Hutt-Horan

Marriage is Not the Movement: An Unconventional Wedding Announcement

Ashley Horan is a Unitarian Universalist minister and the Executive Director of MUUSJA: The Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance. She lives in Minneapolis with her partner Karen, their 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth, a very bad cat called Bodhi, and a soon-to-be-born tiny human being.

Hutt-Horan

October 20, 2014

Two years ago today, my beloved and I made promises to one another in front of many of the people we love best in the world. In the language of our faith, we made a covenant—a deep, binding promise between the two of us, held and reinforced by our community, and sustained by that holy and sacred power of creativity that gives us life, known by many as God. With our family and friends as witnesses, we named all that we aspire to together, with word and symbol and ritual… and then, we celebrated at the best party we’ve ever been to.

Our commitment ceremony was a very important threshold for us and our relationship. It made public all that we had known to be true between us, and it linked us with the millennia of ancestors who have ritually recognized the creation of families of many kinds throughout the ages.

Our commitment ceremony was NOT, however, a wedding. We very intentionally avoided words like “marriage” and “wedding” and “spouse.” Some of our community thought we were being ridiculous—a rose by any other name, right? But for us, this was an essential distinction: people can commit to one another in a lot of different ways, and build lots of different kinds of families and relationships, but marriage is a very specific term.

Traditionally, it refers to the binding of a union between two people—usually a man and a woman—which is recognized by a civil or governmental authority as the marker of kinship ties and legitimacy. While most religious and spiritual traditions have ceremonies to recognize committed relationships, and civil and religious marriage are often conflated, there are very clear benefits associated with state-recognized marriage that are generally not conferred upon committed people who have not chosen to have their union affirmed by a civil authority. These include spousal visitation rights, death benefits, powers of decision making and inheritance, property rights, parental recognition, joint health coverage, and many more.

In short, civil/legal marriage is the gateway to many benefits that are generally NOT available to non-married people, both single and partnered.

Why didn’t we want to get married, you might ask?

First, we understood our commitment to each other as primarily covenantal, rather than legal: we were making promises to each other, to our community, and to the Holy… not to the State.

Second, we are a part of a long line of queer folks (and in Karen’s case, communities of Color) who have insisted that WE—not the State, not the church, not societal convention—decide what our families look like, what kind of promises we make to one another, and how we want to be in relationship with each other. WE get to say to each other, “You are my family,” and thereby make it true, whether or not it is affirmed by the capricious whims of the reigning regime.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, we deeply believe that all humans deserve basic care and protection from the state, whether or not they choose to shape their lives and their relationships in a particular way. We believe all of us deserve health care… the right to be recognized as parents to the children we raise, regardless of our biological relationships… access to our partners when they are ill… the opportunity to help our partners qualify for citizenship… the ability to care for one another beyond death by passing along property and money to those we leave behind.

And, we believe that any fight that aims to expand access to these rights to some, but not ALL people, is not enough.

We know that for many LGBTQ people, the recent wave of same-sex marriage legalization has been hugely important and deeply emotionally significant. It has made many among us feel visible and affirmed for the first time. It has granted access to important rights to many couples and their families. It will, quite literally, save some lives, and make life easier for many, many more.

The movement to make these victories possible brought many, many people who had never been activists before into the public fray; it brought disparate groups together in common struggle.

But the marriage equality fight has also been, in some ways, a huge distraction. It has taken billions of dollars (from all sides of the issue) and diverted them from other, less funded Queer causes. It has been led largely by White, educated, middle and upper-class Gays and Lesbians, and has often not included the leadership, perspectives, and needs of other Queers, gender non-conforming people, and communities of Color.

It has even used divisive identity politics to suggest that certain communities are the “enemy” of Gay marriage, thereby insulting, ignoring, and delegitimizing the lived experiences of Queer members of those communities. It has more often than not lacked an intersectional lens, and has failed to examine elements of racism, transphobia, classism, ableism, misogyny, and capitalism have tainted the marriage equality movement’s ability to represent a broad swath of people with diverse identities.

In short, while we are genuinely happy for those among our community who have so long awaited access to legal marriage, and all that it entails, we don’t believe that “we’ve won” the fight for Gay rights yet. And we don’t see civilly-recognized marriage as something we yearn for in our own relationship, for both religious and political reasons.

So, last week, when we were informed that Karen’s employer was eliminating “domestic partners” as a category of family relationship that qualifies people for insurance coverage under their plan, we were upset.

