When I think of my favorite television shows, most of them consist of over-dramatic, super-produced reality television. However, in the last few years I’ve been yearning for a show that isn’t over-the-top dramatic, something that I can relate to as a young Black person trying to figure this life shit out. ABC’s Abbott Elementary is what I’ve been waiting for. The series stars Quinta Brunson as Janine Teagues, a passionate, fairly new second-grade teacher who wants the best for her students, and is trying to figure out how she wants to approach her teaching career. Most of us know Brunson from her hilarious skits and her work with Buzzfeed (the iconic “he got money” meme), so of course, I was excited to watch Abbott Elementary. The show is the perfect example of representation done right and how you can have representation for Black people on TV without the exploitation of Black trauma.
I was drawn to Abbott Elementary because I love a good mockumentary. Shows like The Office, Parks and Rec, and Modern Family are my go-to comfort shows, however, I’ve never been able to really relate to any of them. Yes, there are Black characters on all three of those shows, but those characters are usually on the sidelines and aren’t given the proper screentime in order for us to get to know them. On top of that, the dialogue they were given was usually embedded in stereotypes, like Donna from Parks and Rec being the token “sassy Black woman”. Now, one could argue that representation in any capacity should be celebrated and that Black people are not monolithic; therefore, there isn’t any “correct” way to showcase Black people on TV. While there is truth to that, representation goes beyond just putting a Black person in a group of white people—doing that is just performative. It is also not just talent on screen that matters, but off-screen as well. When Black talent does not have anyone that looks like them behind the scenes, their characters and storylines aren’t given the love and attention that they deserve, and I notice one or two things that usually occur. One, either the Black character(s) are only surrounded by white people and are the butt of a lot of cringe race jokes (Stanley from The Office; Angela from Boy Meets World). Or two, the Black talent is forced to become the sounding board for white guilt and is presumed a “history teacher” to their white colleagues (Eboni K. Williams from The Real Housewives of New York City). That’s why watching Abbott Elementary is so refreshing. Not only do we have a predominantly Black cast, but there’s representation across the board, from the hair and makeup team to the production design.
In addition to the representation in front of and behind the camera, Abbott Elementary also does a good job of showcasing Black people on television simply existing. When I say existing, that does not mean that I expect to watch a show with a predominantly Black cast and not address some of the adversities that we as Black people endure; it’s simply not possible. But, I like the fact the show doesn’t feel heavy while still making me feel seen as a Black person. Sometimes, when I see a predominantly Black cast on television or in movies, there’s always a factor of Black trauma that is showcased, which can be incredibly triggering. Obviously, the struggles that we as Black people face solely because of our existence should be talked about, but I don’t want to always have to relive those experiences constantly, especially when I’m chasing some form of escapism. What I appreciate about Abbott Elementary is that it humanizes the Black experience. Brunson’s character, Janine, faces confidence issues, relationship issues, and attempts to connect with some of her co-workers, which at times doesn’t work out. These are things that I have faced before, as have many of my peers. To be able to relate to Brunson’s character has made me realize the importance and impact that representation on television can have, all while still feeling safe in my viewing experience.
Abbott Elementary has everything you could ask for in a sitcom: humor, bubbling romance, and a great chemistry between the cast. There aren’t any characters that feel unnecessary or make you feel uncomfortable, and everyone on the cast contributes to the show’s success. I love that I can relate to this show in a way that isn’t based on Black trauma, but rather, on my experience as a young Black person trying to figure my life out. My hope is that not only will the show continue to be successful, but that it creates an avenue for other Black creators to create original content.
Images: ABC/Gilles Mingasson
In June, after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement saw an influx of support. Many people attended protests, used their platforms to amplify Black voices, and opened their pockets to support Black people and Black-owned businesses. During the month of June, I remember having this enthusiastic feeling about change to come. When the movement for social equality began to gain momentum, it seemed as though everyone wanted to be involved. We had major corporations making initiatives within their companies to enact change. Sephora created the 15% pledge that promised to have at least 15% of their products sourced from Black-owned businesses. Netflix highlighted Black films and bought the rights to many Black sitcoms that were prominent in the 90s and early 2000s. Even Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from his position within the company in order to bring on a Black person to replace him. It seemed as though people were really listening to us and pushing for change.
