Dedicated to Imperfect Heroes Because the Villains Aren’t Perfect Either

Dedicated to Imperfect Heroes Because the Villains Aren’t Perfect Either

The paradox is that we have to use imperfect tools to perfect an imperfect world

I don’t mind imperfect heroes; because the villains aren’t perfect either

It’s all a work in progress as we progress

And maybe that is what is perfect

Teach me, preach me
Just so you can leech me
Dis’ me, stress me
Now you want to test me

Chain me, cane me
Belittle and defame me
Sick me, cure me
Socially endure me

All he tried to tell us is
THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US!

Imperfect heroes and imperfect villains
Imperfect justice
extrajudicial killings
Get your hands dirty and roll up your sleeves

Imperfect drugs are making perfect junkies
On my back a family of monkeys
Pandemic has us all down on our knees

If Michael Jackson were livin’
He wouldn’t believe
shite Trumps not giving

Shoot me; tase me
Boy, you just amaze me
Fool me; school me
Choke me ‘til I drool, me

Slap me; zap me
better double tap me
Jail me; bail me
Michael tried to tell me

All he tried to tell us is
THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US!

Lies and deceptions
Not misconceptions
Selling missiles while we defund the schooling
When a mantis prays it’s not piety

There are no bootstraps, and there are no boots
Food lines longer; don’t ask just shoot
No safety net for our society

If Gil were stil among us
He’d write a song for peace and justice

Thunder lightning
Give me COVID-19
Rain me hail me
Brother can you tell me

Spurn me burn me
Now we’re finally learning
Zone-less homeless
Boy they really owned us

All he tried to tell us is
THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US!

What did he know; and, when did he know it?
If you are angry then burn, vote, and show it!
This system ain’t gonna change itself.

My heroes dead; my enemies are rulin’
This country needs a drastic retooling
I have two fist and only just one heart

If Prince were still embodied
He’d purple hex this Orange John Gotti

Climate crisis; blame it all on Isis
Gangster, Prankster
Legalize The Dank, Sir

Burning forest
Is there still hope for us
Sap glove; bullet
Got a trigger; pull it

All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
All he tried to tell us is
THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT US!

(Image Credit: Rewire / Annette Bernhardt)

Jacob Blake’s shackles form the landscape of the United States of America

Earlier this week, Jacob Blake’s father reported that his son – shot seven times in the back by policemen, paralyzed from the waist down, fighting for his life – was not only under constant police guard but was also shackled to his bed. Jacob Blake Sr remarked, “Why do they have that cold steel on my son’s ankle? He couldn’t get up if he wanted to. So that’s a little overkill to have him shackled to the bed.” Shackling is what police and prison staff do. Ask the myriad pregnant women who have suffered childbirth while shackled to a bed. It’s the American way.

Earlier this month, a newly published book, Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women, notes, “In 2017, around 225,060 women in the United States were imprisoned in state and federal prisons and jails, and over a million more were on probation or parole. In 2019, approximately 1,400 incarcerated women were pregnant. Giving birth in prison is a horrific experience, both physically and emotionally. Prisoners have recounted being shackled to the bed, and many say they weren’t allowed to have anyone in the room with them other than the hospital staff. One in eight incarcerated parents will lose their parental rights. And incarcerated mothers are the most likely to lose their children to foster care.”

In May 2020, South Carolina banned the shackling of pregnant women (prisoners) in childbirth. This was a major victory, won after years and decades of struggle and organizing. A number of states, almost half the states in the United States, continue to allow shackling pregnant women (prisoners) in childbirth, and the bans of other states are riddled with loopholes and confusion. 