As of January 1, 2015, our relationship—whose legitimacy we had to prove already with a stack of documents and legal affidavits when we first applied for coverage—will no longer be considered valid unless we also present a marriage certificate. Without one, I will be dropped from Karen’s insurance, she will not be legally recognized as our soon-to-be-born child’s parent, and the baby won’t be insured, either.

In order to get married, we will also pay all the fees associated with applying for a license, paying a civil officiant, filing the signed marriage certificate, and hiring a lawyer to guide us through the complicated processes of merging our finances, documenting legal parenthood of our child, creating married versions of our wills and advance directives, and more.

This will not be a hardship for us. We have generous family and friends to help us cover costs, and in the end, we will be more legally secure and protected than we are now. This is, in many ways, what I have taken to referring to this week as a “‪#‎FirstWorldGayProblem‬.”

But make no bones about it, we feel as if we are being forced to get married. The passage of same-sex marriage legislation in our state has actually disqualified us from benefits for which we were previously deemed eligible, and is making it necessary for us to choose between our principled, deeply thought-out desire to define our relationship religiously and not civilly, and our need for healthcare and legal protection and recognition as family.

We know we are lucky, personally, to be able to access a pathway to all the rights that get conferred upon you when you’re married. But we’re also keenly aware that this option still isn’t available to many, many people for a variety of reasons, and that the two-people-who-are-romantically-involved-and-committed style of partnership is not one that works for or is accessible to everyone who needs healthcare, parental rights, immigration access, and so many other things.

So, friends and comrades, consider this our unofficial wedding announcement. Sometime over the next six weeks, before the new life I’m carrying emerges from my body, we will go down to city hall and get legally married. Don’t be offended if you’re not invited; we’re not really doing much of a celebration for this particular milestone.

But, since everyone knows when you get married, you get to create a wedding registry and expect the gifts to pour in, we do want some things from you! You can give us one or more of them, or—even better—you can work with someone else to collaborate on any of the following items:

1. If you donated money to a marriage equality fight over the last few years, commit to giving equal dollars to another organization working for trans* rights, or fighting queer youth homelessness, or elevating the voices of black and brown queer folks, etc.

Some suggestions include Tysn MNSoutherners on New Ground, Brown Boi Project, Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), Center on Halsted, Howard Brown Health Center, and many more. Even if you didn’t give money to marriage equality the first time around, consider donating to these organizations now.

2. If you volunteered your time in canvassing, phone banking, having one-to-one conversations, attending rallies, or getting out the vote for marriage equality, commit to donating an equal or greater number of hours to another queer cause, or intersectional social justice campaign.

Show up to protest mass incarceration and police brutality; work with your local affordable housing coalition; volunteer to support the agenda of small organizations led by the communities most directly affected by injustice.

3.  If you supported marriage equality because it gives a wider swath of people access to various rights, commit to working for campaigns that expand those rights to ALL people.

Support work for universal and/or single-payer health care, comprehensive immigration reform, tax reform, prison abolition, and racial and economic justice.

4. Read more about why a lot of queer folks and people of color resist legal marriage as the pathway toward rights and benefits many of us consider to be basic human rights.

Start with this article by Dean Spade and Craig Willse: Marriage Will Never Set Us Free.

———-

We’ll get married and probably be glad for the things it brings us. We’ll put on our best clothes and look seriously cute and come to your wedding, if you choose to get married, and we’ll dance our butts off and rejoice in the fact that you have access to an institution that protects you and your family.

And, then, when it’s all over and the DJ packs up her turntables and the appetizers are all gone, we’ll all grab each other’s hands, we’ll look at one another in the eyes, and we’ll ask, “Do you take this life, this struggle for collective liberation, for better or for worse, as long as we all shall live?”

And then we’ll all laugh, and each say, “Yes. I do.”

bullyinggirlssmall

How to Tell If Your Child Is Bullying Others (And What to Do About It)

When I was in middle school, I was bullied pretty badly, resulting in depression and even serious considerations of suicide.

I carried a lot of hurt and anger, and I didn’t deal with that in the healthiest of ways. It pains me to reflect upon how I transferred my hurt from bullying by mistreating younger kids and by being terrible to a few of my friends.

I was displacing my hurt onto others so that I didn’t have to carry it alone.

But despite the ways I treated some of my peers, I was never labeled a “bully.” That’s because I didn’t fit the “bully” profile: My grades were good; I had no history of discipline issues; I was well-loved by my teachers. Yet I was acting in much the same way as those kids who were labeled “bullies.”