When the protests began in early June, I wanted to find a way to use my voice so that people could understand what Black Lives Matter is and why it is incredibly important. Writing has always been my outlet, and I feel like words have power, so I started to write essays and poetry that reflected my feelings as a Black person in this world and posted them on my Instagram. Along with those essays, I created guides to help people understand how to contribute to Black Lives Matter in a genuine fashion. My reasoning for creating the guides in the first place was because of the constant performative activism I was seeing on social media. I witnessed so many black squares with #blackouttuesday on my feed and felt a sense of emptiness. It felt like people were taking part in a trend, instead of taking the initiative to support BLM and educate themselves. But instead of bitching about it and making myself more frustrated, I created guides. I kept telling myself that some people just needed education on Black Lives Matter and that once they received the necessary knowledge, they would do better. Surprisingly, because of the power of social media, my guides have been shared by thousands of people from all walks of life. I have received messages from people in the entertainment industry, several different publications, and even people that consider themselves “reformed” racists, all thanking me for my work and telling me that they wanted to do better and educate themselves. It felt good to know that people wanted to see change, and I felt proud to be a small part of the reason why change was happening.
However, with good feedback also came criticism—or, to be honest, I don’t even know if criticism is the right word. There are times that I receive hateful messages from folks with such derogatory and passive-aggressive rhetoric that I find myself in a state of shock reading them. I’ve had people aggressively put down my work, call me racist for calling out white privilege, or continuously harass me through my direct messages on a daily or weekly basis. When I tell people about this, especially non-Black people, they seem confused. In their eyes, the “activism” that was displayed in June was enough for discrimination toward Black people to be over. That’s the problem. Racism isn’t going to magically go away because you posted a black square on your Instagram, or you wrote a long personal essay reflecting on your privilege and how you “need to do better”. Acts of racism towards Black people have been happening for hundreds of years. Racism was not going to disappear into thin air by the end of June. Racism was not going to “take a break” so that you could celebrate the Fourth of July. Racism is very much alive and seems more aggressive than ever, partly due to the impending election.
I am very aware that writing this essay and publishing it to a platform that has a majority white audience can come with backlash. I know that many of you might personally feel as though pop culture and lifestyle platforms are becoming “too political”, and that you just want to be able to “enjoy” it and not make everything about race. That right there is an issue. Human rights are not political, whatsoever. Feeling enraged because your favorite celebrities are continuously using their platforms to amplify Black Lives Matter is racist. Getting upset because your favorite Bravolebrity was fired for racist behavior? Racist. When you find yourself tweeting things like “Why does everything have to be about race?”, or “Don’t pull the Black card.”, it’s racist. To those who consider themselves allies, stop confusing ignorance with racism as a way to make excuses for those whom you admire. To be ignorant, you would have to have a lack of knowledge as it pertains to the subject at hand. The subject here is Black lives, and a majority of you reading this are educated enough to know right from wrong—so we are not talking about ignorance, but racism. Start publicly condemning your racist colleagues. I don’t care how many followers the person has, what connections they might have that might help elevate you, or whether or not you believe them to be a good person. If you genuinely give a f*ck about your Black friends and family, you will do what is right. Your voice matters now more than ever. Here are some ways that you can continue to practice allyship and contribute for equality towards Black people.
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To be quite honest with you, I know that Instagram guides on injustice are seemingly becoming repetitive. However for the past few days, I’ve noticed not only a decrease in “online support” for the #blacklivesmatter movement but also a lot of Anti-Black rhetoric. Your support for this movement shouldn’t be leverage you hold against Black people when you see an injustice committed by a Black person. This movement is also not a damn meme and isn’t something that’s gonna just go away over night. I also believe that words have power. The more we educate the more we can eradicate racist behavior/policies. However, we also need action. Corporations and people with power, hire more Black people. School Districts, hire more Black teachers. Hospitals, hire more Black health care professionals. Don’t just say something, DO SOMETHING, and don’t wait for us to be around to show support. Keep that same energy everywhere. Shoutout to @heysharonc for creating the #pulluporshutup initiative. It opened my eyes to how much companies lack diversity across the board especially as it pertains to Black people. Now I need a mental health break after all of this 😭, thanks for the support everyone and please continue to show solidarity to the #blacklivesmatter movement 💛✨💪🏾
Open Your Purse
Besides supporting your local Black businesses, there are also other ways to open your purse and support Black people. With the results of the election coming out soon, there are sure to be protests coming from all sides. Usually, at these protests, Black people are more likely to be arrested and charged. If you can, try to donate to bail funds in your local area that could help bail out Black protesters in your area.
Vote in every election that you have. I don’t care if it’s for the HOA board in your building, your student council if you attend college or your local election in your town. Every election matters, not just the presidential election. If you have the privilege to vote, utilize it.