According to the American Psychological Association, “Women subjected to restraint during childbirth report severe mental distress, depression, anguish, and trauma.”  This practice is what Jacob Blake Sr. witnessed, it is what Jacob Blake suffered. Shackles are baked into the fabric of the United States, and not only the so-called criminal justice system. Severe mental distress, depression, anguish, trauma: those are the constitutive, if not Constitutional, elements of justice in America. They are what we apply and what we seek for those who must be controlled. There was no overkill in Jacob Blake’s hospital room, sadly. There was only the United States of America at it again. Jacob Blake is no longer shackled to his bed, but the shackles have not been removed.

(Photo Credit: National Museum of African American History and Culture)

For our White Nation, Cannon already received justice

I come back into social media to find the story of a young boy that was brutally murdered. His murderer found after a manhunt, his mother calling and actively seeking for the death penalty. The silence from all of you on the deaths of children murdered by police—children who are black, brown, who have mental illness and learning disabilities—highlights your hypocrisy and desire to return to “normal”. Where you don’t have to confront the country’s racist past and present. Where you get to take comfort in your own privilege because your privilege benefits you personally. 

Where you don’t have to come to terms with your “guilt” or your own culpability in this nation’s white supremacist values. 

I watch as posts are made about a boy who was killed too early, by people who made no commentary about Mike Brown, or Trayvon Martin, or the children of Brittney Gilliam who were pulled from their vehicle in Aurora, CO because the police “mistook” her car for being stolen. Who have remained silent on George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain—a boy who played his violin for cats at his local animal shelter; for the lynching of Tamirat “Amani” Kildea in Morristown, NJ. So, my fellow white people, here is what I have to say to you:

You are taking the murder of a young white child by a black man as a call to disrupt the movement for black lives. You are actively working in tandem with white supremacy in equating no justice being done when, for a white nation, our definition of justice has most definitely been done. 

Breonna Taylor

Was the perpetrator arrested? Yes.

Is he currently awaiting trial? Yes. 

Will he face a jury where he may well face the death penalty for his crimes? Yes. 

I’m curious, then, what more is it you’re asking for? 

Aiyana Stanley-Jones

Are you asking for justice for the murders of black children too? Where were you when Tamir Rice was killed for having a toy gun? Where are your hashtags for the punishment of the officers that killed Aiyana Stanley Jones? Your anger over the Kameron Prescott, who was killed by police on December 23, 2017? The black and brown boys and girls who have been murdered with no accountability from the boys in blue? 

For Breonna Taylor has not received her “justice”. Elijah McClain remains the butt of jokes for police officers in Aurora. Gilliam got an apology and the promise of “age-appropriate therapy” for her children held at gunpoint by police officers. On hot asphalt, face-down. George Floyd’s death stopped being a crying call for change after some buildings burned to the ground. Not to mention, his killers got to post bail. Sessoms will not be given that luxury. 

You had better think, very carefully, about how you want to be remembered for decades to come. When the progress for civil rights does win, and we look back on this time as a reflection on how we could have done better. Do you want to be those who have actively worked against a movement that focused on valuing the black people as deserving of justice? 

Elijah McClain

Because right now, you are the villains of this story. Your moderate response to racism and white supremacy is your calling card, where the valuation of property over black people is paramount. Where you want to support the movement, but “All Lives Matter”, not just Black Lives Matter. Your All Lives Matter sure sounds like White Lives Matter Most. 

(Photo Credit 1: BBC) (Photo Credit 2: Mother Jones) (Photo Credit 3: The Cut)

Crossing

Crossing

Rose Petals on a bridge.

Where is the voice of “our” President?

Watching “the last crossing”

With 21st century technology 

Under conditions similar to a medieval pandemic

In death John Lewis is still crossing the Edmond Pettus Bridge 

And so must we all.

(Photo Credit 1: Al.com) (Photo Credit 2: WLRN)

The Police State Has Come Home to Roost

As the massive uprisings have shocked a (white) nation, centering the injustices and abuses that black people face at the hands of the police, a disturbing trend is emerging from the Trump administration: bringing in federal agents to literally kidnap protestors off the streets and “arrest” them for protesting. 

