TBT: Our Policing Problems, Finally Changing in 2020
I don't have an old post to share for today's #ThrowBackThursday because I've kept this blog focused on personal and creative topics while I've engaged with larger political and social issues through my day job for the past 14 years. But let me tell you, after a couple of decades (if I include college and later high school after I made the jump from private to public school) of actively exploring and seeking effective responses to social injustices, it's amazing to see mainstream America finally, suddenly, collectively get on board with the mission of making life better for all of us--centering, finally, those who have been most exploited by our systems of power.
As I write this, there are still folks standing confused on the sidelines. It doesn't make you a bad person to not know certain facts or understand dynamic systems like United States policing (provided you haven't avoided facing those issues on purpose), but it does make you a better person to learn new things. So nurture and trust in your deeply human qualities of curiosity and adaptability. Come along and join in the collective bending of the arc toward justice, in whichever ways you are best suited to contribute. Build a legacy for yourself that will make your family proud for generations to come. In the words of the Rev. Theresa Inés Soto, "All of us need all of us to make it."
It is no longer (as in, this has changed over the past few weeks!) controversial to assert that our nation has an over-policing problem. Lots of Americans who need support rather than militarized assault--for example, people struggling with addiction and mental illness, people with disabilities, neglected and traumatized children, the poor, immigrants, people of color (including and especially our indigenous peoples), African-American communities that haven't ever had a real break, people who are persecuted by religious fundamentalists for their gender presentation or sexuality, etc.--are routinely terrorized and brutalized by American police forces, benefiting no one in our society except for a few shady figures who loom above us all like vultures: corrupt politicians and the billionaires who invest in private prison systems.
This status quo isn't good for police officers either. Bad blood between police forces and their communities puts officers at a huge risk of being harmed or killed in the line of duty. I feel for those in blue right now, too--not for the sadistic serial killers among them, who have been systematically enabled for far too long; those guys have sold their souls and can go rot in a hole 'til Judgment Day--but for all the rest, who often serve in an (unnecessarily) dangerous and stressful role, compensated poorly, that operates under the same set of lies that has brainwashed regular folks with down-home values into thinking that the broad application of authoritarian force makes our communities safer.
Calls to DEFUND THE POLICE and shift resources in a smarter, more humane direction that limits aggressive policing and increases social services that effectively prevent crime, rather than ineffectively attacking it after the fact, engenders a society that is safer for everyone, especially persecuted and marginalized communities, and also including police officers and other first responders--who are, of course, people who are usually drawn from within the communities where they work.
I am so, so amazed and relieved and filled with hope at seeing these changes, rooted in common sense and centuries of human experience and a vast wealth of data from American and international studies, finally start to happen at a scale large enough to root out the historical drivers of police brutality and mass incarceration. Right now, in this very moment, we are doing something great and historic. We are building the beloved community dreamed of not only in the Boomers' Civil Rights Era but throughout human civilization.
If this has all happened too quickly for you to process, here are a couple of brief, accessible resources explaining how we got here and where we are going now:
New Republic summarizes the over-policing of America
CNN explains the call to "defund the police."
All of us with our humanity intact are yearning, together, for a safer America where we can all enjoy the freedom to pursue happiness. At the dawn of this explosive new decade, may it finally be so.