Yesterday two police officers were shot and killed in Brooklyn. And in my social media realm I saw some responses that felt celebratory. I wanted to push back.
I get it. The more we become aware of the constant violence happening to us, the more unbearable it is. We develop an intelligent desire for vengeance.
But don’t let anyone get inside your heart! Don’t let the sickness of racism find a way to make hate feel at home in you.
I don’t expect any of our organizing and transformation work to rid this system of punitive police violence through legislation. This system is rooted in slavery, white supremacy, scarcity and violence.
I believe that our work is to begin and/or deepen experiments rooted in cooperation, compassion, abundance and dignity. We are soil, and earthworms in the soil. Nothing disappears, it only transforms, that’s just science. So here we are, knowing capitalism won’t disappear, composting the bullshit, producing fertile ground for life.
We must produce conditions conducive to black life inside of and between people and a nation conditioned for white supremacy…and we are not free from that conditioning even as we do the work. White supremacy and race-based capitalism permeates everything.
The primary symptom of this sickness of white supremacy is the capacity, and even desire, to write off a section of other humans as less than us, to believe that another group of humans, or several groups, do not deserve love, compassion, patience, transformative justice – or just, on some basic shit, to not be shot in the back. And to generalize a righteous defence into a murderous offense. Eventually, to not be able to see the innocence and possibilities in others.
I write this as the daughter of an American military man, sister to an American government employee, cousin to militia men, granddaughter of a christian evangelical, aunt to blue eyed children.
A few of you may come from families of 100% radical black freedom fighters. But the majority of radical people in this country are related to capitalists and racists.
We could write these people off because we oppose the systems they are a part of, have been persecuted by people just like them.
But for me, the bind of blood has made me consider my responsibility, has kept me in the game long enough to glimpse the wholeness of each of these humans, to witness the way they love even inside of all that sickness.
In many cases these family members would and have argued that their love drives them to participate in these violent systems. The particular sickness of race-based capitalism makes us believe the world can’t sustain us all, that we need to hoard and tier resources just for ‘our own’.
I believe that my love of myself and others and my authentic engagement can disrupt those systems.
My love is the only weapon I carry.
Part of my life’s work is to stay in direct contact with each person’s humanity, to show that I see it. I struggle in this, it’s internal liberation work. I don’t want to grow the violent, callous, reductionist aspects of humanity, and I believe that ‘what we give our attention to grows.’
Some days I can extend my love to all humans, or most of us. Some days I can only get as far as my family.
Wartime comes into being when we cannot extend love and humanity to others, when we forget we are more alike than different. Yesterday there were communications going around using the word wartime, sourced from the police union in New York. Wars are fought to conquer, to win territory.
We can’t win by becoming what we are fighting against. In any case, the role of the police isn’t to conquer the people. We aren’t trying to win territory from police, we want to transform the root of racism within them, to stop the lynching.
We cannot conquer each other. The lie is that we can win safety through violence and war.
War is surface behavior, indicating something is rotten at the root. To truly change the conditions, we must do radical work. In and through ourselves.
This is the heart of black lives matter. It is not, and never has been, ‘black lives matter at the exclusion of white lives’ or ‘cop lives’ or ‘all lives’. It has always been about asserting that within the broader truth that all lives matter, blacks – black men, black women, black trans people, black children – are being executed at a genocidal rate. Black lives matter is us saying no, our lives are not disposable.
Miraculous precious mysterious black life is not disposable.
Black lives matter includes the need to love and cherish our own and each other’s lives…it doesn’t discount black on black aggressions, it doesn’t discount the need to counter our own internalized racism.
The brilliance of ‘black lives matter’ is that the truth is so simple and massive to hold: In spite of nearly everything that has happened on this continent since black people arrived, we assert our humanity, our right to exist.
I believe, and I’m not alone in this belief, that racism is an illness. Passed down through conditioning. A dangerous deluded state which, unchecked, yields slavery and genocide. It must be addressed directly.
Our most reactionary responses only grow racism. Fed violence, racism grows. Fed violence, all violence grows.
I don’t advocate for swallowing genocide – I believe in self defense. There are people I look up to throughout history who, in the face of escalating eradication strategies by the state, armed themselves and said ‘no more’. But arming a people in self defense is a different strategy from random executions.
A black man attempting to kill his black girlfriend and then killing two people of color in police uniform is not anything to celebrate – it is the sickness manifest. It is the inevitable place sickness takes us – death.
The thing we want to stop, in this moment of police violence, is black death by execution. We want to stop lynching, not match it. We want to stop the pattern of killing based on racialized distortion.
The fact that cops can see a black person and, in a situation that requires no violence, can decide to shoot that black person in the head, or heart, or in the back, or 6-41 times, or choke that person to death, or slam that person’s head into the pavement at a fatal angle, that is what we’re fighting against.
It enrages us that police can see a black person as a wild animal to take down, and we are standing up and shutting it all down to fight against that. For our dignity we are standing up, for our humanity.
Taking on that behavior would be the ultimate sign of our loss.
Some of us call the cops pigs, and I’ve heard my share of no bacon, no pork jokes. Most humor is rooted in trauma, we laugh so we can keep moving forward when irrational horrific things keep happening.
But police are humans, like us. Related to us. Some even still think they are protecting us. The harder truth is that humans – not pigs, not beasts – but parents and children and lovers, would treat other humans the way cops have been treating us. Have been trained to treat us.
Still, like the people the cops have been killing, innocent or criminal or criminalized, they all have the capacity to transform. That means there are options.
Cops are family to non-cops. If you have a police officer of any race in your family, don’t rage at large on social media – call them. If you have racist family, or family suffering from internalized racism…write them love notes. Talk about why ‘black lives matter’ and Ferguson moves you, talk about what you long for, grasp them at the root and let them know you are fighting for their humanity.
Violence is often seeded in cowardice and distance – now is the time to be brave, directly.
Our movement will keep growing, what’s happening now will keep escalating. In the same way that some of the most powerful activists against war are ex-soldiers, we need those who’ve seen the inside of structured police violence to know there is another way, that they have a place in the fight for liberation. To know that we believe they can reclaim their own humanity.
This is a moment to embody what we long for. To see humanity even through the most dehumanizing conditioning.
Can we offer the thing we demand, the capacity to look beneath the surface, in spite of the trauma and brainwashing?
Can we relinquish the comfort of faceless enemies?
Can we protect our basic ability to grieve the loss of human life?
Can we hone our ability to find the humanity in each person and keep our attention there?
Can we generate in the face of destruction?