Later announced as Operation LeGend, these squads of Gestapo militarized jocks have eschewed whatever Constitutional Oath they were probably sworn to take, have tear gassed peaceful protestors, Moms, Dads, and an army Vet who came to the streets of Portland to call them out on their hypocrisy—and are making their way to Albuquerque, Kansas City, and Chicago. The (mostly white) American people are shocked by the fascist tactics of Trump and his last desperate re-election bid as a tough on crimes president. 

Where is the crime? I don’t rightfully know, honestly. Is destroying federal property and taking down racist monuments violence in the face of the constant murder of black and brown people? Is setting fire to police stations violence when those same police have beaten and tortured those protestors? Is destroying buildings violence when it was the ancestors of those black people, laboring as less-than-human and enslaved, that built those buildings to begin with? 

“Crime” aside, these tactics are not new, and they should not be surprising. Activists, organizers, black and brown communities have been raising this alarm for years. This is not simply the symptom of a Trump candidacy in a spiral as he desperately attempts to hold on to the last shred of power in the final months of a cataclysmic re-election campaign. This is not simply his desire to reallocate attention and energies away from the rising cases of Covid-19 and the preventable deaths that are on his hands (will he care? No. Probably not, but it might hurt his bottom line once he leaves office). This is not merely his want to push the story away from the millions of people laid off, unable to access unemployment benefits in a spiraling economic downturn the likes of which none of us have lived through. 

And this did not start with Trump. 

We are reckoning with the consequences of allowing Trump free reign of a terrorist organization that has been steadily developed and trained, militarized and weaponized during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administration. Yes, a bipartisan expansion of the police state that has diverted funds away from our education, our public transportation, our healthcare and so much more into the hands of the Pentagon and weapons contracts and military equipment. 

We’ve perfected a machine that a monster like Trump will use with absolute glee.  

For years, we’ve watched ICE and DHS officials sweep men, women and children into immigrant detention centers, deny them their rights and deport them back to countries they might not have lived in for decades; Trump’s deportation policies are a continuation of the Obama Administration’s own. We’ve listened to stories of constant monitoring of our Muslim brothers and sisters post-9/11 by the FBI and CIA, with the blessings of Democratic and Republican Representatives-the Patriot Act is supported in Congress with little blowback while it increases constant military surveillance of ourselves, our neighbors, and black and brown communities.

During the Obama Administration, police in military garb clashed with Indigenous protestors at Standing Rock, who were fighting against the contamination of their water source, resulting in indigenous people being pelted with tear-gas, rubber bullets, arbitrary arrests and trumped up charges. All protestors faced the same violence that Portland is facing now. Nearly four years later. 

We’ve watched the budget for our Defense Department balloon into a money guzzling force of chaos, and little remorse for whatever constitutional barometers it was meant to hold. Whatever the Pentagon couldn’t use anymore was bankrolled into the police; we’ve decked out our men and women in uniforms with tanks, machine guns, and weapons like long range acoustic devices that is capable of causing hearing loss. 

And if people weren’t affected by the violence faced at the hands of poor communities, of black communities, of undocumented communities, they didn’t care. What use was there? The police were still there to protect them! 

We were white! 

As more federal agents are deployed around the country, as more Moms and Dads speak out—and this is not negating the black mothers who have always been there, at the front of the protests—as veterans come out of retirement to put their bodies on the line, we must come to the conclusion that the full force of our ignorance, our purposeful blinders will lead the police to turn on us. 

To put it simply, it has come home to roost. Are we prepared to meet it? 

