On the Day of Mehserle’s Sentencing: A Feminist Vow

This was originally posted at Kloncke and reposted here with permission.

***

[Today, former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was sentenced to 2 years in prison, with 146 days already served, for the involuntary manslaughter of Oscar Grant. The Grant case marked the first time in California’s history that a peace officer was tried for murder.]

Whereas
We as women, transgender people, two-spirit people, queers, gender-oppressed people, and allies of the Bay Area mourn the loss of Oscar Grant;
Whereas we recognize that this young man was just one of countless victims of police violence;
Whereas we understand and experience police repression, particularly in poor, queer, and working-class communities of color;
Whereas we know that police violence both enables and enacts rape, brutalization, and degradation;
Whereas police violence compounds the dangers we face in domestic violence, sex trafficking, and homophobic and transphobic hate crimes;
Whereas police enforce the criminalization of our disabilities, addictions, and mental illnesses;
Whereas police enforce the criminalization of our skin color, sexualities, style of dress and speech, gender identities, religious practices, and nations of origin;
Whereas police violently enforce our subservience to an economy that enriches elites, while slaughtering, starving, sickening, and stealing from us as workers, child-rearers, and culture creators;
Whereas the rich and influential deploy police to violently crush our efforts toward self-determination, from queer social spaces to workplace strikes;
Whereas the rich and influential deploy police to kill or capture our leaders and heroes, like the recently deceased political prisoner Marilyn Buck;
Whereas police are employed to do as they are ordered;
Whereas police violence comes 10% from individual bigotry and improper training, and 90% from a capitalist state system designed to protect property, not people;
Whereas such a property-focused police system, controlled by the rich and influential, enacts and supports gender-based and sexual violence;
And Whereas such a system can never be adequately reformed, based as it is in the fundamental inequality borne of a patriarchal capitalist system:
We maintain compassion for individual police officers who both experience and inflict suffering; who face and enforce mortal danger.
We vow, in the effort to end sexist violence throughout the world, to eradicate the police system of the United States as we know it; and to transcend the misogynist capitalist system that demands this type of policing.
We undertake this mission with no hatred in our hearts toward individual police officers or those who support the police system.
We accept this responsibility out of love for all people, and the unquenchable desire for universal freedom and equality.
In the service of this calling, we will sing, strike, fuck, fight, rest, write, rebel, and rebuild until we achieve liberation for all beings.


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67 comments for “On the Day of Mehserle’s Sentencing: A Feminist Vow

  1. Xenu01
    November 5, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Co-signed. And heartsick.

  2. JustDucky
    November 5, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    I’m glad he got time, but it’s not enough. Still waiting up here in Portland – the cops who murdered Aaron Campbell, and who beat James Chasse until dead, are still wandering the streets in uniform.

    Portland grieves with you.

  3. November 6, 2010 at 1:36 am

    I don’t understand the use of “peace officers” in the brackets. Does anyone know why the original blog is using that? Is it a typo?

  4. GallingGalla
    November 6, 2010 at 8:43 am

    *Two years* for shooting an unarmed man, subdued and laying face-down on the platform to death? This is justice?

    From Philadelphia, where Nizah Morris, a poor black trans woman, was found dead shortly after being given a so-called “courtesy ride” by police, who have erased critical parts of audio police-radio recordings of that time period, thus stymieing both criminal and civil investigations.

  5. Kyra
    November 6, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Involuntary manslaughter? Involuntary manslaughter?

    How the FUCK does anyone construe that as “involuntary?”

    Did he have a muscle spasm in his trigger finger or something?

  6. November 6, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Kyra, it was involuntary if you believe his repeated claim that he thought he was grabbing his taser. I can see how he might have gone into autopilot and done that, and if you see the video from a cell phone that someone had, he looked absolutely horrified after he’d realized what happened. I kinda sorta believe him that it wasn’t his intention to kill him

    But that said, he killed an innocent man, and 2 years is absolutely not justice for his death.

  7. Kristen J.
    November 6, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    April: Kyra, it was involuntary if you believe his repeated claim that he thought he was grabbing his taser. I can see how he might have gone into autopilot and done that, and if you see the video from a cell phone that someone had, he looked absolutely horrified after he’d realized what happened.

    And precisely why was he pulling and firing his taser?

  8. William
    November 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Kyra, it was involuntary if you believe his repeated claim that he thought he was grabbing his taser.

    April, that argument reeked of bullshit from beginning to end. First, a tazer doesn’t feel like any pistol I’ve ever shot. The distribution of weight, the shape of the grip, the feel and resistance of the trigger, they’re all distinctly different specifically to prevent this kind of shit. Second, tazers have bright yellow strips and pistols do not, if Mesherle has been looking at his target it would have been all but impossible not to notice he was holding the wrong weapon. Third, the tazer is supposed to be on the other side of your belt, again, specifically to prevent this kind of a mistake. Fourth, if you had watched the video Mehserle had no discernible reason for tazering Grant. At best, Mehserle’s argument boils down to “I only meant to torture him, not to kill him!” and even then you have to believe that someone intending to torture someone in public somehow made a series of mistakes that lead to murder rather than, you know, meant to murder.

    Finally, say someone breaks into your home. You subdue them, handcuff them, then shoot them in the back of the head. What do you think the chances are of convincing a judge to even give the jury the chance to consider manslaughter?

    You’re right, two years isn’t enough. I just hope, and hate myself for feeling it, that someone makes a mistake and puts Mehserle in general long enough for him to find his way to something sharp.

  9. November 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    hey y’all, thanks for the comments and solidarity. i just got out of jail from a mass arrest, along with about 200 others, charged with “unlawful assembly” in our protest of the verdict. gonna be recuperating for the rest of the day, but i’ll be back to post a link if anyone wishes to donate for the legal defense of those (mostly young, black/brown, and poor) who will face harsher penalties for standing up against police brutality.

    wishing everyone well,

    katie

  10. drakyn
    November 6, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    The time for patience and restraint is over,” police Chief Anthony Batts said.

    Go sit on a cactus; unlawful assembly my ass you shitstain.

  11. PrettyAmiable
    November 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    What the hell is unlawful assembly? Don’t we have a right to peacefully protest?

  12. Kristen J.
    November 7, 2010 at 1:05 am

    PrettyAmiable: What the hell is unlawful assembly? Don’t we have a right to peacefully protest?

    Probably no permit.

  13. haley
    November 7, 2010 at 2:24 am

    I appreciated everything about this except “We maintain compassion for individual police officers who both experience and inflict suffering; who face and enforce mortal danger.”

    That is not true for me. And I think if we are serious about addressing the police existence: abuse, violence, power, authority etc. then saying we are compassionate towards that class of people will only keep us impotent in regards to building a better system of justice and living.

  14. David
    November 7, 2010 at 3:48 am

    I don’t know about you, but I always thought its important to maintain compassion for even the people that we think deserve it the least. Compassion doesn’t mean compromise, compassion is a way of delivering a message so that it is more likely to be received and understood by other human beings.

    That said, does anyone know what the racial makeup of the jury was?

  15. Random Process
    November 7, 2010 at 8:24 am
  16. Random Process
    November 7, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Comment went into moderation, presumably because I included a link. The jury was mostly white, mostly female. A few Hispanics.

  17. bfp
    November 7, 2010 at 8:36 am

    @haley–except that the police are members of the working class too–they may be enforcers–but they are working class too–and if we refuse an us/them dichotomy of organizing–them becomes us in many cases, making a stronger, bigger more powerful base of power to operate from and demand changes from.