Read The Room
Performative activism is not cute and actually does more harm than good. If you show up to a protest just to contribute to looting or to show up to take selfies, you are taking part in performative activism, which is activism for the sole purpose of personal gain. Don’t show up if you are going to do this. Also, do not take part in protesting for BLM just so that you can excuse or justify your own racist/ignorant behavior down the line. Allyship does not exempt you from being called out as well.
Lastly, please have the necessary conversations with those around you. Call out discriminatory behavior when you see it. If you see something, say something in the moment. If you continuously see this behavior in individuals around you, cut them off. Some people aren’t meant to be changed and you willingly being around them says a lot about your character. One of the most consistent ways to practice allyship is to continually call out racism when you see it in your everyday life.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; jonathanchandler_ / Instagram
There can be no discussion of the year 2020 without the mention of the name George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who was brutally murdered at the hands of Derek Chauvin and three other police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota this past May. And while George Floyd did not ask to be martyred, his brutal and untimely death awakened the world, and was undoubtedly the inciting incident for what many are calling the civil rights movement of 2020. Although it’s tough to say definitively if the uprisings we’ve seen this year can be compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960s (as that movement tenaciously lasted for more than 10 years), it is fair to say that the Black Lives Matter movement is certainly moving in that direction. And if, in fact, we are headed down that historic route, it would absolutely be because of the bold, radical, unapologetic voices guiding us, leading us down the path to revolution.
It is no secret that black women and femmes have played a central role in the current Black Lives Matter movement—after all, it was a 17-year-old Black woman, Darnella Frazier, who bravely filmed George Floyd’s death, providing the world with the concrete video footage that made the misconduct surrounding his murder indisputable. But Black women and femmes have always had a unique perspective into structural injustice, probably because they have always been at the receiving end of most of it. Black women’s rights and interests routinely take a back seat to those of white women and cis black men. As such, you may have heard (whether directly from the source, Malcolm X, or indirectly from a pretty good source, Beyoncé) that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” And perhaps it is because of this regular disrespect that Black women and femmes have sought to reclaim agency and use their voices to speak.
Over the past few months, Black women and femmes from all industries have been using their social media platforms to mobilize and educate the masses, creating a revolution for the digital age. They are leading the anti-racism conversation by saying what many people don’t have the courage to say; pushing the boundary and not accepting performative or shallow attempts at change; ensuring that the revolution will be televised (via Instagram), and that it will be inclusive and intersectional. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of the Black women and femmes that I follow who regularly challenge me to learn and do better—I highly recommend you consider following them as well.
Sonya Renee Taylor, IG (@sonyareneetaylor)
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The viral video of Haley challenging her racist parents has gone viral for Folks inspired by her desire to stand up to her parents and advocate for Black people. However, Haley missed the mark and my hunch is most white folks do. STOP arguing with your white family about Black people. START talking about the sickness that is whiteness and how you and them have ingested it. White people talk about people of color so that they don’t have to deal with themselves and the culture and systems whiteness has created inside them. White people it is time to talk about WHITENESS and not about Black folks. #indefenseofblacklives #whitesupremacymustfall #whitestalkaboutwhiteness #healyourwhiteness #blacklivesmatter
If you are like me, you first encountered Sonya Renee Taylor back in June after a video of hers went viral. The video was in response to another viral video on Tik Tok, which featured a well-intentioned yet slightly misguided teen attempting to have “the anti-racism talk” with her family. While most of the internet was applauding Haley for having any semblance of a talk with her family at all, Sonya Renee Taylor’s response video challenged us all to think more critically about what exactly it was that Haley and her family were debating: “Haley was arguing with her parents about whether or not Black people were worthy of life. The fact that that is a conversation is the problem.” Taylor was able to shift the conversation from the localized issue of Black lives simply mattering (a conversation that really shouldn’t be a conversation at all) to the more comprehensive, structural issue: “the delusions of white supremacy.” And that, in a nutshell, is Sonya Renee Taylor’s enthrall—she has the wonderfully unique ability to shed light on matters that challenge and defy the obvious perspective. In addition to her keen insights concerning racism, blackness, and white supremacy, she also commits to spreading discourse surrounding gender, fatphobia, and radical self love. So if you are looking to learn, be challenged, and pick up some lessons on how to love yourself radically and without apology, you must dive into the work of Sonya Renee Taylor and follow her on Instagram.