(Photo Credit 1: Noah Berger / AP / Star Tribune) (Photo Credit 2: AP / WUSA9) (Photo Credit 3: Reveal)

In New Jersey, Incarcerated Pregnant Women’s Lives Don’t Matter

In New Jersey, a liberal government is grappling with its own sense of cruelty against incarcerated women. A suit filed in the US District Court for New Jersey claims that officers shackled the ankle of a 30-year-old woman identified as Jane Doe to her hospital bed while she was in labor. She was forced to wear the shackles even while she experienced painful contractions, kept her from turning on her side or moving at all to relieve the pain and—when nurses questioned the need for the shackles—officers refused to remove them and remained in the room even while doctors performed invasive medical procedures. She continued to be restrained while recovering from an emergency C-section and was also not allowed to walk the hallways as part of the healing process. 

The use of shackles during childbirth was banned in the state as far back as 2017. Yet, as Jane Doe was sent to jail on a probation violation in 2018 after relapsing, she was shackled during childbirth, and afterwards. 

The process of shackling, not only de-humanizing, takes a mental toll on women. In a 2017 report from the American Psychological Association, “Women subjected to restraint during childbirth report severe mental distress, depression, anguish, and trauma.” Women who are incarcerated tend to already have suffered more childhood traumas and shackling them during childbirth is likely to make conditions such as PTSD worse. 

New Jersey, in the wake of Christie, has worked to make progressive reform to address the growing number of women who are incarcerated, including the issues related to shackling pregnant women while receiving medical care, but these bills fall short on the issues that are created from the process of criminalization to begin with. Jane Doe would not have had to file a lawsuit to allege an illegal shackling had she not been arrested to begin with. She, along with many New Jersey women, are part of a vicious cycle of recidivism where they will constantly be in contact with the criminal justice system. 95 percent of people incarcerated in state prison will be released, but 76.6 percent of them will be rearrested within five years. And in New Jersey, it will cost more to keep these people in prison that it would to give them the help that they need, whether it be financial help, drug rehabilitation, mental health access, etc. (each person in incarceration costs the state $60,000 a year). 

Even the bills proposed by the state, while valiant in their efforts to address the crisis, only do so much as to alleviate the symptoms that are caused by incarceration. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle of Bergen County, proposed legislation to prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant incarcerated people during labor and immediately after childbirth, only in cases where the woman (who is in active labor, mind you), presents a substantial flight risk or some other “extraordinary medical or security circumstance dictates that restraints are needed to ensure the safety and security of the prisoner, the employees of the facility or medical facility, other prisoners, or the public”. Again, the extenuating circumstances are loopholes so that women, in active and painful labor, are still restrained during labor. I wonder at what point we’re going to acknowledge that women will not attempt to flee when they can barely stand. 

Other bills have attempted to show that same compassion to incarcerated women, the fastest growing population in the criminal justice system, while reminding those women that they still are prisoners and are only given crumbs at the benevolence of the state at large. 

The Dignity for Incarcerated Primary Caretaker Parents Act, would ensure all incarcerated women in New Jersey receive free feminine hygiene products, expressly ban shackling and eliminate solitary confinement for expectant mothers. The bill would expand visiting hours and free phone calls for incarcerated mothers and would create a pilot program allowing overnight visits for mother who are able to meet certain requirements so that they can bond with their newborns.

While we should applause some compassion for incarcerated women, and incarcerated mothers, we need to keep fighting for a day where we meet a pregnant woman who has relapsed with compassion and public health solutions and not arrest or jail. 

The Black Lives Matter Movement has brought to the surface a longstanding dehumanization of people at the hands of the criminal justice system; those officers didn’t care that Jane Doe was in active labor or recovering from a C-section. To the police, Jane Doe was another inmate that deserved to be handcuffed because she was outside of the prison walls, just like any other officer would do to an “inmate”. 

Defunding the police means defunding the prisons means abolishing the prisons that house these women. $60,000 per incarcerated persons can correspond trauma informed therapists and love and safety. 

Can we reimagine what $60,000 per incarcerated individual in the state of New Jersey (there are 39,000 people in various correctional facilities in the state alone)? Can we think about the various ways we can help those people instead of locking them up and subjecting them to a life of imprisonment and dehumanization? Can we literally comprehend how much help $2,340,000,000 (more than $2 billion!) can buy us? Can we imagine a day where there will be no more Jane Does? Where the lives of incarcerated pregnant women matter? 