    @katie–my heart is with you right now. xoxo

  18. PrettyAmiable
    November 7, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Well that’s irritating. You have to pay to protest shitty government?

    I’m sorry kloncke.

  19. Karen
    November 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I can’t agree with any of this. How will you enforce laws and punish violent criminals without a police force and jails? Make ’em write 100 times “I’m really sorry I killed that 7-11 clerk?” I understand that the police aren’t saints, but their job really is necessary. If you really want to address this problem, please avoid stuff like blaming police shootings on private property or suggesting that we can “fuck” our way out of a problem. This statement reads like a Fox News parody of progressive concerns and won’t get a single signature of anyone to the right of the Green Party. You’re defeating yourselves and making a serious issue look stupid.

  20. William
    November 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I don’t know about you, but I always thought its important to maintain compassion for even the people that we think deserve it the least. Compassion doesn’t mean compromise, compassion is a way of delivering a message so that it is more likely to be received and understood by other human beings.

    Compassion is a sense of being deeply moved by the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it. Its empathy with an impetus to act. I have compassion for the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people humiliated, violated, abused, incarcerated, and sometimes murdered by police every year in this country. I do not have compassion for police because I fail to see how they suffer. I fail to see why I ought to have compassion for someone who chose, amongst a great deal of other options, to accept money in exchange for the casual oppression of others. I’m not a christian, I’m under no obligation to love my enemies.

    At their absolute best, police are people who have come to morally accept being paid to enforce laws which are often unjust in exchange for money, even if it means sending a child off to prison where they will likely be raped for having the audacity to make a couple of dollars by selling a substance to a willing buyer. Lets repeat that. Police, at their best, spend a great deal of their time putting people at the risk of being raped for helping other people enjoy themselves. Thats assuming you’re talking about a cop who isn’t corrupt, who doesn’t engage in reflexive defense of their fellow officers, who doesn’t abuse their authority or accept “professional courtesy.” They are an absolute minority and they are still unacceptable. This isn’t a problem that can be helped by education or compassion, it is a moral and human failing.

    Fuck compassion, I hope Oakland riots and I hope people like Bratts find themselves dragged from their homes by an angry mob. I know thats unlikely, I know its ugly, and it makes me sick to hate someone so much, but its honest.

  21. November 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    William and Kristen J.-

    No doubt, the fact that he may have intended to use his Taser is also suspect. Grant wasn’t resisting. The entire thing is absolutely disgusting and makes me feel sick. Watching the video online was literally painful.

    My belief that he didn’t intend to shoot or kill Grant stems from my tendency to either believe that no one really intends to do terrible shit (although that’s a stretch), and that haunting look of horror on Mehserle’s face after he’d realized what he did.

    Still, why he would have even thought Tasing was necessary is an excellent question that I hadn’t really considered. It appeared completely unnecessary from the video.

  22. haley
    November 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    @william: i agree with u, thanks for actually writing down what i was lazily alluding too.

    @bfp:”except that the police are members of the working class too”.

    That is something my partner and I have been discussing for awhile. Are cops working class? An argument could be made that cops are a part of the professional/coordinating class.

    But assuming either way. cops will not be on the side of the people, they will be in riot gear and tanks.

  23. bfp
    November 7, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    William: Fuck compassion, I hope Oakland riots and I hope people like Bratts find themselves dragged from their homes by an angry mob. I know thats unlikely, I know its ugly, and it makes me sick to hate someone so much, but its honest.

    When has rioting ever been sustainable? When has it ever made any meaningful change or brought meaningful relief to any poor community? I just want to take a moment and really reflect on the sexism of this anger–Katie’s answer is ideological–but it *also* makes organizational and community-wide sense. Who is traditionally disempowered during times of violence except women and children and people who don’t fit neatly into tidy boxes (racial, gender, citizenship, etc)? why would a community that is subject to such tremendous police violence, intimidation and harassment as *proven by the recent decision*–want to bring more of that violence on themselves?

    People were advocating for Detroit to riot too, when there was a spat of police murders of children and unarmed people recently–what would rioting do to help an economically devistated community like Detroit? Do we really get to assume that rioters are honorable and wouldn’t use the opportunity to hurt women who happen to get in the way? Are we to assume that the police and riot forces would be honorable and not hurt women trying to get out of the way?

    It may feel good to be all “fuck compassion let’s riot” but its not sustainable, it makes no interventions into the status quo, in most general reigns supreme levels of violence down on communities, and it most general hurts women. what is good about that?

  24. bfp
    November 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    I mean–why are the answers of women so easily dismissed?

  25. haley
    November 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    @bfp in comment 22
    People riot for different reasons; it could be something as silly as a football team winning or as serious as having your civil liberties threatened. My only point is that your painting with too broad of a brush. I think its important to look at A.) who is rioting B) why.

    Women, blacks, children, queer, etc. can and do riot…its not just cis white males.

    When legislation doesn’t work, when protests are subdued and stopped by the police what happens?…..well….riots. It can be a tool of empowerment, especially for marginalized people who have the decks stacked against them in other ways (law).

    What have riots ever accomplished? Well, alongside strong community support, solidarity and organizing, riots can be a means to take back the streets, to resist physical oppression (cops arresting peaceful protesters), to stop immediate abuse. etc.

    In the early 20th century, when workers tried to unionize, they were often violently confronted by scabs and police in the streets. What may have started as peaceful strikes or protests would turn into a riot after workers were shot or arrested. These riots including working class women and children. Because of the struggles of people both in the union hall and on the streets, we now have an 8hour work day, anti-child labor laws, employee rights….etcs.

    How about the riots during the 1960’s? The ones that were made in resistance to Vietnam, racism, sexism. It wasn’t the pacifist hippies (they came in the mid 70’s) that sparked social revolution. It was the SDS, yippies, Panthers, Vets against the Vietnam war, and countless other groups that not only wrote manifestos but actually took to the streets.

    Not all riots are meaningful or revolutionary, but some are, and thats why we shouldn’t be afraid to include them as options.

  26. November 7, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Kloncke – thank you so much for this. It’s beautiful and powerful. I hope you guys have the practical support you need following the mass arrest. I send my solidarity from across the Pacific.

    I’m really not sure about the response in the comments which focuses on the length of the sentence. That is a response which upholds, rather than opposes the (in)justice system.

  27. GallingGalla
    November 7, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    William: Fuck compassion, I hope Oakland riots and I hope people like Bratts find themselves dragged from their homes by an angry mob. I know thats unlikely, I know its ugly, and it makes me sick to hate someone so much, but its honest. William

    First, what bfp said.

    Second, William, I’m sure you’ve never harmed another person, right? I’m sure you’re squeaky-clean and have nothing that you can be held to account for, right? You’ve never said or done anything racist? Or sexist? Or homophobic? Or transphobic? Never ever ever?
    You know, it’s possible to have compassion for cops as human beings without giving a pass to their actions. We can hold a cop accountable for hir oppressive and violent actions, including hir choice to be a cop in the first place, without playing Manichean us/them games.

    Because what you’re hoping for and advocating is vigilantism, plain and simple. The dehumanizing language that you use is very frightening to me, because that’s not very different from the dehumanizing language people use to justifying killing trans* folk such as myself.