Noname, Twitter (@noname)
if we believe black lives matter, we must also believe capitalism needs to be destroyed. as long as that system is in place and maintained by powerful elites, black people will die forever.
— 🌱 (@noname) July 26, 2020
Admittedly, it sort of feels weird telling you to follow Noname, because her whole thing is that we should divest from structural systems, celebrity culture being one of them. With that being said… you should follow Noname. Noname has been making music and uplifting POC interests and voices for years now, but she gained mainstream traction this past year. She’s been a dominant voice in the digital Black liberation conversation, regularly challenging her audience to read, learn, and think for themselves. What’s most compelling about Noname’s Twitter presence is she uses it as a means to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. You can find her calling out imperialism, the industrial prison complex, and the patriarchy; but, you can also find her calling herself out, owning past mistakes and gaps of knowledge she had before she learned better. As she poignantly points out, “growth is an embarrassing yet necessary part of the process.”
Perhaps Noname’s biggest digital moment occurred this past June, when rapper J. Cole thought it would be constructive to derail from the movement and drop a tremendously odd single, accusing Noname of using a “queen tone” and thinking “ better than” him and other rappers in her efforts to speak up against structural oppression on Twitter. Noname’s eloquent retort came in the form of a 1 minute and 10 second song, the thesis essentially being: “he really ’bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?” With concision and flair, Noname defended herself while effortlessly redirecting the conversation back to the serious issues at hand. Noname uses her Twitter presence in a similar way, calling out problematic mainstream pop culture while consistently shedding light on critical societal issues. So if you want to be a part of her “new vanguard,” follow Noname on Twitter and consider joining her book club.
Ericka Hart, IG (@ihartericka)
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“In our culture privacy is often confused with secrecy. Open, honest, truth-telling individuals value privacy. We all need spaces where we can be alone with thoughts and feelings – where we can experience healthy psychological autonomy and can choose to share when we want to. Keeping secrets is usually about power, about hiding and concealing information.” -bell hooks ⠀ I have been so weary with this new wave of positing that “call outs” are harmful. In my classrooms, I have always contested with this logic – when you make a suggestion that things shouldn’t be called out- who are you protecting? I don’t know about y’all, but I come from a world that loves a secret. bell hooks in All About Love talks about our desire to keep secrets can be linked to slavery- an institution built on a lie, human traffickers lied, enslaved people had to lie to stay safe, institutions lie about what really happened, white washed history lies. ⠀ It’s revolutionary for secrets to be told. To call a thing a thing, rather than bury it in activism or Broadway. I have been apart of many organizing spaces/non profits etc that claimed radical and love, but resisted transparency. These two things can’t exist at the same time. ⠀ We don’t have a call out culture, we have an abuse protection culture. And that is the essence of white supremacy. ⠀ Thank you @jewel_thegem and @thechubbygoddess for the realest most healing IG live I’ve ever watched. Please go follow them and PAY THEM.
I wish I could say that I’ve had the pleasure of following and engaging with Ericka Hart’s content long before this year, but alas, I, too, fell victim to bandwagon culture, and only discovered this dope account this past May. A self-proclaimed “racial/social/gender justice disruptor,” “sex educator,” and “breast cancer survivor,” Ericka Hart uses their social media platform to cover tons of ground on the journey to liberation and is, by far, one of the most engaging accounts I follow. Ericka Hart’s social media presence is unique in that their dialogue concerning social justice is dynamic—not only do they foster conversations that discuss plain truths about race and Blackness, but they also add unique depth to the discussion by examining matters of colorism and ableism. However, what specifically drew me to Ericka Hart’s account was their advocacy for the protection and uplifting of Black lives that exist beyond the scope of cis Black men. They were a dominant voice in May insisting that we not only demand justice for George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, but for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, Tony McDade, a Black trans man, and countless other Black women and trans folks that have been murdered at the hands of injustice. I, myself, am constantly challenged by Ericka Hart, as they constantly provide the reminder that the revolution cannot be complete or effective if it does not seek to liberate all Black lives. Ericka Hart’s Instagram presence is also a healthy one to follow because they also use it as a platform to celebrate Black joy and Black love—regularly posting content with their partner, Ebony. It’s a radical reminder that the Black story is not one of plight but one of joy and abundance. So do yourself a favor and follow Ericka Hart.