(Image Credit 1: The Guardian / Molly Crabapple) (Photo Credit: Facebook / Stop Shackling Pregnant Women) (Image Credit 2: Prison Policy Initiative)

Social Media and Social Movements: On the sixth anniversary of #BlackLivesMatter

July 13th, the Black Lives Matter Movement celebrates its sixth anniversary, marking six years since the viral hashtag ignited a global movement. In 2020, social media users surpassed 3.8 billion, making social media essential in the survival of social movements such as Black Lives Matter. With social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, any user can be a political activist. How essential is social media to social movements, and how do we address the toxicity in social media? 

Social media movements, such as Me Too and the Black Lives Matter, have sparked wildfires throughout social media. The viral hashtags have drawn global attention to immigration, racial, economic, and gender issues, drawing more than a million daily Tweets, posts, and shares globally. In 2006, activist Tarana Burke founded the Me Too campaign to help survivors of sexual violence, particularly Black women and girls, and other young women of color from low-income communities. The Me Too Movement sparked a global conversation on sexual harassment in the workplace. A 2018 study by the Pew Research Center found #MeToo was used more than 19 million times on Twitter since actress Alyssa Milano’s initial tweet in 2017.

In 2013 Black Lives Matter was started by activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. It has since transformed into a global organization. The Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc. is active in the US, UK, and Canada, with the mission to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.

In response to the death of George Floyd in police custody in late May 2020, the use of the Black Lives Matter hashtag peaked three days after the death of George Floyd. On that day alone, according to a Pew Research Center analysis, #BlackLivesMatter was tweeted 8.8 million times. In the following two weeks after Floyd’s death, users tweeted #BlackLivesMatter an average of nearly 3.7 million times per day. The New York Times reported that the Black Lives Matter Movement may be the largest in U.S history. According to a recent poll by Civis Analytics, about 15 million to 26 million people in the U.S. have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks.

At the same time, social media is also an essential tool to expose the “Karen’s”. The use of social media platforms has created a constant state of surveillance, in which constant surveillance has grown beyond the parameters of fun, harmless videos into a form of social policing. Exposing CEOs, business owners, and schoolteachers for public outbursts has created viral villains. More often than not, these outbursts caught on camera lead to job termination, threats of violence, and public outcry. In July of 2020, lawmakers introduced legislation such as the CAREN Act, an acronym for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, which was introduced in San Francisco. The CAREN Act criminalizes individuals who call law enforcement based on racial bias. Social media acts as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it effortlessly and instantaneously carries dialogue across various social boundaries. On the other, social media acts as judge, jury, and executioner.

Companies that operate and manage Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have also exposed toxicity within the use and operational aspects of social media platforms. The use of social media allows for the uncensored spread of misinformation. With an estimated 3.8 billion social media users across a wide range of platforms, hate speech and targeted violence often go unregulated and uncensored. Consider QAnon. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have seen a significant increase in QAnon content, which spreads medical misinformation, raising public health concerns. This increased visibility in misinformation has created a problem in the regulation of content on social media platforms. More than 500 advertisers are boycotting Facebook for failure to control these divisive and hateful content, pulling into question the policies and ethical practices of social media platforms.

In July 2020, complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Facebook allege patterns of racial bias against Black employees in evaluations, promotions, pay, and hiring practices. A recent report shows, eighty-seven percent of Facebook’s workers are either Asian or white, while Black workers make up just 3.8 percent.   

Social media have transformed the mobilization and solidarity for social movements. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, is no longer used to share the mundane daily activities of life. Platforms have been transformed into ground zero for the largest social movements this U.S has ever seen. The wide use and dependence on social media for mobilization furthers the exploitation and perpetuation of social inequities the movement is striving to eradicate.