  28. bfp
    November 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    @haley–I’d encourage you to read Angela Davis’s work on movement making and the use of riots as a tool for change. As a person who lives and organizes in the Detroit area, I promise you, riots sound awesome and amazing and so exciting–as somebody whose drives by houses and buildings that still haven’t been repaired, fixed, etc since the ’43 riots much less the 67 riots–as somebody who has not seen police brutality stop, has not seen capitalism destroyed, as not seen even community health centers created (all demands of the black panthers, of the rioters, of the red power, yellow power, black and brown power movements)–as somebody who has not even seen mexicans and latinos be the dominate under paid abused and often enslaved laborers of the agriculture industry–anything that the riots got these communities has long since been used up or destroyed.

    honestly the two things that have changed detroit the most for the better has been poverty and desperation. we are SO poor in detroit, SO desperate–that we had no other choice but to start gardening systems. and those urban garden systems have formed the basis of a non-capitalistic centered sustainable system that includes and depends on entire communities. it hasn’t changed over night. it’s taken at least a decade of active organizing (longer, really, but the movement I am a part of started about a decade ago)–and that active organizing started not with riots, but with community members talking together.

    THere is still police brutality. There is still untold violence. A little girl was just shot in the throat by a cop recently. There is no way to understand that. Except to then look at the fact that the police were looking for a black man who had killed another black man. Which is to say–the police are a part of our communities. And violence is interconnected. And the police may be upholding an unjust system–but guess what–all US citizens are upholding an unjust system simply by buying groceries or walking on sidewalks.

    Sustainable change comes from asking–what will this action today do to make things different in 20 years? in 50 years? in a hundred? will destroying the poor communities in Detroit (who have been the ones to be the leaders of urban gardening) through riots do anything but set the communities behind again?

    Capitalism will not be over thrown tomorrow. Neither will the injustice system. Not until there is something to replace it. What do riots do to replace the injustice system? What do they do to decrease violence against community members?

    Also. The cases of people protesting and then being attacked by the police–those are cases of self -defense. Riots are incited–i.e. done on purpose. The black panthers were not running up and down the streets throwing things at windows. Nor were any of the power movements in the 60s. They were declaring their right to protect themselves–and almost every single case of violence they committed were against community members. Or–women. Like AIM and Ana Mae Aquash. MOST of the organizing of the 60s by radical power movements was community organizing like organizing community breakfasts for anybody in the neighborhood to attend to get some food and then learn about capitalism while they ate. They organized freedom schools, health clinics, food centers, etc etc etc.

    It’s also a bit of a false dichotomy to assert that the only choices here are between radical power movements (who, again, were not running up and down the streets throwing things at windows for the most part)–and the hippies. what about the Civil Rights movement? The Civil Rights movement that was adopted by communities throughout the world and is credited with creating more changed world wide than any other type of movement making? Again–the Civil Rights movement used a style inspired by a woman (ella baker) so that ALL of the community could protest together–because it’s the entire community affected but unjust laws, right?

    The only thing that will destroy capitalism is replacing it. The only way to replace it is by phasing it out by decreasing the need for it and dependency on it. The only way to do that is to get a massive base of power that is willing to demand change together. If we start kicking people out of that base of power before we even get started (oh, you’re a cop, you can’t possibly want justice, see ya! oh, you’re a christian! oh, you’re white! see ya!), how on earth is there every going to be change on the kind of massive level there needs to be to destroy capitalism? That kind of logic assumes that there is no police person who has ever been raped, there is no police person that has ever been subjected to racism or even police brutality. I’ve known several single women of color who are prison guards because it pays well. Are we to assume that those women of color have never been subjected to violence? Wasn’t it Cynthia McKinney that was harassed by congressional police?

    I am not saying–let’s go make friends with Mehserle! Let’s recruit him and organize his family! I am saying that leaving the door open as a possible organizing strategy is a compelling ideology (compassion)–but it is *also* a sensible organizing strategy. Because while I have no interest in organizing with Mehserle or any of the police force that has killed civilians–I also know that there are many police people who ARE invested in liberation and have plenty motivation to support movement making. Because they are a part of my community and they are subject to the same poverty, desperation, and in many cases, violence, that I am.

  29. November 7, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I appreciate the disagreements about compassion; it’s a serious issue, and one I’m thinking about/working with a lot these days. Underlying it, I think, is the implicit question: Does having compassion for individuals make our personal survival, organizing, and movement-building weaker and less effective?

    In my own explorations, I’ve found that cultivating compassion does not undermine sustainable, strengthening, meaningful opposition to incredibly harmful systems.

    What *does* undermine meaningful opposition? Lots of things. Most importantly, from what I see: incorrect/incomplete political understandings, and internal divisions, beef, and oppression within movements.

    Another, related, but still secondary (I think) pitfall to strong movement building might be a vulgarized, self-repressing type of “compassion” that tries to smooth things over or find feel-good types of action that minimize actual power differentials and harm. I see this a lot in the spiritual communities I run with. But it seems to me that this false compassion is usually just a veneer over incorrect/incomplete political understandings, i.e. liberalism and reformism.

    And what are the benefits of compassion? Chiefly, I think, they’re internal. Like you say, William, “it makes me sick to hate someone so much.” I take that really seriously, you know? And I know it’s an honest and understandable response, and I’m not saying you “should” be any kind of way. I’m saying that for me, and the folks I’m building with, we’re trying to look at our own internal states and ask what we can do to take care of ourselves in order to struggle in the best ways we possibly can.

    The cops-as-workers question is an interesting one, I think. I think it depends on which definition of “worker” we’re using. Certainly, lots of cops (maybe the majority?) are part of the “working class,” culturally. And they are treated like workers, in the sense of taking orders, having speed-ups, being subject to rigid hierarchies, etc. But if we’re talking about workers in the sense of a particular relationship to the means of production (in other words, how do they participate in the activities critical to the economic functioning of society), then I’m not so sure they qualify. They might be more like hedge fund managers, in the sense that their work protects the social order and consolidation of power, and would not be necessary to the functioning of an egalitarian, community-owned social system.

    But my view isn’t solidified, and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and arguments.

    In any case, I think it’s a good idea to view police as human, if only because understanding them as such gives rise to more creative ways of stifling their repressive work. A friend of mine was telling me about how, during a transport workers strike in Buenos Aires, when the police would come to break the strike lines, they would find their own mothers standing front and center. So they didn’t come down as hard.

    Last, I don’t riot, but I see some utility in it, if it’s only property destruction and not violence, as the ones in Oakland for Oscar Grant have been. (And they were certainly vital, I’d say, in getting Mehserle arrested and put on trial in the first place.) But I agree with bfp that they are unsustainable, their use is very limited, and their spirit of destruction can go hand-in-hand with intra-class repression (not because of rioting itself, maybe, but because of existing/ongoing intra-class oppression that gets manifested through the heatedness of rioting). Rather than blaming riot(er)s, though, I think we need to build up other forms of oppositional resistance that interfere with production, shut down/take over the economy, and make more than a symbolic statement.

  30. nathan
    November 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Those who are so against compassion have, in my view, a very limited understanding of it. Having compassion for police officers involved in violent, oppressive acts in no way means letting them off the hook for their actions. By all means, we should be collectively be acting in the world, doing what is needed to spark a radical shift in the way things are. But what’s the underpinning to all of that? Are people who stand for an overturning of the current unjust system just going to replace it with another unjust system that oppresses different people?

    Movements built on hatred and which make permanent enemies out of those who are in charge of oppression are doomed to collapse. Or to repeat a similar dynamic of oppression, once the tables are turned. Having compassion means that you recognize that all those involved, no matter what, are at the end of the day human beings. That’s the common denominator.