Ziwe, IG (@ziwef)
One of the most powerful adages that has come out of the last couple of months is “the revolution has many lanes.” And I think it’s safe to say that the lane of the revolution that’s “activism through humor” has been monopolized by writer and comedian, Ziwe Fumudoh. Hosting a weekly show on Instagram Live, Ziwe attracts crowds in the thousands as they eagerly watch as she talks with notable people—predominantly white people—about race in America and skillfully baits them into an incorrect, often cringeworthy answer. What’s most fascinating about Ziwe’s show is that her practice of “baiting” really isn’t baiting at all—she just asks questions and simply waits for answers. Without fail, and despite days of preparation and sometimes even tangible notecards, guests will always say the wrong thing—revealing that even the most well-prepared, well-intentioned white people have some kind of implicit bias that they need to reckon with. Previous guests have included infamous white women like Caroline Calloway, Alison Roman, and Alyssa Milano, but Ziwe has also interviewed people of other races, like Jeremy O. Harris, forcing him to discuss his use of Black women’s bodies on stage in his seminal work, Slave Play. At the end of every interview, Ziwe asks her guest what the audience has been wondering the whole time: why the hell did you agree to come on this show? And the guest’s answer is almost always the same: part of doing the work is being made to feel uncomfortable and humbling yourself in order to learn. And that’s the Ziwe influence—she’s created a public platform for those willing to be challenged and learn, while allowing her audience to heal through community and catharsis as they watch the process take place. If you’re not familiar with Ziwe, please join us in the year 2020 and give her a follow!
Rachel Cargle, IG (@rachel.cargle)
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A quick mid week sermon. • If your only goal is to “break the glass ceiling” consider who all those shards of glass will be falling on if you’re not bringing the most marginalized women with you. • Listen to me closely: if your feminism simply means “getting even” with white men it’s not ever going to be an intersectional, inclusive and justice based movement. • Drop a comment or emoji below and let me know you HEAR me. I need you to hear me. • #feminism #womanism #glassceiling #womensrights #womanhistory #womenshistorymonth #quarantine #dogsofinstagram #catsofinstagram #pnwonderland #howdarling #teachersofinstagram #boymom #taylorswift
If there is any account that I am 90% certain you’ve encountered over the past few months, it’s Rachel Cargle’s—and it should be Rachel Cargle’s, as she uses her platform predominantly as a means for education and activism. Upon scrolling through her IG feed, one of the first things of note is that her academic and mobilization efforts far precede this year’s events. Cargle has been guiding the conversation on race and womanhood in support of the revolution for years, even though many of us have only come around recently to receive her words. She regularly promotes the work of “unlearning” through learning, and curates monthly reading lists and lectures via her online platform The Great Unlearn (a patreon you should subscribe to!).
But what sets Rachel Cargle apart from other activists is that a central part of her work is providing tools and resources for her audience to ensure that learning doesn’t stop at required reading, but is further translated into action. For example, when much of the world was posting open letters to their schools, universities, and workplaces to expose them for unjust practices and racist ideals, Rachel Cargle took to her Instagram account to take it one step further: providing her audience with a template for how they, too, can hold the institutions in their lives accountable for structural injustice. In addition to these accountability templates, she also curated a 30-day Do the Work challenge and posted tangible ways to decolonize your bookshelf, continuing the idea that activism must be combined with action in order to really effect change and mobilize a revolution. So if you’re looking to become a student in the masterclass on effective activism, follow Rachel Cargle on Instagram.
A prevailing question on the minds and lips of many this past year has been: “How long will this movement last?” “Is this movement just a moment?” But it’s been three months since the murder of George Floyd, and the movement is still prospering. While the momentum has, naturally, oscillated, its heartbeat is still strong. Why? Because we have leaders: Black women and femmes, the new generation of activists—our new vanguard—who have committed themselves to the endurance of this movement. While it may be easy at times to be defeatist and feel overcome and overwhelmed by how far we have to go, optimism lies in the comfort that we are being led in this revolution by some of the brightest, most talented minds out there. And we can access all of them through the proximity of our smartphones. We simply have no choice but to stan these women and femmes (and send them some coin to pay them for their labor).
Images: Angelo Moleele / Unsplash; sonyareneetaylor, ihartericka, ziwef, Rachel.cargle / Instagram; Noname / Twitter
This weekend would have been the NYC Pride Parade. I had been making plans for this year since last year’s parade. I had my outfit picked out, my Instagram caption ready, and my game plan set. I was selfishly crushed when the Pride parade was canceled because of coronavirus, but I knew that it was for the best. I’ve been using my time sheltering in place to consume a gluttonous amount of social media, which would have been a complete waste of time a few months ago, but thanks to the people I follow, I’ve been able to educate myself on my own privileges and start recognizing systemic issues, as well as innate biases that I need to undo. However, with all of the civil unrest during a month where I initially thought I’d be celebrating, I felt uncomfortable. How was I supposed to balance being supportive of the serious and significant Black Lives Matter movement while still honoring the tradition of Pride? Then, I saw this protest sign posted to the story of my friend Dom Overman that answered all of my questions, and changed my perspective on this year’s Pride.
