Like you, I’m exhausted by repeatedly observing the bar for police conduct get lower and lower. I am aggrieved by my ever increasing fear that my partner, cousin, uncle, grandmother, friend, student, or colleague could be next. I could be next. God forbid the wrong police officer encounter me anywhere doing absolutely nothing illegal. My PhD won’t save me. My femininity won’t save me. The Constitution won’t save me.
But I have found solace. Locally, people committed to racial justice are not only peacefully taking to the streets to demand immediate action, they are organizing healing circles, “Black Love” dinners, and other gatherings to bond, grieve, and heal. Black Twitter gave us #goodnews and #carefreeBlackkids2K16 to remind us there is joy and affirmation in Blackness. These actions show we embrace our right to be fully human, which includes experiencing fear, sadness, vulnerability and hope. As a community, we are finally accepting that we cannot behave our way out of police brutality. Police brutality has no logic but racist logic. Whether you’re a Black future POTUS, school cafeteria worker, or high school student, we are all in this together.
Our voices and concern are making an impact – albeit slowly. A consensus is emerging in our country that profound changes in the training, arming, and conduct of police are immediately needed. Since Nixon led the charge for “law and order” over forty years ago, there has not been such a widespread rejection of escalating policing and imprisonment. At Progressive Pupil we say #OrganizingWorks. In this case, organizing is working.
The simple concrete actions recommended by Black Lives Matter activists are also a comfort to me. Here are three constructive things you can do with your grief and rage.
1. De-Militarize the Police – Millions of dollars worth riot gear, automatic weapons and other military grade equipment were provided to local police forces by the Justice Department with congressional funding. Contact your local congress person’s office and ask:
- “What oversight are you providing for the use of these funds?”
- “What efforts are you making to decrease federal funding to militarize the police and increase funding for education, non-violent jobs, and other programs that are actually proven to increase public safety?”
2. Demand Proper Training and Accountability – Activists and scholars are pointing out that some of the police violence we’ve witnessed is precisely how officers are trained to interact with community members. Contact your local chief of police’s office and ask:
- “How are police officers trained to de-escalate confrontations (or perceived confrontations) during their encounters with Black and Latino community members in order to avoid violence?”
- “What efforts are made to remove police officers who have histories of extralegal violence or racial discrimination?”
- “How much in taxpayer dollars has the city had to pay in civil settlements due to police misconduct last year? What efforts are being made to reduce that number?”
3. Show Your Support – The above actions aim to fulfill short term goals that will save lives. The overall Black Lives Matter movement also has longer term goals for completely restructuring the criminal justice system. Their vision for a society which aims to prevent violence and crime by investing in communities-rather than perpetuate violence and crime by punishing them-is supported by renowned scholars including Michelle Alexander and Dr. Angela Y. Davis. You can show your support by:
- Texting HANDSUP to 90975 to receive local updates about events and how you can help
- Checking out their official website BlackLivesMatter.com and learning about their principles
- Making a Donation and/or a Purchase if you are able at the website
If you are still fired up, please share these three steps with your friends and loved ones who are also aggrieved and concerned.
Yours in Solidarity,
Executive Director, Progressive Pupil
Director/Writer/Producer Black and Cuba
Producer 9 GRAMS
P.S. If you’re in New York this Saturday July 16, I’d love to see you at the staged reading of a play I’m producing called 9 GRAMS. It follows a Hollywood screenwriter who is racially profiled and forced to endure solitary confinement in a Turkish prison. More information is available at thetanknyc.org.