    And I think one of the huge mistakes social change movements tend to make is imagining a world where the people they consider enemies aren’t in it. There’s an assumption, sometimes not conscious, that those who maintain the current unjust order, will simply be gone, or so marginalized they won’t have to be worried about. But how could this be the case? Take a look at Germany, for example, still dealing with elements of Nazism decades after the Third Reich was taken down.

    In my view, if you really want massive social change, the kind that Katie is pointing to in her post, you must have an expansive vision and it must, somehow, rest in having a sense of compassion for all those involved.

  31. bfp
    November 7, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    also–just as a follow up–I do not mean to suggest that none of the power movements ever rioted or participated in riots ever–I am saying that for the most part, the power movements organized within communities. And several of the leading women of the power movements, like Angela Davis, have pointed to the sexism and potential for sexist violence that is intimately wrapped up in riots. First and foremost being–the idea that if you start a riot, people will just magically show up and start rioting with you (aka John Brown’s free the slave strategy). Well–no they won’t. If you want people to show up to your riot, you have to have a relationship with them, one that is based on mutuality and trust. and because of patriarchy–who is going to be the ones making sure kids have a place to go to the bathroom and older people have food to eat (i.e. the logistics of community building)?

    and finally–i’ve been tons of protests, studied movement making in college, and have blogged about movement making for over five years now–*universally*–riots are lead by men. And to be clear, I am differentiating riots from protests that turned violent. Riots–as in stuff incited by black bloc–have an almost porn quality about them on the internet–you can find tons of videos with heavy metal/punk/rage-y music in the back ground and men in black bloc gear throwing shit at the cops. There may be women there–but universally it’s men doing this.

    Compare this to what happened in Oaxaca a few years back–where there was violence–but it was a community under seige as opposed to riots. In that case, the entire community, including grandmas and children were out in full force. women led protests against police, and one of the most famous protests were of women who held mirrors up to reflect the image of the police back to them–and the mirrors had words like rapist and murder on them. That entire community worked together because unions had been down there organizing–as had the zapatista movement. And even then–police were raping and sexually violating women who were rounded up during raids–including journalists.

    Is any community in the US this organized? This able to stand together? Is this because we look at “compassion” (i.e. non-violent strategies of organizing)–as being weak and pussy and incapable of making change–or–through the lens of patriarchy which holds little value for so called “womanly” qualities? (and to be clear, i’m NOT saying all women are compassionate etc–I’m saying “compassion” and “talking” and “working together” and “taking care of kids” and “not very effective” are seen as “womanly” things (or gendered female) and are actively derided in men (being pussy and weak and being a fag, etc) and by US heteropatriarchal society in general).

    (and i don’t know how I could’ve forgotten to mention Ghandi’s organizing in India)

  32. November 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    @bfp: I wish I’d known about that holding-up-mirrors example in Oaxaca! That hella occurred to me on Friday at the rally (before the march): I almost went back and got a mirror from my partner’s house to hold up against the police lines with hundreds of cops surrounding us on all sides. I wanna read up on their stuff.

    Yeah, it seems like the insurrectionism is pretty gendered. I’m reading about bread riots that were led by, or composed totally of women, in Western Europe at the beginning stages of capitalism when wheat and bread were being stored and hoarded to increase their worth, and meanwhile there was some of the worst starvation in hundreds of years. But those women-led riots were aimed at *getting food,* not just expressing anger.

  33. bfp
    November 7, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    and just one last thing. I’ve seen communities blow up for a long time in relation to the oppressive way that men of color are treated by the injustice system in the US. I don’t have a problem with the organizing. I’ve supported and organized a lot of it. But I have to wonder. Why do we think rioting is justifiable and just when men of color are violated–but nobody ever really considers women of color who are in prison? Why is the constant rape of female prisoners (and by that I mean trans female prisoners, cis women, citizens, non-citizens, white, women of color, disabled, youth, etc)–not considered riot worthy? Mothers held by the INS have been raped in front of their children (who are also being held in prison having committed no crime)–their children’s safety used to subdue them. Why aren’t we contemplating rioting over that? To date at least two trans women have been murdered in prison by the neglect of prison guards–why aren’t we rioting over that? Women who are protesting for better conditions in prison are being deported without their children (who are left in prison by themselves–some as young as seven and eight years old). Why aren’t we rioting over that? *most* of the women in prison for murder, are in prison for killing abusive spouses–why aren’t we rioting over that?

    In other words, why do we not consider violence that women within the system are subjected to with the same urgency that we consider the violence that men are subjected to?

    @katie–and the thing is–several of the mothers read letters to loved ones in front of those riot police, and some of them actually dropped their gear and joined the protestors. The others were duly shamed in front of the entire community. It’s not often I wish my old blog was still up–but I had a whole bunch of links about the effectiveness of women organizing/protests in oaxaca. Oh–also, several elderly women wielding machete’s took over local media outlets–

  34. November 7, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    This post and the follow-up in the thread are fucking awesome. You all have my undying respect, admiration, and love.

  35. bfp
    November 7, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    p.s. the trans women who were murdered by neglect that i am referring to is in relation to the INS and immigrant detention–I am fairly certain that these two women are not the only women murdered through neglect or even outright violence in the prison industrial complex in the US…

  36. November 7, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Maia, thank you for your trans-Pacific support, and I just wanna echo your concern with the prison-supportive focus on maximum sentence for Mehserle. I’ve had complicated feelings about it throughout my organizing work w/Oscar Grant folks. No solid answers from me; only the urge to work with more expansive visions, and total system dismantlement.

    From comment #32:

    In other words, why do we not consider violence that women within the system are subjected to with the same urgency that we consider the violence that men are subjected to?

    Exactly. On the follow-up thread to the original post on my blog I put:

    I was just feeling that with all the focus on Oscar Grant, all the posters and flyers and murals bearing his image, that there was a weird, overly-narrow discourse crystallizing around young Black (presumably straight) men as THE victims/martyrs of police brutality; and I was wishing for a slightly different angle, so I just kinda started writing this.

    Jadey, much thanks and appreciation to you.

    Tomorrow I’ll be posting info on how to donate to legal aid for protesters, so thanks again for the good wishes, and gratitude in advance for anything y’all are able to give.

  37. November 7, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    @Karen on comment #19: I approved your comment once I got moderator abilities because I think it’s important to hear sharp criticisms here that aren’t ad hominem or straight-up oppressive.

    However, what you are saying demonstrates a deep ignorance about the long history of organizing against state violence, and alternatives to policing.

    I hope that you’ll investigate some of those histories and ongoing work. I don’t even really have time to put together a resource list (maybe someone else does/has?), but here’s one place to start on imagining police alternatives, with a list of sources at the end.

  38. David
    November 8, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I have a huge problem with the idea of dropping the current policing system altogether. Mainly, because it doesn’t seem to accomplish much. Ostensibly it would be replaced by a system that doesn’t wield as much power and doesn’t incarcerate people. But what solutions, if any, do we have to combat real, hardened criminals that could take advantage of such a lax system?

    What I see as a valuable, valid solution would be to demand more accountability in prisons among the administration and prison guards. Maybe provide more funding to prisons so they can hire more guards to oversee the prisoners, to prevent them from raping and killing each other. Hire more neutral observers to make sure the prison guards aren’t abusing their position of power, and find a way of making that neutral observer’s job incumbent on his/her ability to keep his/her prison free of rape, murder, and abuse. Change the drug laws on the books and change mandatory minimums. Build more prisons to prevent overcrowding.