(Photo Credit 1: Black Lives Matter) (Photo Credit 2: Houston Chronicle / Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Save the Bleach: Yudhiṣṭhira’s Insight

Save the Bleach: Yudhiṣṭhira’s Insight

“You don’t need to be in no hurry
You ain’t never really got to worry.
You don’t need to check on how you feel
Just keep repeating:“None of this is real.“

And if you’re sensing there’s something wrong
Well just remember It won’t be too long 
Before the Director cuts the scene

This ain’t really your life 
ain’t  really your life
ain’t  really your life…”

— Gil Scott Heron —


The New Age is an Old Lie

Old Colonial strategies neither die nor fade away
They are just rebranded and sent into virtually reality
And sold online to people too young 
To remember snake oil salesmen.

Or, broadcast out over Zoom 
To create 
Family of choice simulacra 
Resembling the opening of The Brady Bunch
A celebrated family 
That didn’t actually really exists either.

This Neo-Divide and conquer

If America becomes a Towering Inferno 
Don’t you realize That there are no ladders long enough to reach you 
On the 108th floor.
To save you from the burning 
If the lower floors are alight.

Will you sit in a circle and sing Kum ba yah?
(‘cause that’s not your song either)
Or perhaps chant the lyrics from Maureen McGovern disaster movie songs 
And hope it extinguishes the flames?

There’s Got to be A Morning After
And We Will Never Love this Way Again
But will we be here to love 
When the sun rises on America tomorrow?

The Ku Klux Klan no longer wears sheets 
1000 thread count Egyptian cotton is just too expensive
And it so much easier to just run for office.

Or cluster at seminars that teach the art of Hap-why-ness
Selling crystals 
Yoni eggs 
And exorbitantly priced aroma therapy bath salts 
To wash the stress away 

Take me away Calgon bath oil beads no longer strong enough 
To wash away the day
Something stronger is now needed
As America convulses.

“Stand as far away from me as you can and ask me why
Hold on to your mālā beads 
Close your eyes And watch me die”.

If you’re not angry 
Then you’re just not paying attention.

As “Mind-less-ness Meditation“ exhorts us to  
Watch our breath
And become comfortable in our seats
Presumably so that our meat won’t be too tough
When they slaughter us 
Just before they make us into Soylent Green

Or send us out into the world prematurely like cannon fodder 
To see if COVID-19 
Is really as deadly as they think it is

As they KNOW it is.
New opiates for a New Age
Being “spiritual” does not mean being clueless
In the tradition of:
Dayānanda Sarasvāti,Ram Mohan Roy
Mohandas K. Gandhi, 
Srī Aurobindo, 
Srī Yukteswar [in his younger days]; 
Arundati Roy
Malcom X,
Rosa Parks 
Fannie Lou Hamer
Martin Luther [Mike] King Jr.
Nelson Mandela; 
Alice Walker; 
Ruth [Ruthie] Wilson Gilmore; 
Angela Y. Davis
and Barak Hussein Obama

To name ONE — as a Vedāntan would say.

Great ONES who knew how to work through their relative selves 
To help To change 
Our ONE world.

The face of yoga is that of a Dravidian sage.

Save the bleach for COVID-19
But don’t use it to denature the Ideas and Ideals of Brown skinned people
For memes
Twitter and Facebook quotes
Or monuments designed to rewrite history.

Embodied ideas are more confrontational and problematic to consider
Then New Age tapioca and flavorless tofu teachings

If that wasn’t true
Barak Obama’s presidential portrait would be unveiled 
And Harriet Tubman would be on the $20 dollar bill.

But instead of celebrating the Queen of Freedom 
And the Underground Railroad
We build fences around 
And fortify a statue of 
The President who drove the Trail of Tears.

“We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding 
But find our expressions of faith sowing division
We believe ourselves to be a tolerant people
Even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape
And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts
Our politics fans them
Exploits them
And drives us further apart.”

Now who said that?