If we go back to the original reason we celebrate Pride, it is to honor the Stonewall Riots, which were protests against police brutality toward the LGBTQ+ community. On June 28, 1969, police raided The Stonewall Inn, a now world-renowned bar in Greenwich Village in NYC, with the full intention of arresting and beating the sh*t out of everyone in the bar for being gay. But after decades of mistreatment, on this particular night, the patrons, led by trans women of color Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, fought back. In the following days, more and more people came to fight against this mistreatment. About 500 people took part in the protest on the first night, and by the second night, there were over 1,000. The official Stonewall Riots lasted until July 3rd, but that was just the beginning. Stonewall galvanized the burgeoning gay rights movement, and LGBTQ+ rights groups started popping up all over the country, as queer people and their allies banded together to fight the systemic injustices toward queer people.
A year later, a parade was held to honor the Stonewall Riots, which began a tradition that has lasted ever since. While the fight for equal rights continues to this day, the parade is a chance to celebrate this beautiful community: for 50 years, queer people have looked forward to wearing glitter, attending the parade, and being surrounded by people who truly understand each other. This year, the cancelation of the parade has allowed us to shift our focus to the protests supporting Black Lives Matter, a movement fighting systemic racism and police brutality. Sound familiar? It’s time to step up and support a group of marginalized people during this crucial period of developing change in social justice.
It is incredibly important to remember that the Stonewall Riots were led by Black trans women, who are among the most vulnerable groups in our society. The average lifespan of a Black trans woman is 35. I am neither Black nor trans, but I have benefited personally from the actions of Black trans women. They are the reason I get to hold hands with my girlfriend in public, and they are the reason I can be as authentic to myself as I am without fear (relatively speaking, depending on what part of the country I’m in).
But despite the bravery of Black trans women in fighting for the LGBTQ community as a whole, this group is still the most vulnerable. Trans women face violent hate crimes, sexual assault, risk of HIV, and homelessness at a higher rate. This year, at least 16 transgender or gender noncomforming people have been murdered, including Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells and Riah Milton, whose deaths emphasized just how at-risk Black trans women are. In the middle of Pride month, on the anniversary of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Trump administration stripped the trans community of their protections against discrimination in healthcare based on gender identity. This is an intentional and informed attack on the trans community. Instead of having a parade to honor how far we’ve come, this year we can pay Black trans women back literally and metaphorically for being the reason we made it here. We can show up for protests (wearing a mask!!), donate to charities or personal GoFundMes, and pressure our lawmakers to either uphold the (somehow controversial) concept of human rights, or risk getting their asses voted out of office.
With all of this free space, we have the opportunity to not only lend our voices to important causes, but also to find new ways to celebrate our queerness. We can take this time to deep dive into queer history and the reason for the rainbow season. We can take notes from The Dyke March, an annual NYC protest that is turning its attention to signal-boosting the Black Lives Matter movement. We can have small get-togethers with our queer crew. We can attend virtual queer events featuring DJs that we were looking forward to seeing at the afterparties, or highlighting queer artists speaking about the current revolution, and how we can continue fighting. We can clean the slate and recreate Pride to honor ourselves and those who fought for it to happen.
The Pride Parade is truly a powerful event where you can surround yourself with love and security that you can’t find anywhere else. But there are much more serious matters at hand than having a parade. There is still a global pandemic, despite what some media sources are telling us, and there is a civil rights movement which has worldwide momentum that needs to be continued. The LGBTQ+ community knows firsthand how important it is to have allies standing strong alongside us, and now, we can be those allies. Centering Pride back on its original intention of human rights and social change will allow us to spread that love and security far beyond just a parade.
Images: Luigi Morris / Shutterstock.com; Instagram
Protestors across the country have taken to the streets over the past two weeks to demand an end to police brutality. But exactly how do we do that? In an ideal world, police would simply stop brutalizing people, but as you may have seen from the countless videos of cops beating on citizens protesting that exact brutality, we are for sure not living in a world anywhere close to Utopia.
