This Revolution Is Being Televised
We live in a revolutionary moment. Whether the revolution results in a changed power arrangement remains to be seen. For me, and I think for The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, after 40 years of criss-crossing the country organizing "Undoing Racism" workshops, we have become overnight successes (to steal a phrase from vaudeville, I think).
The Institute, as it's called by its adherents, has survived those who've claimed its intellectual property. It has remained steadfast in the face of those who urged us to change from "Undoing Racism" to something more acceptable to mainstream white dominant culture. Amid the usual splits and divisions that plague so many groups such as ours, here we are.
We are as close as we have ever been to dismantling the structures of white supremacy after helping to build the movement that is making that happen. We are not the movement. We have never claimed to be. We stand on the shoulders of millions who have come before: Those anonymous African warriors who died at sea and those who were hung in a thousand trees, yet whose cultures have survived every attempt at co-optation and mimicking. We are those who are the indigenous of the Americas. Even the world. We are race traitors and survivors of the Holocaust, the MAAFA, ethnic cleansing, and the atomic bombs. We are The People's Institute.
Some of us are, as we grow older, handing off the baton to a new generation of organizers. We are still doing our part, but accepting new leadership, some of whom have never heard of the People's Institute. That's the way it should be. That's the way it has always been.
Now in this revolutionary moment, we witness and support demands such as "Defund the police" and "Black Lives Matter." To many of us, the very idea of defunding the police would have been seen as heretical - even unconstitutional just a month or six weeks ago. Yet antiracist historians teach us that the police are not in the Constitution or in the Bill of Rights. They teach us that a Social Contract agreed upon between the government and its white citizenry was never intended to include everyone. Dr. Y.N. Kly and other scholars demonstrate that the Social Contract is a sole source agreement that included only "free white people" from the beginning. Police Departments originated as "slave patrols" to protect these "legitimate" citizens. Some few of us know these origins. Most of us do not.
Yet there are models in this country for public protection and safety zones where police ensure those who live in them do so without fear of the State or indiscriminate violence from law enforcement officials. They are called upper middle class white neighborhoods. Or middle class white neighborhoods for that matter. I have lived in working class white communities where we are more likely to be the police than to be afraid of them. The very idea of being chased down the street by an officer and shot or arrested by an armed citizen patrol in a pickup truck is fanciful. Maybe it has happened, but on a scale of one to a hundred this would barely move the needle. Not today.
I have lived all over this country, most often in middle class neighborhoods where most people look like me. In these neighborhoods, police patrol. They circle. A gun is rarely pulled against one of its inhabitants. In these neighborhoods, police come when I call them. I hold them accountable if I am disrespected or ignored. I can even get in their face when I am frustrated without thinking an officer will pull his or her gun. Again, I can demand their attention. There is no likelihood that police are going to bust through my door and shoot me eight times. And don't mess with my own children. I better be called first if they mess up. I will do the punishment, rest assured.
Now, I know bad things happen in my community, but for the most part these things, as horrific as they may be, are internal to our own dysfunctions, even our own criminality. What we don't tolerate are threats from the outside. Ahmaud Arbery was perceived as a threat when he jogged in such a community. Now he's dead. Residents felt they had the right to protect their neighborhood against "invaders." That's the Social Contract. That's the promise. Not for everybody. But certainly for people like me. The question is now: Is it changing? Will it change. Keep the pressure on.
This is all happening amid the Covid 19 crisis, right? We can't wait until everything returns to normal. Let's not forget that the George Floyd murder occurred during a routine (meaning normal) police stop. While his partners watched and a crowd gathered. But this time the crowd had cell phones with cameras.