Author Archives: Miquell Shaw

The Problem Of “Dirty Hands”

The role of police officers is to prioritize, above all else, the public safety of the community in which they serve. However, at this point, it isn’t surprising that the law enforcement in The Wire is willing to turn the other cheek on a situation spiraling out of control for the sake of their image. Most of the time it’s all about the politics, and in this week’s episodes, we really have the chance to see police department corruption at work. Freamon discovers that Marlo is able to control the streets without producing bodies because he disposes of them in the abandoned homes. When Freamon informs Landsman on this phenomenon, he is quickly turned away because the department has already reached their murder threshold for the year. According to Colin Wood in Finding the Motivation to Mobilize “self-interested people would  pass on such a proposition [to fight against corruption] unless pushed to extreme bounds of indignity or suffering.”  If they were to surpass the limit, Jay’s job would be on the line and that is something that he is not willing to risk- not even for the citizens of Baltimore. In this regard, Jay has no code; he will not waver in his stance and it would take someone who outranks him to change his mind. This is exactly what happens, Freamon continues to move higher up until it reaches Mayor Carcetti, who orders for the department to begin looking for the bodies. In Freamon’s case though, he fights against the corruption of the police department simply because he is a good cop, he has a code. It is the constant power struggle between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” that makes The Wire so interesting.

In Laurie Calhoun’s The Problem of “Dirty Hands” and Leadership, she argues that “The problem of dirty hands refers to the alleged necessity of compromising or abandoning moral principle in order to play the role of government effectively.” Here she is saying that when one is in a position of power, they will inevitably come to the point where morality is abandoned for effective governing. We can even push this argument further and say that effective governing or leadership is only achieved if one were to abandon morality.

In this week’s episode, we see that there is a clear dichotomy between staying true to your morals or abandoning them in the name of power security. In episode 12 when Bodie is talking to McNulty he states, “This game is rigged man, we’re like some little bitches on a chess board… pawns.” Bodie is arguing that the Stanfield organization is breaking the rules of the game because they kill whoever they want JUST because they can. David Simon’s choice to let Bodie of all people say this is extremely significant. Throughout the entirety of the series, Bodie was seen as the cold-hearted character whose compatibility with the streets seems to be unrivaled. This becomes fact to viewers after his part he played in killing Wallace, who was symbolized as the remaining piece of the humanity of those around him. Bodie is angry at the fact that Marlo and his gang have no morals. The Barksdale Organization, Omar, and the entire co-op of drug organizations alike each have their code. For example, Omar doesn’t kill any innocents or kids, and everyone involved in “The Game” doesn’t shoot on Sundays. Marlo, however, is the show’s only outlier. He has no code to go by, which makes his organization so infamous and tainted that it makes a character like Bodie, who served as the epitome of the soldier, tremble and take lengths as far as snitching to bring the organization down. Not only this, but the fact that Bodie is checkmated by the Marlow organization only further proves the point that Marlow monopolizes the idea of what it’s like to have a heart with no remorse.

“Just Let That Shit Go”: PTSD Within Communities of Color

Episode 6 begins with the impacts of of Wallace’s report to Stringer Bell on the whereabouts of Omar’s Boyfriend, Brandon Wright. As Wallace is getting his family of orphaned kids ready for school in an abandoned house they live in, he sees the results of his report just outside of his window. Brandon Wright was not only slowly tortured and murdered by the Barksdale organization, he was put on display in the ghetto to serve as a message to anyone who plots against the family. From here on out, viewers begin to have a front row seat to the beginning of the end of Wallaces loss of innocence.

Later in this same episode, Wallace is expressing his grief over his involvement in Brandons murder. He explains to Dee how Brandon was all “cut up with his insides hanging out” and how it “fucks me up.” And Dee’s response is to just “let that shit go.”

Unfortunately for us people of color, “just let that shit go” is the cliche response to stress in urban communities, and this reoccurring message leads to years and years of backed up trauma that goes unattended for. Sooner of later, the victim of PTSD will either submerge themselves with drug use, or engage in actions that increase the likelihood of themselves becoming perpetuators of crime.

This act of minorities not receiving mental aid in direct response to trauma is not a phenomenon in society just waiting for the explanation to be defined, but a systematic strategy created by White America to keep people of color in a submissive state. During the reconstruction era after the “abolition of slavery”, despite 300 years of unconsented servitude, there were zero agencies created to help African Americans become mentally prepared to navigate their lives of freedom. Newly freed slaves had experienced the blunt force of slavery first hand, including lashing, branding, and lynching. And once they were free, they were immediately expected to do the same thing that Dee expected Wallace to do, “Just let that shit go.”

Viewers got to see just how detrimental to the mind, body, and soul that term can be by following the decline of Wallace’s psyche.

After his conversation with Dee, Wallace goes M.I.A from the low rises. His absence within itself is extremely noteworthy, because he was just recently promoted to stash. This is significant because we can recall to episode 3, “The Buys”, where Wallace and J.D are playing chess, the concept of social mobi