    The solution is not to riot and damage people’s priority or lives. (I’m only saying this, because I think a couple of people may have mentioned that this was an attractive possibility). The solution is to demand change that would demonstrably better the criminal justice system, yet still maintain its ability to catch criminals and prevent them from re-offending.

  39. haley
    November 8, 2010 at 2:17 am

    @BPF

    I want to be very clear about what I’m saying, then I won’t press it any further. I absolutely agree that organizing at a community level and offering alternatives to Capitalism is key to battling oppression and creating revolutionary movements. I am an anarcho-syndicalist, focused on workplace organizing, resisting foreclosures, tenet abuse and gentrification. Community gardens are a great idea, one that I deeply enjoy as well as other on-going projects. Living in the South West side of Chicago and working at a County Hospital there, has shown me a lot about the conditions Capitalism forces people into (as well as my own experiences)

    I have spent time in Detroit and am familiar with the history. I won’t presume to know the best way to rebuild your communities, and it sounds like you are already a part of groups doing so. Though Chicago is not facing the level of poverty felt by Detroit, the problems thrusted upon one are systematic and felt by both.

    In concern to my comment on riots, as you specified there are different kinds, such as those manifested during protests in self-defense response to police brutality, as well as those pre-emptively designed by groups like black bloc. But even black bloc has a purpose (for better or worse). To my understanding they smash windows in commercial areas, specifically banks and multinational chains (and cars). The justification is that the thing that hurts Capitalism is losing capital. Also, property is not as valuable as human life, therefore, destroying property is not violence.

    I don’t believe this is necessarily wrong, but I agree whole-heartily that community building is crucial….. simply destroying property for fun’s sake is hedonistic and spiteful. Simply going onto the street and smashing things up is not going to create a sustainable movement.

    To put it simply: I support a diversity of tactics.

    In Solidarity.

  40. haley
    November 8, 2010 at 2:28 am

    Concerning cops, well, there are better anarchist writings on the subject than I could write. I will say, in concern to your example of female prison guards, that yes, they too can feel oppression or exploitation. People can be privileged in some ways and marginalized in others.

    But the thing people have to remember is that cops are professionals. Out of the uniform they may be the nicest most caring person, but when they put on the badge they are trained and expected to act as an extension of the State. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m just doing my job”. Well, your “job” hurts the poor and working class people. Your “job” detains and searches my body, your “job” imprisons me, your “job” restricts my autonomy, my movements’ resistance. Your “job” YOU, kill my neighbors, abuse, and rape in the name of protecting the interest of the State….all the while saying “I’m just doing my job”. Indeed.

    I think there are ways of limiting these abuses. A more radical person would say, abolish the police and prison industrial system. Of course, how does society create a new better alternative to help those who would need outside protection/assistance? I don’t have an answer, but I think reducing crime by meeting people’s basic needs: housing, food, shelter, education, healthcare, is a good start.

    How about each city or district has the people directly and democratically elect the officers they want to have serve and protect them? How about making the police directly accountable to the people? These are some viable ideas.

  41. Medea
    November 8, 2010 at 4:09 am

    bfp has great insights.

  42. GallingGalla
    November 8, 2010 at 8:47 am

    haley: But the thing people have to remember is that cops are professionals. Out of the uniform they may be the nicest most caring person, but when they put on the badge they are trained and expected to act as an extension of the State. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m just doing my job”. Well, your “job” hurts the poor and working class people. Your “job” detains and searches my body, your “job” imprisons me, your “job” restricts my autonomy, my movements’ resistance. Your “job” YOU, kill my neighbors, abuse, and rape in the name of protecting the interest of the State….all the while saying “I’m just doing my job”. Indeed.

    All very true. Treating cops as humans rather than The Enemy doesn’t deny any of this; indeed, it allows us to confront cops, as *humans*, with the consequences of their actions. The example that BFP gave of women in Oaxaca holding mirrors – I don’t think that could have happened any other way. I mean, look, as bfp said above, some of the cops dropped their gear and joined the protestors, right? Does anyone think that dragging cops into the street and beating them is going to get any of them to open their eyes?

    Also re the comments about reforming the injustice system (thanks bfp for that term), most laws for which people are jailed are criminalizing victimless behavior – the primary such laws being the drug laws, laws against prostitution, and police actions against undocumented immigrants. Most people in prison are there for violations of said laws, and most of said people are people of color. Eliminate these laws that in the end don’t serve the public good, and you’ll eliminate most of the prison population.

  43. Usually Lurking
    November 8, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Who wants to volunteer to be a cop?
    Who wants to volunteer to be a prosecutor?
    Who wants to volunteer to change the system from within–which, for what it’s worth, is vastly more effective than trying to change it as a citizen?

    Nobody? Wait a second: all the talk about rioting and cops-are-the-suck and what can we do about it, and whose windows should we break, and we’re all ducking the more obvious solution?

    You want change? Go be that change. Be a good, decent, non-racist, non-sexist, ethical, person, and work in the field that needs you most. Of course, that’s a hell of a lot harder than demanding that OTHER PEOPLE change (surprise!) but it sure is effective.

    You can lobby your ass off for 30 years to change a police force. You can organize for 30 years. Sometimes that works.

    But what if, 30 years ago, we had started to pack the police force with appropriately-minded individuals? What if 75% of the officers and 75% of the staff and 75% of the beat cops were, in fact, good people?

    Of course, those “good cops” would have to be pretty thick skinned, since plenty of the people who’d be “on their side” would generally start telling them that they were the scum of the earth and unworthy of compassion or consideration, no matter how they really acted. ‘Cause being a cop, y’know, makes you a Bad Person.

  44. PrettyAmiable
    November 8, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Usually Lurking: Who wants to volunteer to be a cop?
    Who wants to volunteer to be a prosecutor?
    Who wants to volunteer to change the system from within–which, for what it’s worth, is vastly more effective than trying to change it as a citizen?

    Well obviously if you’re not an asshole, you need to give up your own career aspirations and box out the assholes from theirs.

    Listen, fabulous inspirational rant, really, but no one should have to give up the things that make them happy. That’s the whole fucking point. And some of us are busy trying to break down walls elsewhere – because, shocker, they’re not just in law enforcement. Holy fucking pedestal, Batman.

  45. November 8, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Usually Lurking: Who wants to volunteer to change the system from within–which, for what it’s worth, is vastly more effective than trying to change it as a citizen?

    I do work inside the system I want to change and know other people who work inside the system I want to change, and, no, it’s not actually easier to change it from there. One of the things that actually does make it easier is the pressure to change from the outside, which helps in getting past the stagnation, inertia, and complacency that inevitably happens when the system is working for you and you are working for the system (hand that feeds, and all).

    I am not of the opinion that all cops are bad people, I do believe in treating all people like people no matter what, but I sure as hell wish more people inside the system were pissed off not that people on the outside dared criticize them, but that there was such reason to be criticized in the first place.

  46. makomk
    November 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Usually Lurking:

    “Of course, those “good cops” would have to be pretty thick skinned, since plenty of the people who’d be “on their side” would generally start telling them that they were the scum of the earth and unworthy of compassion or consideration, no matter how they really acted.”