I think we may have forgotten in these past four years
That have felt like a century.
He famously carried a token of Hanumān with him 
Where ever he went
And lifted the mountain of healing herbs on his Demi-Nubian shoulders 
And for eight years 
The fragrance of HOPE
Filled our nostrils.

It started as a whisper in Springfield Illinois
And now we are shouting in the streets again
And hope again seems audacious.

Because of social distancing 
And sheltering in place
The night sky is becoming visible again in India
The Himalayan Mountains are visible  in the distance
Even from cities whose air was once gray with pollution.
Wild animals are encroaching upon urban environments 

Are we the HOPE or the PROBLEM?

Is there a Goop product that cures stupidity?
And if there is, where would you rub it?
If I rub it on a Confederate Statue will it Melt away and disappear?

Is there a Goop repellant we could spray on the White House
To keep Trump away from it?
We could call that fragrance “Melania’s Hand Slap”Because it works for her.

Yudhiṣṭhira knew the truth:
If they ever open a gate for you
And invite you in saying:

“This is heaven;
But, you just can’t bring your dog.”

It’s a trap!
Be steady in war
Know that place to be hell
And walk on.

The God of Small Things would let you into heaven
Especially with your dog.

Will America have a breakdown 
Before it has a breakthrough?

Oh God of Small Things!
Convey me into a heaven where 
Even my family and my dog is welcome
Grant Us Wholeness.

(Photo Credit: Margaret Barthel/ DCist/ WAMU) (Video: YouTube)

I have a question for those of you who continue to say “not all cops are bad”

I have a question for those of you who continue to say “not all cops are bad” or to share the heartwarming photos of a black man supposedly buying lunch at Cracker Barrel for 2 white cops, or to remind us that the important thing is to be kind to everyone (because, after all, we want to feel GOOD, don’t we?):

When you learned about the horrific abuses of children by pedophile priests, how widespread it was, how the church tried to cover it up and would move pedophile priests from one parish to another, did you say “Hey, not all priests are bad?” Did you tell the victims how they should feel or how they should formulate their ‘message?’ Did you put an “I Support My Local Priests” sign on your front yard? Did you share touching photos of a little boy hugging a “good” priest? Did you balk at the idea of removing the statute of limitations for the abuse? Did you disbelieve the victims’ stories? Did you tell them that somehow it was their fault? Did you remind everyone to be kind to each other and that priests were hurting too? Did you say “Well, we ask so much of priests, you know, with having to solve the community’s social problems and that whole celibacy… thing?” Did you say “How do we know the kid didn’t come on to him first?” “All s/he had to do was comply and it wouldn’t have ended so badly?” Did you watch the movie Spotlight and think “Well, they didn’t really tell the priests’ side of the story?” Did you think it was OKAY for a diocese to cover up the abuses and move a priest from one parish to another, only to abuse more children? If you learned that someone you knew was abused did you tell them “Well, all kids matter, not just you” 

I’m guessing the answer to these questions is no. And, if the answer is no, then you best do the important work of asking yourself why you think or say these things about #BlackLiveMatter and the response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless others at the hands of the police. Do the work. Love and kindness aren’t spread through platitudes, they’re spread through DOING THE WORK.

(Photo Credit: Mainichi / AP / Matt York)

So, You Want to Defund the Police? Start by Busting the Police Union

All around the world, people are waking up to the idea that the criminal justice system has been designed to brutalize and punish black and brown individuals—from videos of black men and women dying at the hands of police officers, to tear gas and other human right abuses being levied at protestors demanding solutions to police brutality—the system of police is not meant for the oppressed class. Defunding and demilitarizing them is only the first step for the realization of abolition; but how do we begin to understand the power behind the police? 

Short answer, it’s their union.

