When You Can’t Call The Police Because They Might Kill Somebody

Here is a link to a resource for: What to Do Instead of Calling The Police, compiled by Aaron Jones

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The police exist to protect white people and respond to white fear. That is their core function. That is what white supremacy means in practical terms. So until white people say “We don’t need you, we don’t want you killing for us anymore, we are going to stop paying you to kill for us, you’re fired.” Then the killing will likely continue and escalate.

–Taj James

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I sat by my window and I watched. Across the street, a party had turned ugly. The windows had no blinds. It was nighttime and all of the lights were on. I could see into the kitchen. There were too many people in that too small space and each one seemed belligerent and trying to hurt somebody or trying to keep somebody belligerent from hurting somebody. Everyone was shouting. Loud enough to raise the dead.

Their kids had been playing in the street. Before the shouting started. Little black kids running around, racing on their scooters like I used to be.

The fighting was getting intensely physical. People were clearly real, real intoxicated. They knocked the refrigerator down and kept on going.

My heart raced. What should I do?

I knew I wasn’t going to call the police; that’s for damn sure. I knew that these people had a better chance of surviving their own drunk or drugged violent impulses than they did of surviving the police’s sober violent impulses.

I didn’t notice any kids in the rooms with the violent adults. Some were crying outside. Some were in cars waiting for their parents to take them home.

Everyone in the block could hear the shouting. The fighting was loud and public and chaotic.

I was so afraid for them. I was mostly afraid that some neighbor would call the cops. It’s the kind of situation that would inspire that kind of response. I wanted to go over there and try to deescalate it, but I didn’t know how and I was afraid. And if all of those people who were already trying to get the fighting parties to calm down weren’t helping at all, what on earth could I do, but add stress to the situation? I could go over there and warn them that someone might call the police on them and that I didn’t want them to be subject to that, because I wanted them to survive this night, but I knew that no one would hear me. No one could hear anybody over there. The cacophony of angry human voices was incredible. It seemed to go on forever.

I thought to myself, I wish I knew who to call. I wish there were someone safe to call. Someone who could help support them in this moment, make sure the kids were okay, help deescalate the situation and make sure nobody got hurt – or, well, more hurt than they already were, treating everyone with respect the whole time. Mobile mediators for angry intoxicated people. I imagine that even now, most people in the United States think of the police that way. Most white people, that is, of a certain class level.

But there have been too many people who were killed by the police for calling for help. Too many people who were victims of crime being killed because the police thought they were suspects of crime. Too many people who called for the police’s help with a mentally ill, disabled, or distressed family member – someone they loved – only to have the police kill them.

That’ll solve the problem, won’t it? When in doubt, just kill the black person.

Too many, too many, too many. Their stories ran in front of my eyes. Their images. Their names.

I seemed to recall that there had been a workshop that went by too fast for me to catch on that very topic: “What to do instead of calling the police.” I wanted that knowledge so badly just then, transfixed as I was by the human drama playing out in the street below my windowpane.

The only thing I knew clearly was that if anybody called the police, everybody would be in more danger. Everybody on the street and spilling out of the house was black. I thought to myself: “Any of them could be killed by the police tonight.”

I do not pray, but I hoped desperately that they would find a way to calm themselves down before someone called the cops.

After a very, very, very long time, they did.

I was proud of my little neighborhood for having enough care for their lives to let them hurt each other rather than calling the police and putting them in greater danger of death.

For the love of black people, please don’t call the police on black people. Please do anything you can to avoid it. The police cannot be trusted to serve or protect us. They put us in greater danger.

If you are white, please help other white people understand this.

This link contains a list of resources regarding how to understand the function of the police and what to do instead of calling the police. It is provisional and incomplete and growing. If you have additional resources, please post them in the comments and send them to Aaron Jones, the curator of this resource, at the address he provides. If there’s a better resource for this, let me know and I will update this post accordingly.

Many thanks.

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#AlfredOlango  #TawonBoyd #Terence Crutcher #Gregory Frazier

 

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I Advocate for Hope, Because Hopelessness Does the Oppressors’ Work For Them

A few days ago, I came back from a meditation retreat for People of Color. Today, with all that has happened, I am feeling so much gratitude for the socially engaged Buddhist community at the East Bay Meditation Center and for my meditation practices and the ways that these practices help deepen some sense of groundedness and some sense of spaciousness where these horrific things can happen and can land in a more balanced place in me, somehow.

