Why I hate all of our discussions about the police

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I’ve been a little bit frustrated by the discussion around police action. Mainly, I’m frustrated because people seem to believe that there is no possible way that the police could learn not to do what they’ve been doing and also because we treat police brutality as if it’s not everyone’s problem.

So first, I want to talk about how they handle protests. Our cops are clearly poorly trained at dealing with crowd control. That’s not just because they are racist, the cops beat the whitest dude I know up at a college protest. France doesn’t seem to have this problem every time they protest or have a soccer match or drink in public and the French are not less racist than us. I mean, they are French. I’m not even going to bother to list the number of racial atrocities they’ve committed because its ridiculous. And also, I’ve met them and they are just super racist. The British are super racist (they invented racism!) AND super classist and they still manage to not have these kinds of problems when there are protests. So it’s obvious to me that there is either a training or recruitment or cultural problem (or all three) when it comes to our police. By cultural, I mean in the sense of what they believe their job is, they clearly see themselves in opposition to the community they serve and they are clearly militarized. They clearly don’t know how to control crowds and they clearly have a culture of violence that is unacceptable, as well as tools that are wildly inappropriate. We can’t magically ensure that all police are not bigoted, though we should try and continue to fight racism, but a more immediate solution is to talk about how we can train them better and create a less hostile culture with our police.

I’m also extremely angry at the mostly white young men who keep making excuses for the police to avoid talking about race. I don’t care what messed up beliefs you have in your head, why as a member of a supposedly free republic are you ok with our cops treating people the way we do? Why is it even remotely ok for them to habitually run around shooting people? Even if you are racist, you realize that half the police fatalities are poor white men (I know they are poor because if they were rich, we’d hear about it)? Even if you don’t believe it’s about race, why are you ok with this? Why are you ok with the fact that there is no accountability when these things happen? I mean, it’s just basically disgusting to me that the people who are supposed to protect and serve can shoot or choke or beat people without at least an investigation. Our soldiers have a higher threshold of standards for killing civilians in other countries in a time of war than our police do. Israeli soldiers have more restraint than our police do and more accountability. No matter what you believe none of us should be ok with this. But seriously, if you still don’t understand why racism is involved, please just email me so I can help you. You might be living in a color blind world, but the rest of us aren’t and if you are living in a color blind world or a world where no people of color have informed you about police brutality then you hang out with an extremely homogeneous group of friends. And for the love of god, stop arguing with black men over how they experience the world, you don’t know and they are trying to tell you.

On the other hand, I’ve also been annoyed with some of the “social justice” folks who have been posting stories about cops chocking college students and taking an early retirement as a result, who post it with the message that it should demonstrate that racism exists. Because the cop didn’t kill him when he choked him and the cop was given the option to retire. That’s still terrible, by any normal standard. It’s not somehow ok that the cop choked anyone just because you want to make a point. Because it’s not ok for our cops to act like this for any reason ever without accountability. If you want to prove racism is part of the motivation then you can just start quoting the statistics that show that for black men the number of police shootings is grossly disproportionate. That doesn’t mean that the half of the police fatalities that are white is any less important or real and it’s doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address that. It means that cops clearly exist in a world where black men are more likely to be policed and murdered without consequences. It’s not even necessarily the case that individual cops are systematically targeting black men, it can be largely influenced by the fact that racism results in a world where black people are disproportionately likely to be poor, because police tend to only police poor areas. The other people who were not black that were shot were living in poor areas that are heavily policed. And why are they policed? For three reasons: one is that we have a belief system that says that the poor are somehow deviant and therefore need to be watched, two is the war on drugs because even though nearly every rich person I know has done drugs they still seem to believe that they are somehow superior to the poor, and three is that poverty forces to you exist on the margins and people will do what they have to in order to feed their kids.

It’s not ok for the cops to do this to anyone and they do it because the people they really believe they are serving, like the folks in Atherton who don’t let BART go down to San Jose because they don’t want “that element” in their city or the folks in Palo Alto who criminalized homeless people forced to live in their cars, tell them to do it. When the master starts telling the overseers to treat the people they oversee like people, they will stop killing those people.

It’s not ok that the police keep doing this and I’m sick of sitting around and whining about it instead of talking about root causes and solutions. And I’m so sick of the infighting among marginalized groups; no one should ok with the police doing this to anyone for any reason. The problem is all of us and all of us are responsible.