    They’d need skin thicker than that: it’d have to be thick enough to stop bullets. The real problem that people who think they can reform the police from within encounter isn’t that everyone assume all police are evil; it’s that they tend to die in interesting circumstances with a bit of help from their colleagues. It’s not just a few bad apples, the entire structure of most police forces makes it impossible to be a “good, decent, non-racist, non-sexist, ethical, person” and work there.

    • November 8, 2010 at 10:54 am

      Usually Lurking, as has already been stated, you’re clearly missing the point — which has been made repeatedly all throughout this thread — that the problem is not individual, it is structural. It’s not a question of “nice people” versus “mean people.” It’s a question of the system being violent, of “nice people” turning violent within and because of the system, of those individual “nice people” not being nearly big or powerful enough on their own to materially alter the system, of said people being literally unable to not ever act oppressively and violently while still actually doing their jobs, because the job itself requires them to be oppressive and violent.

  47. bfp
    November 8, 2010 at 10:49 am

    haley: But the thing people have to remember is that cops are professionals. Out of the uniform they may be the nicest most caring person, but when they put on the badge they are trained and expected to act as an extension of the State. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m just doing my job”. Well, your “job” hurts the poor and working class people. Your “job” detains and searches my body, your “job” imprisons me, your “job” restricts my autonomy, my movements’ resistance. Your “job” YOU, kill my neighbors, abuse, and rape in the name of protecting the interest of the State….all the while saying “I’m just doing my job”. Indeed.

    this could be said by every single farm worker picking veggies to every single US citizen. people will respond (and have responded to me and to fellow farm workers)–what, am I supposed to not eat? I’m just eating man, what am I supposed to do, not eat?

    as far as I’m concerned–10% of the world’s population control 90% of the money/resources. That mean 90% of the world’s population is my potential ally. And that is not to say that means 90% of the population and I can sing kumbaya together. That’s to say that when it comes to dismantling globalization and corporatism–the one resource “we” have over “them” is the 90% of “we.” It doesn’t make sense to start parsing that down based on criteria that can so easily be said of every single one of “us”–if we just flip the lens a little bit.

  48. Usually Lurking
    November 8, 2010 at 11:20 am

    OK, rereading my post I apologize. I typed it out of frustration because I personally know quite a few “good cops,” and they (and I) find it hard to simultaneously fight two battles: One against the system that might want them to be “bad” cops, and the other against the “good guys” who are so undiscriminatingly anti-cop that they make their lives hell.

    And I think that’s really backwards.

    There are some people out there who can manage to fight a system while working within it. There are some people out there who can manage to rise above stuff, and beatifically retain love and good behavior towards people that insult them. But the number of people who can do both at the same time is vanishingly small, and I personally believe that generalized ant-cop sentiment serves to actively reduce the number of “good cops” remaining in the system, and therefore accomplishes the exact opposite of what it is intended to do. But what the solution is, I don’t know. Shit.

    but I don’t think that’s a helpful side topic, so I’ll bow out.

  49. Kristen J.
    November 8, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Usually Lurking: You want change? Go be that change. Be a good, decent, non-racist, non-sexist, ethical, person, and work in the field that needs you most. Of course, that’s a hell of a lot harder than demanding that OTHER PEOPLE change (surprise!) but it sure is effective.

    The structural problem is bigger than just a police department or even the injustice system (awesome word addition, bfp). It’s about power…and the human tendency to use power oppressively. (See Stanford Prison Experiment for one controlled example.)

    Regardless of how the system is structured if humans have power over someone else we seem to replay the domination paradigm. So the only structural solutions are to (1) change people or (2) find a way to maintain a social structure in which no one is dominant.

    One good person in the system…even a group of good people in the system is not a solution. It is not sustainable. Eventually, those people will be replaced by other humans with this same seemingly inherent flaw. So no…you can’t fix the system from within.

  50. bfp
    November 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Usually Lurking: There are some people out there who can manage to fight a system while working within it.

    The thing is, we’re ALL in the system–there is no “opting out” of capitalism, globalization, patriarchy, violence, etc. if there were a way to do that, folks would’a been opting out long before this. (hence, the huge problems and tension many radical women of color (who advocate for radical change from the root) have with white *F*eminists (who advocate for liberal “reform”)

    So we better figure out how to organize within the system against the system or we’re all doomed.

  51. Austin Nedved
    November 8, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    bfp: When has rioting ever been sustainable? When has it ever made any meaningful change or brought meaningful relief to any poor community? I just want to take a moment and really reflect on the sexism of this anger–Katie’s answer is ideological–but it *also* makes organizational and community-wide sense. Who is traditionally disempowered during times of violence except women and children

    I agree. If I remember correctly, Locke said something about the dangers of revolting—and the sort of people who revolted and brought chaos on society for less-than-compelling reasons.

  52. David
    November 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I think some people are assuming a monolithic association between corporate interests, the police force, the government, and the global economy. I think people should step back for a moment and examine each thing that troubles them, piece by piece, and determine individual solutions for solving the racism and/or sexism that pervades each system. That way we avoid the counterproductive strategy of bundling up all of our problems and trying to solve them all at once. (As if they are all related somehow, which some are, some aren’t).

    For one I know people have widely varying opinions on this but I think we should be careful when we look at economic systems to identify the parts that are wrong. Currently, if we are talking about the U.S. (which I assume most people are, correct me if I’m wrong), we have a primarily capitalistic system with some government regulation. Personally, I believe there are some very positive measures that we could take to further update our system in order to make the market economy more navegable for the poor and disenfranchised. One could increase the minimum wage (which is pathetically low now, due to inflation), one could try to provide more basic services and infrastructure (such as education and healthcare) so that everyone has a basis for which they can try and achieve success. There are definitely some positive steps to be taken.

    What I don’t see as positive is assuming that breaking bank windows, destroying capital, or destroying the system is in any way productive toward achieving social equality. For one, breaking a window simply means that insurance ends up paying for building damages. Second, if you cause the financial system to collapse all it will lead to is a bunch of people being thrown out of work and joining the masses of poor people on the bottom. Nobody has been raised up by that solution in fact, things have been made much worse.

    Let’s talk about the police system. Assuming that they are just all shills for their corporate overlords is also assuming a lot. What it would be better to assume is something more simple – that police are using outdated training and protocols and that to reduce incidents of brutality in arrests and accidental shootings we need to both update this training, better fund police departments, teach police sensitivity about trans, gender, and racial issues AND finally increase the strength of IA in police departments so that police departments are better watched.

    I don’t even want to get into globalization because it’s a complicated issue, but I don’t see it as appropriate that we are lumping globalization and capitalism with patriarchy and violence. Patriarchy and violence are by definition bad things. Globalism and capitalism are both systems that could possibly be harnessed to improve people’s lives. (If you disagree with me, that’s fine, but I do think that this is a valid point of disagreement. In any case, I don’t want to argue this point because it takes the conversation too off topic)

    Anyway, I think when we blame police brutality on capitalism its like we’re blaming the illuminati for our milk going sour. We have seen plenty of cases where noncapitalist states have police systems that are more oppressive than capitalist police systems.

  53. William
    November 8, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I know that rioting isn’t sustainable, I know that it isn’t likely to help, I know that rioters probably aren’t going to riot with the right motives and (even if they did) probably aren’t going to aim their actions at the right parties, I know that even if someone as repugnant as Bratts were to hang from a light pole somewhere the only changes we would likely see is more violence and oppression at the hands of police with more support from the general population. I get all of that, I’m hardly naive enough to believe that killing a couple of monsters or burning out a couple of squad cars is going to do much of anything.