Today, I have witnessed horrible things that I cannot now unsee. The killing of Alton Sterling. The aftermath of the killing of Philando Castile. And, while there is more equanimity present for it all to land in, I have also been feeling sorrow, I’ve been feeling grief, and I’ve been feeling the physical impact of what I have been exposed to. I have felt the clamping down of my body, the hollow in my chest, the tightening in my belly, the stiffening of my jaw and the tug in the direction of despair and the tug in the direction of hopelessness.

But, there’s some way that it feels more possible, having spent four days meditating really solidly, to turn my intention towards hope and towards faith and towards optimism in this horrific situation when the circumstances are not inspiring hope or faith or optimism. It feels really important to practice the discipline of hope and to find the ways to cultivate and nurture it, even if that is not what the circumstances are inspiring, because the cost of hopelessness on one’s personal being and on our community and our energy and on our effort and on our dedication to the work of making change is too great.

I believe that hopelessness is internalized oppression. It does the oppressors’ work for them. It exhausts, it demoralizes, it overwhelms, it paralyzes. It dissipates energy. It leads to despair. It also leads to depression, to stress-related illnesses, to addictive behaviors, and to suicidal ideation. Hopelessness is one of the precursors to suicide. Not everyone who feels hopeless will commit suicide; but everyone who commits suicide has lost hope. And if I know anything for sure, I know that if White Supremacy or Homophobia or Misogyny wants me dead, somebody’s going to have to do the work of killing me themselves. I am not going to do the oppressors’ work for them.

I will not shoot myself
In the head, and I will not shoot myself
In the back, and I will not hang myself
With a trashbag, and if I do,
I promise you, I will not do it
In a police car while handcuffed
Or in the jail cell of a town
I only know the name of
Because I have to drive through it
To get home.

–Jericho Brown, from “Bullet Points

Hopelessness also halts resistance. The powers that be would like for us to believe that there is no hope. That our actions do not matter. That change is impossible. When we believe that change is impossible, it is hard to throw our energy into the monumental work required to change systems of oppression, to educate, to donate, to demonstrate, to activate, to organize, to agitate, to protest, to heal, to inspire, to vision, to nourish, to care, to create, to shape sustainable systems, to change hearts and minds and laws and culture and values. When we are hopeless, it is hard to put one foot in front of another, let alone to launch a revolution.

I do not advocate for hope because I believe that our current situations inspire hope. I advocate for hope because our current situations require hope.

If we give in to hopelessness, we stop fighting and we damage ourselves, instead, and everyone with a secret wish for our annihilation gets their way.

If we give in to hopelessness, we will not do what hope would do to transform the world we live in.

Even if it will take hundreds or thousands of years, Hope says, “Keep going. Don’t stop. We’ll get there, in the end. No matter what it looks like right now, we’ll get there. Keep going. Don’t stop. What you’re doing to help is useful and important. Your small part in this colossal movement matters. Keep going. Don’t stop. Connect with some other people, because change requires us to work together. Keep going. Don’t stop. Do a little more, if you healthily can. Take care of yourself, take care of the world, take care of yourself, take care of the world, take care of yourself, take care of the world. Don’t stop. Keep going. You’re doing great. Thank you. I love you. Keep going.”

Thank you. I love you. Keep going.

2016-06-02 Oakland-2

Recite it the Way Black People Can Recite White People’s Stories Like The Back of Our Hands

Please read: Why I’m Absolutely an Angry Black Woman, by Dominique Matti

I am sharing this powerful article by Dominique Matti with you, because I could have written it myself. Because I share so many of these experiences. Because instead of the parts about having a child, I could tell you similar stories about not having a child. Because I feel grateful that I don’t have to figure out how to raise a beautiful black child within conditions of white supremacy. Because I feel grateful that I don’t have to worry every day that my beautiful black child might be killed or abused by the police or have freedom taken away or suffer the same daily indignities and invisibilities we black people do. Because this is my story and our story and because it needs to be told over and over and over and over again until people who never lived it can recite it the way black people can recite white people’s stories like the back of our hands, stories about freedom, about democracy, about opportunity, about liberty, about justice, about happily-ever-after, stories that were never, ever for us.

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

 

Dear White People . . . Stop Killing Black People.

Dear White People,

Stop killing Black People.

If you aren’t, personally, killing Black People, stop your friends, relatives, and colleagues (ahem, police officers) from killing Black People.

If your friends, relatives, and colleagues aren’t killing Black People, stop your elected leaders from looking away while their constituents are killing Black people.

Stop police chiefs from looking away while their officers are killing Black people.

Stop your friends, relatives, and colleagues (especially the ones you don’t talk to, because you don’t agree with their politics and their views on things) from looking away while White people are killing Black people in the streets, in their homes, in their vehicles, in their stores, in their playgrounds, in their schools, in their places of work, in their cribs, in their sleep, and in their places of worship.

Stop looking away.

Stop making excuses.

Stop blaming victims.

Stop finding reasons why any of them deserved it.

Stop finding reasons why the killer did it (overwork, mental health issues, stress, etc.)

Stop failing to hold each killer accountable.

Stop keeping silent.

Stop allowing fear about doing or saying the wrong thing stop you from doing or saying anything.

Stop allowing shame and guilt and fear to silence you.

Stop telling Black people how you’re not racist.

Stop allowing this to be someone else’s problem.

There is a racism problem in the White community. Y’all need to work on that. Especially those of you who believe you’re not racist. Get your people in order.

Now, please.

Rogue Negro

P.S. The above also applies to Brown people, Muslims, and Trans people (with appropriate adjustments for xenophobia, Islamophobia, and transphobia in place of and/or in addition to racism).

‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ ‪#‎BlackSpring‬ ‪#‎CharlestonShooting‬‪#‎TomorrowItCouldBeMe‬

All Power to All the People

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Bobby Seale (seated), along with a collection of historical posters and books.

I had the great honor to see Bobby Seale, civil rights leader and co-founder (with Huey P. Newton) of the Black Panther Party speak live in Berkeley tonight. Bobby Seale was a phenomenal activist and organizer who started a movement which had a nation-wide impact.

He spoke about the history of the Black Panther Party, the context into which they came into being, what they accomplished, the means by which they accomplished it, the powerful forces against them, the violence and injustice they endured, and the legacy they left. He answered questions about his thoughts on events of the present day (the Ferguson protests, president Barack Obama, the political process) and what he is working on currently (a film to depict with great accuracy the history of the Black Panther party & continuing to work to free the Black Panther Party members who remain imprisoned).

He is 78 years old and still fighting for All Power to All the People. It was a joy and an honor and a wonder to be able to witness this man who paved the way for me to be more comfortable and safe as a black person in Oakland, California today than I would have been without his considerable efforts and hardships.

Nevertheless, it was profoundly poignant how so many of the parts of the Black Panther’s 10 Point Program are still desperate needs today. I was struck, as I often am, at how little progress has, in fact, been made over the last several decades. When I encounter the work of social justice leaders and historians, most often, the needs of 20, 30, 40, and 50 years ago are much the same as the needs of the present day. The same kinds of racist and unjust leadership, policing, and policies are still taking place, although now we have the myth of colorblindness lying like a fog all over everything, preventing people from seeing and naming the horrors of racism.

They don’t call us niggers anymore. They call us criminals or thugs. They don’t call it slavery, anymore. They call it prison. They don’t call them lynchings, anymore. But everyone still watches while black men are killed and left to die in the middle of the road.

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The Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program:

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.

2. We want full employment for our people.

3. We want an end to the robbery by the white men of our Black Community.

4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.

5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.

6. We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.

7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.

8. We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.

9. We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.

10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

What We Believe:

1. We believe that Black People will not be free until we are able to determine our own destiny.

2. We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the White American business men will not give full employment, the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.

3. We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as redistribution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities: the Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered 6,000,000 Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over 50,000,000 Black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.

4. We believe that if the White landlords will not give decent housing to our Black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make a decent housing for its people.

5. We believe in an educational system that will give our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

6. We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like Black people, are being victimized by the White racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.

7. We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States gives us the right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all Black people should arm themselves for self-defense.

8. We believe that all Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.

9. We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peers. A peer is a persons from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical, and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all White juries that have no understanding of “the average reasoning man” of the Black community.

10. When in the course of human events, it become necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, and that all men are created equal that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in a such a form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accused. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, and their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards of their future security.