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The Narrative We Hide: Being A Poor White Girl from the “Hood”

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Earlier this week, for about the millionth time someone called me racist in a conversation in which I said I was angry about police violence and racism in the schools because I watched everyone I loved and knew go through it. Then the articles started circulating about how white people can be an ally. “Speak to other white people and explain reality to them.” Well, when I tried that, they told me I wasn’t white but I do it anyway. In fact, a number of white people have called me “basically black” and several of my friends of color say that I’m technically “not white.” Stand up for it at the white social gatherings you attend!” Where are these happening? I’m genuinely asking because I was not invited and if I were I would film me spitting on the invitation. I have never lived anywhere that I was in the majority and I never will. “Don’t try to shift the conversation to class! Race comes first!” But racism is a function of class? It’s roots are in the organization of labor. “Don’t speak if you are white about racism,” I was told this week. “You don’t have first hand knowledge,” said someone who didn’t grow up watching her friends get arrested in the ghetto. The thing about being poor is that the police are going to police you because you live in a poor neighborhood. I’ve had several encounters with the police and so have the white boys from back home, if anything I’m bothered less because I’m female. Vincent and I make a concerted effort to be well dressed at all times so we can appease the authority figures. Teachers told me that people like me couldn’t go to college. Being white didn’t stop me from seeing violence, it didn’t keep my little sister from getting jumped for being white and it didn’t make starving and poor healthcare any easier. Because here’s the thing, I would never claim to know what it’s like to be black for my friends back home, that is a different experience but I’ve experienced more first hand oppression that we define racially than the rich black kids at Stanford. That’s not to say class Is more important than race, but simply that the story is more complicated on the margins than people realize. People of privilege think that their experience is the experience of everyone else. So when people at Stanford said no interracial marriage was happening, that was a fact in their community, but not mine. I want to be the good soldier but it’s hard when my existence contradicts the narrative and frankly, I think the narrative is dangerous.

The idea that only black people are poor is what allows black elites to claim a special status and then point to the black communities in the poor areas and condemn them. It’s what allows them to say stupid things like “the police are beating you because your parents either weren’t present or were working multiple jobs and didn’t read to you.” And the idea that there are no poor whites is what makes it easy for the Republican Party to pick up the Rust Belt by looking at desperately poor people and saying: “see, the Democrats don’t care about you. ” It is the lie that allows us to spend more time talking about words than they we do about solving poverty, as if changing the name will make the elites actually feed the poor. And it hides an important and beautiful fact that could unify us. What fact?

That I exist. That there is a little white girl marrying a Hispanic boy she grew up with in a wedding that will be a diverse as the community they came from. Because the working classes have always defied the laws of
separation and have lived in the way they choose and that in many places in this country they choose to live together. It is a unifying narrative that there is a little white girl whose family intermarried when it was illegal, whose family was sterilized during the Eugenics movement and whose family has always lived and loved inclusively no matter what we are told and policed into doing. That diversity, that love is what makes this country beautiful. It is a beautiful fact that my part Choctaw part-white brother was sworn in with other members of his community, that he fights for a son who was a product of love, that people like me and the people in my family have always loved, damn the consequences.

Isn’t that the most beautiful story to say in front of tanks? You can divide us, you can hurt us, you can hate us but you will never conquer us because we will be a community anyway.

Maybe the problem is that when I say that it angers me personally to see people of color mistreated by police that there are people telling me that it’s not possible, because I happen to be the the blue eyed member of my family. Just as part of problem is that conservatives look at my relationship and ask me if I should be getting interracially married (Vincent and I were surprised to learn from white people that our relationship was multicultural). And I am not alone, I’m just conveniently the only one of my kind they let speak. So I’m going use my voice to say this:

You can force us into poverty, you can make us sick, you can teach us to live in fear but no one is ever going to tell us who to love and that’s a tradition that is older than this country and you haven’t stopped it yet.

Because love is more powerful than any weapon they have and they know it. Otherwise they wouldn’t put it in the legal code to ban it and they wouldn’t fight so hard to maintain hate. I don’t speak out and promote love because I’m a an idealist who doesn’t see reality, I do it because it’s the most effective weapon and armor I have. I know because like the rest of my family, I’m battle hardened and weary but relentless. Love is unstoppable. And they know that and that is why they fear it and that is why I’m excluded from the narrative.

There were several comments on this piece where people indicated that they were distracted from my point because of some of the language. The original title included the phrase “basically black” which is a phrase I also find offensive and illustrative of the problem but it’s not a label I gave myself. My intention was to demonstrate that the relationship with race and class is more complicated than we allow it to be and that the complicated nature should be accepted to allow a better understanding of humanity and inclusivity. The intention was not to claim that I’ve suffered reverse racism-which I don’t believe is possible- or that my life was the same as black people because it’s not. And that’s the point, that we shouldn’t allow people to define poverty or race in this manner. Other people felt that I had no business saying who suffered more oppression, but the problem is that I do suffer more than rich people, just as poor black people suffer more than rich black people. If you are financially privileged then you are privileged. Other people said they appreciated the beauty of this piece and to those I say thank you. If after reading this piece you find it jarring, I would recommend reading some of my other pieces on race before getting too angry with me. If you grew up with privilege my experience is different from yours, that’s the point. That our understanding is more complex and that if we allow for complexity we can move forward.