re up against.

We’re up against a mammoth machine of oppression and our collective conditioning to protect the police. We’re up against own apathy and our comfort with the status quo.

We’re up against our callousness to the plight of Black and brown people, our continued rejection of the humanity of Black men and women, especially those ensnared in the criminal legal system, our fear of fundamental change.

All these forces built, fortified and fed over hundreds of years. Such conditions take more than a few months to dismantle. These are systemic flaws that require reconstruction to overcome. This is tyranny that demands a revolution to undo.

Sajid A. Khan is a deputy public defender in Santa Clara County and one half of the Aider and Abettor podcast. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].


  1. > The system—rooted in slavery, lynching, white supremacy, the suppression and dehumanization of Black people—still holds.

    “The system” is rooted in Constitutional rule of law, which “public defender” Sajid A. Khan is presumable pledged to support and defend.

    If he thinks he’s supporting a system “rooted in slavery, lynching, white supremacy, the suppression and dehumanization of Black people”, what the hell is he doing in Gavin Newsom and Nancy Pelosi’s California? He’s part of the problem.

    Or, is neo-Marxism emerging from the bottom up as the new ethos of the the Public Defender’s Office?

  2. If this kind of opinion exemplifies what passes for intelligent and critical analysis out of the Public Defenders’ Office, I suspect those who are defended by said office may, by default have grounds for retrial on the basis of incompetent defense. Moreover, the caliber of people leftist activists and race-baiters are willing to hold up as martyrs never fails to floor me.

    Jacob Blake wasn’t a good person or good citizen. He was a convicted criminal with a violent past who had outstanding warrants for sexual assault of a child, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. His prior criminal history included felony resisting arrest, possession of illegal weapons including a gun, among other charges.

    The facts as reported are as follows:
    1. Blake’s (presumably) ex-girlfriend called police because he was at her home but not supposed to be. Because he was known to the reporting party, it is logical to conclude that the police dispatcher had run his criminal history and informed responding officers of his violent past as well as his outstanding warrants.
    2. Blake almost certainly knew he had outstanding warrants
    3. Blake was in a violent fight, resisting arrest
    4. Responding officers tried to use a tazer to subdue Blake. The Tazer was not effective
    5. Blake reportedly had informed the responding officers that he had a knife in his car
    6. After escaping the officers against whom he was violently resisting arrest, he walked directly to his vehicle ignoring commands from officers whose weapons were drawn and, ONLY AFTER HE LEANED INTO HIS VEHICLE, he was shot by one of the officers, apparently the only one who had an absolutely clear line of fire, bearing in mind the presence of children in the vehicle.

    Please, Mr. Khan, in exactly what way does this incident exemplify racism of any kind? In what way is this incident an example of an unlawful use of force by officers? More importantly, Mr. Khan, can you, as an attorney, explain in what ways the use of deadly force in this incident violate the standard for lawful use of deadly force set forth by Tennessee vs. Garner?

    No, what is clear from watching *BOTH* videos of the incident currently available is this: had Mr. Blake simply complied with officers at the time of their contact with him, he would be in jail on his warrants, but otherwise uninjured.

    And, note to all you activists out there: when you’re hunting desperately for the next martyr to fit the narrative, try to find one who doesn’t have a track record for being a violent abusive criminal.

  3. Mr. Khan,
    Another powerful piece! Only wish we could have been in the public defenders’ office at the same time. Keep writing, keep trying those cases.

  4. Personally I don’t think it’s fair to hold this defiant young men accountable for the consequences of his resistance to arrest. After all, he’s been conditioned to be unaccountable. From his days in school, when his failure and misconduct were the fault of the system and its teachers; to his first lessons about political power, when Obama said Cambridge cops acted stupidly and Trayvon looked like the son he never had; to his first interactions with the criminal justice system when his lawbreaking was attributed to socioeconomic adversity; to his first brush with parenthood, when state programs and misguided tolerance freed him of contributing to his child’s welfare; to his first major felony, when the hardships of a fatherless, welfare-supported upbringing were offered up as the real cause of his savagery; to his first stint in state prison where, instead of a convicted criminal, he was described as just another victim of a racist criminal justice system.

    No, I don’t consider it fair to hold him accountable, but just hold him far away from civilized human beings and if accountability is really required, lay the blame on progressives.

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