What’s going on?

What’s going on? We had lockdown, we’ve got jailbreak.

But the prisoners aren’t running away; they’re marching, chanting, getting rearrested for the cause of justice. They’re risking infection, in fact, they’re embracing a new infection — people power. Their risk is not in trying to reopen an economy, but to rebirth social justice, racial justice, just economy. Any regime, even a corrupt one, can create a burgeoning economy; only a democracy can build social justice.

What’s going on? America has gagged on itself. Three more murders of innocent, unarmed Black people — Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Too much to swallow. The right response? A great paroxysm, a struggling, heaving, effort to expel the gnarled mass of our indigestible hobgoblin history. Not easy. Every organ of the body politic is complicit, bound into systems of wealth and labor exploitation, racial oppression, environmental desecration, militarism, freedom of giant corporations to engineer a society for their own benefit. Time to regurgitate, turn ourselves inside out.

What’s going on? It’s not the coronavirus lockdown that’s being challenged now. It’s 400 years of lockdown in hypocrisy. No matter who you are, what color you are, what ethnicity, winners or losers, we all have been trapped in the same history — unable to fully admit it, unable to break free of it. The exalted claims of this history habitually insult its own reality. For native people, black people, all people of color, all the marginalized — finally a reckoning.

I was a young activist in the 1960s, marching, protesting, committing civil disobedience in the struggle for civil rights and ending the Vietnam War. But I’ve never seen the sudden vibrancy nor persistent urgency of this moment. A perfect storm: Trump, appalling racist murders, 110,000 Covid-19 deaths and all the inequalities the pandemic exposes, failure to act on climate change, Mitch McConnell, a handful of billionaires having more wealth than the rest of the country combined, the stock market rising while millions suffer and lose their jobs, a government refusing to solve problems so it can play off the divisions they cause. So what’s going on? Where there’s a vacuum of wisdom, compassion, decency, justice, equality, care and honesty, the people flood in.

AFTER THE LOCKDOWN, THE JAILBREAK. By Robert Shetterly, The Smirking Chimp. June 11, 2020

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Like the author above, “I was a young activist in the 1960s, marching, protesting, committing civil disobedience in the struggle for civil rights and ending the Vietnam War. But I’ve never seen the sudden vibrancy nor persistent urgency of this moment.” And I am finding “for native people, black people, all people of color, all the marginalized — finally a reckoning.”

Yesterday I listened to a fascinating conversation with Dr. Damita Brown in the latest episode of SHIFT the Narrative. A recording of that should be available soon. Some notes from the discussion:

The reason this murder sparked such a large reaction is evidence of how tired we are. Not just outrage at this incident, but because these things have been going on for so long.  People can’t take it anymore. Won’t compromise.  Work to defund police.  Respect autonomy of communities to decide what justice looks like.

We’re in a transitional moment.  We won’t bow down. We’re not going to quit, give up on each other. We’re not focusing on specific outcomes.  Warriorship is about bravery to touch your own heart and what it means to share that.

Notes from Dr. Damita Brown

Respect autonomy of communities to decide what justice looks like” is exactly what my friend Diop Adisa wrote recently in his article in the Indianapolis Monthly.

Liberation is the ability to have decision-making power and have those decisions drive the community that we live in. It means being able to feel that our culture is not always on trial or simply accepted as a commodity or convicted when it’s convenient. It’s having the resources we need under communal control. Education. Health. Energy. Housing. Economics. Art. Food. In order to do that, we have to have different (and varied) institutions, but it’s one of the things not talked about when it comes to combating racism/white supremacy.

Institution-Building Critical To True Change. Real justice begins with real liberation by Diop Adisa, Indianapolis Monthly, June 4, 2020

White people have a choice. We can try to hold onto the current system that we benefit from in so many ways. That can not be sustained. This system has been broken for a long time. Actually has been broken since the arrival of White settlers. “It’s 400 years of lockdown in hypocrisy” as Robert Shetterly wrote above.

Or we White people can work to rid ourselves of our privilege, our White supremacy. It might be easier for some of us to do if we think of what we will gain, rather than what we might lose. We know the White worldview is fundamentally unjust. Participating in it kills our humanity. Just as White corporate capitalism is destroying Mother Earth.

Reparations. The making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.

Many of us think of reparations in terms of money. I think the reparations this moment we are in requires us to help those who have been wronged, liberate them. As Diop wrote “liberation is the ability to have decision-making power and have those decisions drive the community that we live in.

One way we are beginning to see this in the voluntary resignations of White people from positions of power, in order for a person of color to move into that position.

How do we as White people learn how to rid ourselves of White supremacy, and help people of color become liberated, which will also liberate us? The only way this can be done is to begin with person to person dialog. As Diop’s father, Imhotep wrote:

How can we create some processes and procedures to mitigate inequity in our social, legal and economic structures? How can we begin some conversations about creating a system that is equitable? What can each of us do in the present to advance equity in our society? And how do we continue to fight for equity during these difficult times?

First and foremost, all of us, every last one of us, must engage others in our work, home and play spaces to have honest, open and authentic conversations around the issue of inequity. Some of us, particularly those in positions of power, must have the courage and strength to look more deeply at the inequitable structures that exist within their own organizations and institutions.

Is equity possible in a world after COVID-19? By IMHOTEP ADISA, Indianapolis Recorder, May 15, 2020
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