I Paused To Watch Terence Crutcher Die

I was going to do work when I got home tonight. I was going to eat dinner and do some work. I was going to reduce my stress by dealing with my neglected to-do list and tidy up my bedroom. After salmon and salad greens and maybe some quinoa. But, I paused to watch Terence Crutcher die.

I paused to watch him walking with his hands up in the air. I paused to watch him be tazered and fall to the ground. I paused to witness him be shot on the ground, after being tazered, after having his hands up, after being no threat to anyone at all, after his vehicle stalled in the road.

After he needed help because his vehicle had stalled in the road.

A crowd of cops standing around with their guns out like their pants down. A crowd of cops, guns drawn, backing away from what they did. Their murderous fear.

The dash-cam video. Then the helicopter view.

The amused commentary of the helicopter pilots. The grave commentary of the lawyers representing the family. The measured commentary of the family, mastering their grief to call for peace.

I have no commentary. I have not had dinner. I have not done work. I have stalled on the road.

My eyes are fixed. My heart rate is high. My breathing is shallow. My belly is tight. I have been stuck to my seat. I have been arrested in my movement.

Another snuff film, courtesy of the Tulsa Police Department.

This is what lynching looks like in 2016.

This is the sort of thing that gives me pause.

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The Necessity of Rest and the Discipline of Hope in the Social Justice Movement

 

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence.
It is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

–Audre Lorde, from A Burst of Light, Essays.

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I am back from Oahu. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend the time in close companionship with my love Joy. We talked and laughed and processed and cried and swam and hiked and snorkeled and bodyboarded and cuddled and cooked and ate and sang and celebrated and meditated and took pictures and read my journal from the POC meditation retreat and read aloud to each other from Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements.

We felt big feelings. We held onto each other while feelings were felt. We fed our souls on the ocean and the sky and the wind and the rock and the sand. We fed our souls on visionary Afro-futurist fiction. We fed our souls on each other.

Inspired by a story in Octavia’s Brood, we considered writing letters from Joy and me post-capitalism to Joy and me during capitalism, the two of us here in the present day who could use some hope that a better future is possible.

We considered the deaths of John Crawford and Michael Brown. We considered the history of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Joy dissertated. I applied to the Practice in Transformative Action Program at the East Bay Meditation Center, trying to put words to my beliefs about social justice, about how change takes place, about my vision for a just and peaceful future. Joy read Twitter newsfeeds, taking in what was happening in Ferguson and telling me about the protests, about the gunshots, about the arrests. We alternated using our hands and our thumbs and our smartphones and our hearts and our guts to write posts about race on Facebook, to dialogue and discourse, to do the work of learning, of educating, of honesty. We tried to understand the role of rest in social justice work, the necessity of replenishment, the investment in self-care that makes the lifelong work sustainable.

We rested. We replenished. We invested in self-care.

We sang on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. We sang “Ella’s Song,” the Sweet Honey in the Rock Song that goes: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. Until the killing of black men, black mother’s sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mother’s sons, We who believe in freedom cannot rest….” The whole song is a manual for revolution. We redefined “cannot rest,” as cannot quit, because rest, regeneration, and replenishment must be part of our revolution, because we must find a way to sustain ourselves through action that will require generations of collective and committed effort. We expressed our continued intention to dedicate our time, energy, effort, action, and heart to vital and necessary work towards social justice and equity. We took a moment of silence. We sang, “I can hear my brother saying ‘I can’t breathe. Now, I’m in the struggle saying ‘I can’t leave. Calling out the violence of these racist police. We ain’t gonna stop ’til our people are free. We ain’t gonna stop ’til our people are free,” dropping flowers into the river and sand, a commitment ceremony. We recommitted ourselves to the movement.