One proposed resolution that has entered the mainstream conversation is defunding the police. For many (read: white people) this is a new, and even confusing concept. You might be asking yourself what defunding the police would entail, and how it could work in a society that has yet to eradicate violence and crime. The idea of taking resources from the people whose job is supposed to be “to protect and serve” might make you question who would be there for you when you needed those services. These are valid questions and concerns, and they have answers.
Hi. When republicans want to defund things like food stamps they just call it tax cuts.
Happy to help.
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) June 9, 2020
Why Should America Spend Less On Policing?
In America, the government collectively spends about $100 billion on policing. On top of that, the United States spends about $80 billion on incarceration. That’s a *shit ton* of money being funneled into criminalizing and locking up our citizens. And there is a major racial disparity at play here. Black men make up about 13 percent of the male population, but about 35 percent of those incarcerated. Similarly, while Black women make up about 13 percent of the female population, 44 percent of incarcerated women are Black.
All of this is no coincidence. The entire concept of incarceration and policing was born out of racism and slavery in America. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, unless convicted of a crime. This made it so white slaveowners who were pissed they were losing slaves could still get that free labor by arresting and incarcerating Black people. Black people were targeted for petty crimes like“walking without a purpose” or “walking at night,” or homelessness.
Police have not just disproportionately targeted, arrested, and incarcerated Black people. They also murder them at considerably higher rates than white people. A Black person in America is 2.5 times more likely to be murdered than a white person. The demonstrations across the nation and world have brought necessary attention to the unjust murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the police. But these two horrific killings were not isolated. The list of Black people in America that have died at the hands of police brutality is disturbingly long., , , , , Tony McDade, and many others make up a list that continues to grow without police accountability.
Given ample evidence that Black people’s encounters with police could be more likely to harm than protect them, an entire, marginalized group of our society left feeling unable to contact the police for their safety. That a collective $100 billion spent to “keep Americans safe” that excludes a huge portion of America. How is that fair and just? Spoiler alert, it’s not.
If we want to practice what we preach when we say that Black Lives Matter, then we have to fight for a society that spends its resources on protecting Black lives, and stands up when Black lives are being taken. Continuing to fund the police and giving them the means to take Black lives away from themselves and their families — whether it be by incarcerating them or killing them — then we are, with our action and our inaction, saying that Black lives don’t matter.
So, if we want to protect Black lives, we must, say it with me now: defund the police.
Defund Planned Parenthood: "We can't let the government subsidize murder!"
Defund police: Well hey now…
— The Betches Sup (@Betches_Sup) June 8, 2020
What Does “Defunding” Mean In Practice?
Defunding the police means diverting funds meant for police departments and reallocating them to social services that invest in communities subject to over-policing. What if 9-1-1 wasn’t the only number you could call when you needed help? What if professionals who were better trained to deal with moments of crisis and could help with de-escalation through nonviolent methods? What if asking for help didn’t have to mean dealing with the possibility of legal penalty? Sounds nice, imo.
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#linkinbio to the #googledoc featured here. The author’s intro is the very last slide. The author says not to worry about credit of the images, instead for us to focus on imagining living in this world together. I want to live in that world with y’all! Let’s prioritize reparations & black futures. Let’s embrace decolonizing so-called law enforcement and dismantling not only police, but also the prison-industrial complex that has wreaked havoc for far too long. #nooneisdisposable #buildbelovedcommunity #reparationsnow #allseedsusedtobefree this shit has gone too far.
For example, what if when someone needed to report an overdose, they were able to contact healthcare professionals who are trained to deal with substance use and overdoses could come to the scene and assist them without getting the law involved? Then, this person could get the care they need without the fear of being criminalized or even brutalized by police who see them as lawbreakers who deserve punishment. The failed war on drugs has shown us that criminalizing drug use has only exacerbated the problem, so really, leaving the police out of these types of situations would be beneficial.
This applies to various situations in which the police are called in to “help.” Traffic stops, people experiencing homelessness in need of assistance and/or housing, mental health crisis, and domestic issues to name a few.
Instead of giving so much money to police departments and entrusting them to better our communities with it, we could distribute funds to service workers who specialize in the different areas of social and safety services that could make more informed, less combative and violent decisions when working to de-escalate and resolves issues.
Cutting the budgets of police departments wouldn’t just mean being able to fund social and safety services. It would also mean being able to funnel more money into education, healthcare, and public programs at large.