    Still, the reality of my own personal experience is one of rage that borders on the inchoate. Thats where I am right now and it isn’t especially easy to ward that away with an intellectual knowledge that its not especially productive. But thats part of the problem. Its nice to talk about being part of (a fictional?) solution, but a lot of us are just seeing red. A lot of us are hopeless. A lot of us just don’t know what to do when they see nonviolent protesters looking at more time that murderers. Some of us are in the third or fourth generation of people who have protested and learned the hard way that nothing much changes unless its built on someone else’s back. Sometimes that needs to be expressed, even if just to let it be in the air before you move on, scrape deep, and do what you can because the alternative is too much to contemplate.

  54. GallingGalla
    November 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    @David: Ok, look: Yes, I agree, there are some things that need to happen right now, within the system(s) that we live in, to make things better for marginalized people. Things like reforming drug laws so that they focus on treatment and prevention rather than on punishment. At no time have I personally said that reforms shouldn’t be done when they can demonstratively improve the situation.

    But the fact is, reform *isn’t* enough. When we talk about “reforming” capitalism or “reforming” the injustice system, or “reforming” immigration or “reforming” environmental policy or “reforming” election financing, we’re still buying into and enabling the very systems that oppress those 90% We’re saying “well, maybe we need to make these systems a bit more ‘user-friendly’, but at heart, they’re really good.” When we take a solely reformist view, we’re saying that not only are we complicit in these systems, but we *want* to be complicit.

    You talk about “destruction” as if we’re all in favor of bombing every bank in the world, as if we’re all in favor of rounding up every banker in the world and visiting some street justice to them. And y’no? That’s a mindset that I find pretty common amongst men – that destroying something ipso facto means doing so through violence. How about this? How about we destroy capitalism by making it irrelevant? How about we destroy capitalism by removing the conditions that feed it? How about if that 90% of the world’s people just simply decide not to give capitalism it’s due?

    I mean, David, do you really think that a bunch of poor people getting together to turn a vacant lot into a community garden are committing a violent act? Because in their small way, they are doing part of the work of destroying capitalism. If you feel that creating a community garden is an act of violence, then I can only shake my head in wonder.

  55. GallingGalla
    November 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    David: What it would be better to assume is something more simple – that police are using outdated training and protocols and that to reduce incidents of brutality in arrests and accidental shootings we need to both update this training, better fund police departments, teach police sensitivity about trans, gender, and racial issues AND finally increase the strength of IA in police departments so that police departments are better watched.

    I want to call out this in particular, David, because you are totally missing the point. The whole *purpose* of the injustice system is to protect privilege and to do so violently. None of the things that you mention will do a whit, because none of those things address that basic fact.

    …teach police sensitivity about trans, gender, and racial issues…

    Yeah, people have been giving the Philadelphia police “sensitivity training” on these issues for *decades*. The police are still shooting people of color in the back, are still giving trans women of color “courtesy rides” that somehow wind up not being survivable, are still revictimizing women who are raped and sexually assaulted. The injustice system is still sentencing people of color who have a gram or two of drugs on their person to *first-offense* sentences ten and twenty times as long as Mehserle’s sentence, while letting rich white boys selling powder cocaine left and right go with probation.

  56. David
    November 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    GallingGalla, no the community garden is a wonderful idea. Did I say otherwise?

    It seems like the concrete point you brought up about sentencing is that blacks receive heavier sentences than whites for comparable crimes. I agree. I think what we could and should do is to work on making jury instructions and selection pools more balanced. In addition, of course, to trying to eliminate the stereotypes that makes many assume automatically the guilt of a black male.

    The point of my post is that I saw a couple of things that people posted that I thought were counterproductive. I don’t know if it was you, but a couple of people suggested that causing property damage should be a valid tool in our toolset of social change. My post was an argument against that, and an argument against the assumption that capitalism or globalism irrevocably leads to oppression. (This would necessarily have to ignore some of the good things that banks have done to provide developmental capital to third world countries, or micro loans targeted at women and families)

    About what William said, I definitely agree with why he’s frustrated. I just feel that the frustration that people express about these issues is a double edged sword and too many times falls into an area where we’re no longer discussing viable solutions (or at least not as much as we could be). I also admit it overwhelming to be discussing equality in the criminal justice system, because there are so many systemic problems on the economic, social and political levels that contribute to the persistence of the problem. I’d like to think of myself as educated but I simply don’t have the background in economics, sociology, and political science to be discussing these things as competently as others.

  57. Miss S
    November 9, 2010 at 1:12 am

    GallingGala:
    How about we destroy capitalism by making it irrelevant? How about we destroy capitalism by removing the conditions that feed it? How about if that 90% of the world’s people just simply decide not to give capitalism it’s due?

    How would we go about that?

  58. Random Process
    November 9, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Deciding that capitalism is irrelevant is great. What’s going to replace it?

    Sometimes people focus on reform because the underlying system, however problematic, is also irreplaceable.

    We have not yet invented an economic system that is really workable for human beings. (Anyone who suggests communism can drag themselves to the gulag, thanks.) There are lots of ways to non-capitalistically order a small community’s economic life that are not too bad, although they too involve exploitation, privilege, etc., merely on a humanized scale. (It’s exploitation that I’m expected to spend my teenage years doing housework for the chief’s wife. It’s exploitation that I’m expected to spend my teenage years working for $6/hr stocking shelves, too. At least I know the chief’s wife.)

    However, those systems don’t scale up. And we have to scale up; there are six billion plus people on this planet. Five point nine billion of them aren’t going to quietly die so that the rest can move into communes and enjoy the nature; we feed everybody, or people start killing one another.

    Capitalism at this date provides the only structure that meets the requirements that we HAVE to meet. (1. Feeds everybody, more or less. Check. 2. Works at scales larger than a community where everyone knows each other. Check.)

    So the capitalist system has its many, many problems that nobody here needs a lecture about. At the same time, it is doing a job that has to be done. Nobody has come up with a system that could do the job, without having worse side-effects than the system we have.

    So I worry when I hear people talk about destroying it. Destroying it to replace it with what? You got six billion Happy meals in your pocket? Every day?

  59. GallingGalla
    November 9, 2010 at 8:49 am

    David: My post was an argument against that, and an argument against the assumption that capitalism or globalism irrevocably leads to oppression.

    Then I guess we will have to agree to disagree, because I do feel that capitalism and globalism irrevocably leads to oppression. What lies at the heart of capitalism is the assertion that each person is valued only for what capital they can produce for their lord(s). Kyriarchy is at the very core of capitalism. Kyriarchy is capitalism’s food and water and vitamins. Hence, capitalism devalues humans as humans. Capitalism posits that humans do not have intrinsic worth. Capitalism denies that humans have any intrinsic worth, that human knowledge has no value except in the production of money, that faith in the goodness of every person has no place in society. Capitalism is inhumane and unjust and cannot survive unless the few are inhumane and unjust to the many. Adjustments that put a bit of velvet on the fist of capitalism may help a few people here and there, but do nothing to address the fundamental inhumaneness of capitalism.