Today, we talked about hopelessness. The truth is that I do not have faith that change is possible. When I look at the civil rights movements of the 1960s and consider that the words that James Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time could have been written today, rather than in the 1960s, I have little faith that we are moving in a positive direction. Yet, I must continue to hold onto hope, beyond all reason, beyond all evidence that there is any cause for hope. Not because I have faith that change will come but because if we give in to hopelessness, we will cease to work towards change and then, for sure, change will never come. If we lose hope, we will not resist, because we will not believe that there is any point to resistance. We will give in. If we give in, racism wins.

Hopelessness is not an option. Resistance is mandatory.

People are dying in the streets, in their homes, in their playgrounds, in their stores, in their places of worship, because of racism. We must continue to protest, to find the ways in our lives that we can work towards changing this reality, to care for the people who are suffering the most oppression, to educate those we love and those we don’t love, to create visions of the world we want to live in and take real and practical actions, however large or small, towards building that world right here in our own communities. We must care for ourselves and for those who are different from ourselves as if they were our own kin.

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

— Assata Shakur, from Assata: An Autobiography

 

This is a Snuff Film, Courtesy of Your Local Police Department

I just watched the police body cam video of the shooting of Sam DuBose. I am not posting it here. You can google it.

Do as you will, but my recommendation is: If you’re black or brown and you already know in your bones that this is what life in our country is like, you might want to sit this one out. Not because it is extra graphic, but because watching our people be killed violently in real life every day can provoke feelings of fear, anxiety, and agitation that make it hard to go about the business of living. Obviously, I watched it. Maybe we all need to. I don’t know. But take care with your hearts, my people.

Do as you will but my recommendation is: If you’re white, I encourage you to google it. I need you to understand that this is happening. It is too easy for white people to look away or disbelieve the daily realities of racism as they are played out on the bodies of black and brown people. Because it is not happening to them and because it is often happening out of their sight, it is hard to really believe in it.

We must confront this reality and if we are horrified, we must not seek for excuses, but instead seek for justice, seek for the cessation of state sponsored violence against people of color, seek for the end of white supremacy.

As for me…

It is disturbing for me to watch black people (myself, a black person) be killed over and over again. It is horrifying and it is frightening.

Watching the murder of this man, my heart pounds and my breathing gets quicker. My body turns on its fight flight reaction, as if it is me who is in danger.

I am in danger and every part of me knows it.

Who hasn’t left the house without their drivers’ license? Who hasn’t done something the police might pull you over for? Who hasn’t done something you’d rather not have the police know about?

I watch this video and am aware that so many of us have watched thousands of people die violent deaths. We have watched in graphic detail as the hero apprehended the bad guy, as our favorite 007 character does whatever it takes to get out of a jam, as Quentin Tarantino conducts the bloody killing of whole movies full of people. I believe that we are becoming inured to the reality of violence.

It is easy to dissociate from violence we witness on a video screen – or to identify with the one doing the killing. There’s a way that we have been trained to believe it isn’t real. Because so much of what we see isn’t. There’s a way we’ve been trained to identify with the one holding the gun, because that must be the good guy, the hero in the story.

This isn’t television. It isn’t the movies. This is a snuff film, courtesy of your local police department. This is people like me being gunned down in the street in real life. In real death. This isn’t good cop versus evil criminal. This is racism and white supremacy acting on the bodies of the murderer and the victim. They act in different ways, because one of those bodies is white and one of those bodies is black. One of them is alive and one of them is dead.

I know that tomorrow, it could be me.

#tomorrowitcouldbeme

 

Please Look For The Blindfold Covering Your Eyes. Then Remove It.

Please look for the blindfold covering your eyes. Then remove it. Underneath that blindfold, there will be another. Remove that blindfold. Underneath that blindfold, there will be yet another. Keep removing blindfolds until your eyes are uncovered. Allow the eyes to adjust. Bring them into focus. See. Don’t just stop at just “seeing.” Look around at the injustice, the inequities, and the lies. Integrate this information into your understandings of the world. Help your friends, family, neighbors, police forces, and lawmakers remove their blindfolds. Help them see. Help them look. Help them understand. Put your understandings together with the understandings of others. Make change. Make a difference. Make it better.
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Cartoon by Ann Telnaes: