Filtering by Tag: Ferguson

Dear #Ferguson, #EricGarner Protesters: Don't Lose Focus

The movement against police brutality in this country is at a critical moment. The moment when it will prove out to either be an outpouring of grief and rage, or the spark that set of real change in America. Real change from the bottom up, as opposed to change that was negotiated in a boardroom on K Street.

This week, not next or the one after, but right now is critical.

You've probably already seen the professional activists amongst you begin recruiting for other causes. That's fine. That's what they do, but you're also probably seeing some of them try to make the protest about their core issues. Almost all of them are noble causes, but this is how populist uprisings on the Left die in America: they fucking lose their focus because the world is a horrible place and there are so many wrongs to right.

Don't fucking fall for this. It's a trap. A well-intentioned self-inflicted mortal wound.

I remember the capstone moments of the 2003 Anti-War protests. Tens of thousands of us in the streets, marching in San Francisco. We made it all the way to City Hall to the rally: where the organizers promptly talked about Palestine for an hour. We were there to keep us from going into Iraq and the folks at A.S.W.E.R. thought that would be a good time to recruit us into their cause. They saw an audience and tried to seize the mic.

Yes, these events are connected. Yes, Justice is a universal concern. But you don't teach the network--that almost invisible field that ties us all together--by hijacking a conversation. That's the same sin as "mansplaining"(see note below) or butting in with #AllLivesMatter. Hearts may be in more or less the right place but folks who do that should think about investing in a glass bellybutton because their heads aren't.

So I implore the organizers who are using the Garner protests as a chance to sell Occupy ethos: don't make that the center ring. It confuses the hell out of folks who came for one cause only to find out the rally is really for another. Those folks don't come back, and don't think you can create change without them. It's more than fine to have some sideshow action, to build up the coalition, but right now you're there to serve this cause. To hopefully win a victory against the forces of institutionalized racism and the militarization of our police forces.

A victory, just one victory, can change the tide of the overall struggle for Justice. Don't miss the mark by trying to take on the whole System at once: we've seen how that story ends over and over again.

(Note: I really, really hate the term "mansplaining." I think it does way less good than it does harm, because it's designed to shut down dialogue and The Network requires dialogue, but that's for another day.)

There's So Much To Unpack

What freaks me out the most is the possibility that Darren Wilson really believes that's what he saw that day. That Mike Brown was some kind of bulletproof mutant who was charging straight at him.

Even more terrifying is that there seem to be a hell of a lot of people out there who not only are willing to accept that version of reality but they don't even blink at it.

Not for a second.

What are we going to have to do to get us all on the same planet, let alone the same page?

Processing Parallels

Like any decent human being of the American persusasion I remained obsessed with the news out of Ferguson all weekend. If anything the events that unfolded since the arrival of Cap. Ron Johnson on the scene have only been more of a shock than what happened before. For a minute there, it really looked like the world wasn't going to come apart at the seams.

Life, however, has other plans for me than just staying glued to Twitter--the only reliable news source left to us all, even if you have to bring some serious critical faculties to bear to use it--and that meant that I spent the weekend living in two very different worlds. In meat space I was helping a friend move-in to a new apartment, trying out virtual reality experiences, and cooking people brunch. Always a flick of the wrist away was the roller coaster horror show of militarized police, beleagued protestors, and angry young men itching for a fight with the cops.

It says something about the state of the world that I don't expct this week to be any different. Which means finally developing the capacity to emotionally multitask. Sure, I could turn away from Ferguson. That would be easy, all I'd have to do is switch on Facebook and it would be as if it wasn't happening.

Yet if all I can do is stand as witness, even from afar, that's what I'm going to do.

America's Autoimmune Disorder

What happened last night in Ferguson, Missouri was a disgrace for us all. It was also what happens when you let a kettle of unresolved racial issues boil over after years of neglect.

I’m not talking about the “rioting and looting”—that happened on all of one night and any sane response from police and elected officials could have kept it from happening again. (Anil Dash had a good series of tweets about what a sane response looks like, the sensible bastard.) I’m talking about the unleashed paramilitary forces who have an unpurged history of institutional racism.

I’m talking about cops.

Choosing to be a cop is a little crazy to begin with. You’re inviting yourself to get shot at. You’re destined to see humanity at its worst. You’re going to be there when things get ugly, and our society has been stockpiling weapons for so long that you can’t really be blamed for living in fear of your life.

The thing is: when we let individuals off for heinous acts just because they wear the badge we make things worse for everybody. The public—and let’s be real: we’re talking people of color for the most part—can’t trust members of an institution that has immunity for something like the killing of Mike Brown. Eric Garner. Ezell Ford. Oscar Grant.

Every cop knows this, at worst they willfully ignore this. At least the part that would trigger their empathy, because as a society we’ve defined their role as strapping on body armor to go protect the property interests of the landed class. Be it a gas station or Zucotti Park.

This scenario is bad for everyone, and the militarization of cops over the past decade has only made it worse. America has become a country with an autoimmune disorder: the system we’ve developed to protect ourselves has turned against us. Starting with the parts of our body politic that are the most recent additions. Given that the values which we teach to schoolchildren—that all people are created equal for starters—are good values this condition is unacceptable.

One thing that concerns me today is how easy the events of this week are going to be to ignore for those of us who are not plugged in. By “plugged in” I mean “on Twitter,” because Facebook’s algorithm has done a wonderful job of making the events in Ferguson a non-event. It’s the job of those of us who have some idea of what’s going on to keep this on the front burner.