    This would necessarily have to ignore some of the good things that banks have done to provide developmental capital to third world countries, or micro loans targeted at women and families

    I think you need to do some googling and reading on how western banks have “lent” money at the cost of the destruction of those countries’ culture and social systems, how that money has been used to make those countries dependent on western imperialism to survive, how that money has twisted said countries around to fit western imperialist goals, how the development “banks” have demanded cruel austerity programs, have demanded fealty to the capitalist west. I think you need to read how western agencies making those micro-loans have attached conditions on them that remove those women’s autonomy and force them to become capitalists to survive, at the expense of their families and their autonomy. I think you ought to review the recent post on Feministe about cash transfer, for that’s what’s needed – cash assistance without conditions, without policing of behavior, without expecting fealty in return, with the knowledge that the people receiving the cash (collectively) know best how to use it to better their lives.

  60. bfp
    November 9, 2010 at 9:07 am

    @Miss S–well, first off, we don’t just assume capitalism is a natural thing and that there’s no getting rid of it. You know who knows that capitalism is not natural? All the far right neocapitalists who spend their entire time strengthening and reinforcing capitalism through wars, laws, enforcement, trade agreements etc. The people who make rules up like “unlawful assembly.” They know how fragile capitalism is, or they wouldn’t spend all their time reinforcing it and stamping out the ability to change it.

    the other big thing we can do is stop suggesting that because something isn’t fixed in one election cycle, there is no use to it. I’ve written a lot about the gardens in detroit–and *inevitably* there is always an overwhelming response of “oooh, yeah, a few gardens are going to destroy capitalism!!! while you’re planting your weeds, i’m going to be over here doing something *useful*!”

    But as people are doing the “useful” thing of fighting over clinton or obama (while arresting third party candidates, because we want change, see), somehow urban gardening and community media have managed to provide some useful and viable alternatives to dependency on a capitalist based food structure. creating our own media has organized youth in detroit in a way lecturing them has never done.

    Like i said–problems are still mammoth and compared to the murder of little girls–gardens really are nothing but a few weeds. But it’s a start. And it’s a solid foundation for change. I’m not going to be alive to see a restructuring of US’s dependence on hierarchical violent systems of “justice.” But I’m helping to lay down the first steps of change so that maybe my daughter or my grand children will. I’m laying the foundation where youth are allowed to believe they are more than drop out criminals. And change is never going to come if they don’t believe that.

    And while I’m doing that, I vote on my off time. I’m willing to take a multi-pronged approach to organizing–are liberals and reformists?

    (and on a bigger scope, we can all recognize that capitalism is not so natural not just here but abroad as well. and we can recognize that our struggles here in the US need to be informed by movements outside of the US rather than those of us in the US deciding that we are the leaders and/or dismissing non-US citizens through “maybe they should organize their *own* countries!” as if they aren’t already)

  61. bfp
    November 9, 2010 at 9:28 am

    in short, don’t act like grassroots actions aren’t in existence–like just because this is the first time you (as in plural tuyo multiple you sense) have ever considered maybe there needs to be a different way–others throughout the world haven’t been actively organizing that different way. for example: people get very stressed out when grassroots organizers say that the prison industrial complex must be brought down–they get like that comment up at #19–what? are we supposed to just let violent criminals run wild? or, like a debate that happened here on feministe a while ago–are we supposed to not call the police while we’re being raped?

    but community organizers have been working on creating alternatives to the prison industrial complex. They aren’t perfect–but they’ve been working on it. The choice is NOT between efficient but imperfect current system and complete destruction.

    the choice is between complete ignorance of the reality that communities have HAD to create alternative systems because the current system doesn’t ignore, but actively violates the majority of people and the truth that many of those alternatives actually work and have been very effective in strategies against everything from police brutality to rape.

    The choice is between believing that an election cycle (or a riot) is more effective and brings about more sustainable changes than the people who have decided enough is enough, what can we do with that empty lot over there.

  62. bfp
    November 9, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Random Process: So I worry when I hear people talk about destroying it. Destroying it to replace it with what? You got six billion Happy meals in your pocket? Every day?

    you do know that capitalism is the process of destroying people’s ability to feed themselves so that mc donalds can do it for us, right? I guess if we’d talk to all those immigrants that are such a problem and ask them why they come to the US, they’d tell us that it’s because NAFTA and CAFTA have destroyed their ability to make their own food and survive off of their own land, as they have done for centuries just fine, thanks.

  63. PrettyAmiable
    November 9, 2010 at 10:17 am

    “Hence, capitalism devalues humans as humans. Capitalism posits that humans do not have intrinsic worth. Hence, capitalism devalues humans as humans. Capitalism posits that humans do not have intrinsic worth.”

    Hi, I don’t think MONEY can ever value me as a person. Capitalism doesn’t posit ANYTHING about a person’s intrinsic worth unless you believe that money is what makes a person valuable. I am an adherent of capitalism, and there is absolutely no part of me that thinks that Bill Gates is worth more as a person than the average woman in the DRoC, for example. Similarly, lots of historic proponents of Communism were pretty worthless as people.

    Why are there constant derails about the evils of capitalism on these threads? You know what economic system hasn’t historically discriminated against trans people, women, people of color, people with disabilities, so on and so forth historically? NONE. Capitalism isn’t special; it’s just dominant. We could all be fucking communist, and our lot would still be shitty if we weren’t cis white dudes.

  64. November 9, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I’m definitely in agreement with those of you who are saying certain institutions are beyond reform and need to be scrapped entirely. But seriously…those of you say that capitalism needs to be destroyed should think about what you’re saying. The computer you’re sitting in front of right now – it’s monitor, keyboard…your iphone, blackberry and whatever else…you wouldn’t have these things without capitalism. No purely socialist economy, to my knowledge, has ever produced new and innovative technologies. Having said that, I agree that an economy of *pure* capitalism is bad. It’s a greedy, rapacious and destructive system when left unchecked and unregulated. My preferred ideal would be an economy that strikes a good balance between the two. Sweden and Norway are good examples to emulate as I think they – although not perfect – come pretty close.

    But as for the courts, police and prison systems…fuck reform. I say throw the whole bloody lot of ’em on the scrapheap and start over again with something else. It should be pretty clear by now that just tinkering with these systems isn’t going to make any significant change in terms of making the lives of oppressed people better.

  65. Random Process
    November 9, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Yes, capitalism is making it harder for people to feed themselves by deploying traditional agrarian practices.

    Those agrarian practices support a population density of maybe a billion people worldwide.

    What’s your alternative?

  66. November 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Well! I’m glad that we’re debating capitalism (reformable? not?) and just wanna note that a solid, extensive debate could be really interesting, but/and is outside the scope of what this post was about.

    In other words, I think this thread speaks to a need for more posts and conversations about capitalism itself; there are so many different angles from which to get at it.

    Specifically in this piece, though, I wanted to (a) make a particular framework intervention in the Oscar Grant discourse, and (b) build with other folks who are organizing against police brutality from a systemic viewpoint, and who may find a sexist overemphasis on violence against men, occluding the widespread police and police-related violence against folks of other genders. The Oscar Grant movement, I felt, was falling prey to this pattern. And I wonder whether other feminist folks are encountering similar difficulties in their police-“injustice-system” organizing, and if so, what strategies they’ve adopted to deal with it. The capitalism bit is just part of my background, my landscape.

    Does that make sense? Again, I’m not tryna squash discussion about capitalism, or how to go about transcending it, but in my experience, trying to tackle a convo that big and contentious all at once in one thread winds up needlessly stressful and unhelpful.

    So unless folks feel like talking more specifically about capitalism and law enforcement / police brutality, Imma go head and close comments on this one, in hopes that future posts will provide awesome, structured platforms for specific and nuanced discussion on the Big C. :)

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