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How do you want *your* money to be spent? a) spend it on police officers that continually abuse their positions and threaten public safety or b) spend it on welfare programs that have been systematically reduced I chose buses here because the amounts were so close but, you know, pick your thing! Want free school meals for every elementary school kid in New York? Cool, that only costs $39 million so you’ve got lots left over. Care about homelessness? Great, you could house 3,281 people for an entire year for this amount. You get the idea. As for the second image, at the protest last night, we chanted 𝘞𝘩𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘪𝘯 𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘦𝘢𝘳? 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘯𝘰 𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦. The UK sells riot guns, teargas and riot shields to the US so we’re also deeply complicit in the violence that these officers inflict. Image 1 sources: New York City Comptroller, Annual Claims Report Fiscal Year 2018 + New York City Comptroller, Financial Outlook for the MTA, 2018 Image 2 sources: The Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals, April 2020 (this was a report about how prices have risen exponentially due to COVID-19 – these are the prices *after* those rises). Police equipment prices were hard to find. I found a public document where companies bid to provide riot gear for Columbus, Georgia police force in 2017 and used the averages of those bids except for the gloves where I averaged 3 online product listings. Will provide links in stories to all of this. I don't normally use hashtags but I want these images to end up in front of some police officers themselves so excuse me while I fuck with the algorithm a bit. #backtheblue #policelife #kag #kag2020 #lawenforcementfamily #policedepartment #blacklivesmatter #defundthepolice
“Police Reform” vs “Defunding the Police”
Police reform is a term that is thrown around when talking about how to address police brutality, and to be clear, that is different than defunding the police. This usually refers to the idea that we need to create more training programs that teach police how to de-escalate situations, provide them sensitivity and diversity workshops, and the like. This basically means giving police departments more money to teach them how to not be *checks notes* so violently racist that it results in the death of Black people? Honey, if they need extra training for that, I’m afraid it’s a bit of a lost cause at that point.
Reform also means creating more laws that would hypothetically stop cops from abusing their power, like banning the chokehold or making it illegal to shoot at a moving car. Sure, these things should be banned, but should we really be putting on energy into this kind of resolution when a huge part of this conversation is about how police aren’t held accountable? Last I checked, murder was banned too, but that hasn’t stopped them.
“iF we aBoLiSh thE poLiCe how wiLl wE sOlvE mUrDers?” White women with podcasts, Steven.
— Camilla Blackett (@camillard) June 8, 2020
Critics of police reform also point out that the Minneapolis Police Department — which the city has deemed so broken it cannot be fixed — had actually implemented numerous reforms meant to keep community members safe. George Floyd still died.
Now, maybe you or someone you know is upset by the idea of defunding the police because you/they think it’s disrespectful and wrong to take away the money they use to keep their department operating. (And because, yes, the end goal is to abolish the police.) Maybe you know a cop who you feel is a good person. You might have had good experience with cops and/or witnessed one/some do their jobs well. You might even be a cop and consider yourself to be a good one.
I believe that one, some, or all of these things can be true. But at the end of the day, cops have decided to be part of an oppressive system that historically and continuously targets, incarcerates, and murders Black people. People like to dismiss the idea that “cops are bad” by saying, “there are just a few bad apples.” I was reminded of the true meaning behind the “few bad apples” saying and how it actually contradicts this pro-cop line of thinking from a tweet my friend, comedian and writer Julia Claire:
Ah yes who among us could forget the famous adage "A few bad apples…" that has no additional words after it
— Julia Claire (@ohJuliatweets) June 2, 2020
The idiom tells us “a few bad apples spoils the bunch.” Claire points out that people defending “good cops” by co-opting the first half of the bad apples adage are completely ignoring the part where the barrel of apples is ruined from the rot that takes hold of the bunch.
Metaphors aren’t perfect, and man-built systems of oppression don’t operate in the same exact fashion as apples, but it’s worth noting that singular good qualities can’t save the ultimate ruin of the collective group, as the saying warns us.
The individual “good cops” you may know aren’t changing a system rooted in racism with their isolated acts of niceness. Some cops having moments of humanity doesn’t change the fact that in the grand scheme of things, police officers are killing Black people and not being held accountable for it because cops look out for their own. Don’t urge people to forgive the rot that has overtaken the barrel. It’s gross.
Being able to believe that the police will keep you safe is a white privilege. It’s time to stop basing our systems on the perspective and comfort white privilege provides. Defund the police.
If you would like to email your officials and asking them to defund the police, here is a link to help you do that.
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Images: Instagram: @Complex, Instagram: @queerappalachia, Instagram: @theunapologeticallybrownseries, Twitter: @ohJuliaTweets