Long answer, it’s the power that the police unions over the years have been able to amass, even at the backing of major labor organizations (most disappointingly, being on part of the labor council by the AFL-CIO). The influence that they wield when making policy recommendations and funding politicians really should not be ignored. If we are looking toward defunding as the first steps in the goal of abolition, then the potential backlash from cop unions and their supporters should be researched, analyzed and dismantled before they can halt the movement towards defunding.

Already, we are seeing leaders of cop unions attempting to tamper down criticism by creating even more scandal for themselves and revealing the racism that is so deeply ingrained in the system of policing and the criminal justice system. The head of a Baltimore police union called Black Lives Matter protesters a “lynch mob”. In Philadelphia, another referred to demonstrators as “a pack of rabid animals”. A democratically elected black prosecutor in St. Louis is a “menace to society” who must be removed- “by force” if necessary, because she was in favor of police reform. And yet another union president, in NYC (where police have been absolute murderous with protesters), begged to not be treated, “like animals”. They’re attempting to put a stop to any reforms—no matter how small and miniscule—and they’re powerful enough to stop them. One single police union has spent more than $1 million on state and local races in 2014.

Police unions are the strongest and most powerful unions in the country. Their ability to negotiate contracts that give them almost full immunity when their members harm and kill someone is abhorrent, “Typically, such contracts are chock full of special protections that are negotiated behind closed doors. Employment contract provisions also insulate police from any meaningful accountability for their actions and rig any processes hearings in their favor; fired cops are able to appeal and win their jobs back, even after the most egregious offenses. When Daniel Pantaleo, an NYPD officer who was involved in the 2014 murder of Eric Garner, was finally fired, the police union immediately appealed for his reinstatement and threatened a work slowdown.” 

It is time for all labor organizations, no matter how small, to not only condemn the violence of the police force but actively work to dismantle an institution that’s history is stained with the blood of the working class and immigrants. As noted in Kim Kelly’s impassioned article, “No More Cop Unions”, the history of police violence has been against workers during strikes or at protests, “Despite their union membership, police have also been no friend to workers, especially during strikes or protests. Their purpose is to protect property, not people, and labor history is littered with accounts of police moonlighting as strikebreakers or charging in to harass or injure striking workers. The first recorded strike fatalities in U.S. history came at the hands of police, who shot two New York tailors dead as they tried to disperse. During the Battle of Blair Mountain, the police fought striking coal miners on the bosses’ behalf. In 1937, during the Little Steel Strike, Chicago police gunned down 10 striking steelworkers in what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre. In 1968, days after Dr. Martin Luther King addressed a group of sanitation workers, Memphis cops maced and assaulted the striking workers and their supporters, killing a 16-year-old boy.” The president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumpka, a former president of United Mineworkers of America harshly criticized the police for engaging in violence against striking minors. 

The AFL-CIO is now facing calls to disaffiliate from its association with the International Union of Police Associates (representing over 100,000 law enforcement employees as well as emergency personnel) from 21 council members from the Writers Guild of America East, citing the policies and the actions of the police union as being consistent with, “authoritarianism, totalitarianism, terrorism and other forces that suppress individual liberties and freedoms.” The AFL-CIO has already disaffiliated from other unions in the past, including the Teamsters, SEIU, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The federation has already disaffiliated some powerful unions, so it has the potential to kick out an organization that has no business calling itself a union. 

This is but one step in demanding the end of police violence and terror; this is but one piece of an interlocking system that needs to be collapsed, but it will be a preemptive strike in the already powerful attempt to squash legitimate demands to doing away with police.

If you are a union member, or someone interested in demanding the end of AFL-CIO’s association with the International Union of Police Associations, please sign this petition from No Cop Unions. Please also encourage your union local to condemn the violence against protesters or issue a statement in support of Blacks Lives. Solidarity means solidarity with the workers and all oppressed members of society, not solidarity with the muscle of the state and the capitalists. 

Workers of the World Unite! We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Chains!

(Photo 1 Credit: ABC News) (Photo 2 Credit: The Guardian / Star Tribune)