In today’s schools, we see the same. Some students are identified as “bullies” or “problem students.” Yet when we’re honest, many of us at different times in our lives have been mean to someone in the regular and sustained way that would constitute bullying.

bullyinggirlssmallIn truth, the label of “bully” is in no way useful when actually attempting to address the problem of bullying.

To simply label some people “bullies” and some people “victims” with the rest of us as “bystanders,” we never actually deal with the root of why someone is exhibiting bullying behavior. It’s a cop-out.

Bullying is primarily a problem of power, and as such, it tends to have one of two roots: an internalized feeling of superiority in regard to another group or individual or feelings of insecurity and hurt that lead one to lash out at others.

In either case, bullying has a measurable root that we can address. If we’re concerned that our child is being a “bully,” it’s best to start with the question, “Why?”

And in recognizing the roots of bullying behavior, we open the door to actually understanding the nature of bullying, which helps us to understand when our kids may be mistreating others and how to prevent bullying in general.

How to Identify If Your Child Is Demonstrating Bullying Behavior

In designing a comprehensive bullying prevention and intervention program for parents at CivilSchools, we compiled research that identifies seven patterns that could be indicative of bullying behavior in a young person.

(Please note that no single pattern listed below necessarily means your child is demonstrating bullying behavior. These are just a guide for considering whether you should intervene if you’re concerned.)

Sign 1: A Pattern of Abnormally Angry or Aggressive Behavior

Few children or adolescents are angry or aggressive as a status quo, so if you start to see a lot of aggression or anger, it’s coming from somewhere. Plus, if you’re seeing it, there’s a good chance it’s being directed at others in bullying behavior.

Sign 2: A Pattern of Depressed, Sullen, or Sad Behavior

Notably, this is also one of the signs that a student might be experiencing bullying, but when a student falls into a pattern of depression or sadness (as I did when being bullied in middle school), they might choose to pass that burden along to others through mean behavior or bullying.

Sign 3: Regularly Throws a Fit When They Don’t Get Their Way

Any parent knows that children go through a phase of lashing out when things don’t go their way, but if this is persistent, there’s a good chance that they are lashing out at other children to try to control outcomes. Some students fall into a pattern of intimidating other children into going along with their will.

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

When Bad Allies Get “Good Guy” Awards

Jamie Utt:

Such an important piece on fake “allies” and abusive men. A lot of important reminders for me in my work.

Originally posted on Make Me a Sammich:

Clymerquote3A while back I wrote about fake allies—specifically, Charles Clymer, a cis white dude who used to run a popular Facebook page called “Equality for Women” but shut it down amidst accusations that, among other things, he was deleting comments from and banning women who questioned his views or the way he ran the page. And then there was his abusive verbal flaying of Stephanie Kay in a private conversation that went public a year or so ago and revealed the dude beneath the Perfect Feminist Ally act. It didn’t help that when called on that tirade, Clymer basically stood by his remarks and went on to admit—almost proudly—that his goal is to become a professional Feminist Leader. And he dug himself in deeper when, following the many accusations leveled at him directly and via the #StopClymer hashtag (by nearly every woman who had been a moderator at the EFW Facebook page, among others)…

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5 Lies that Distort Male Sexuality and Hurt Everyone

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence and Abuse

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life came through sports. They taught me hard work, commitment, and teamwork. They also taught me some of my most foundational lessons about masculinity and sex.

Not all of these messages were problematic and harmful. I often had coaches talk to me in positive (though sometimes paternalistic) ways about “respecting women.” But looking back, most of the messages I received about sex and my masculinity’s role in sex were quite horrifying.

Perhaps one of the most terrifying messages that I received came from an older soccer player named Dave when I was in tenth grade. One day, he was bragging to me about his sexual relationship with his girlfriend, a girl widely recognized as “hot” and “popular.”

In the midst of his braggadocio, he mentioned wanting to perform an incredibly violent sexual act that would violate her consent and would likely lead to serious injury.

He said he was only joking, and I laughed along, but it didn’t sit right with me. No matter how uncomfortable it made me, though, I didn’t dare challenge the “joke.”

After all, to do so would not only have challenged a man I was supposed to look up to, but it might have led to me being further ostracized for being “gay” (because apparently men are gay if they stand up to violence against women, and being gay was the “worst possible thing” I could have been in high school).

To this day, I’m ashamed that I never said anything, but I simply didn’t know how. I was a young man lacking in confidence, and I felt like it was “normal” that we were talking about women in this way.

Though some might write this story off as adolescent immaturity, this story speaks to a wider problem of patriarchal masculinity and how we as men are taught to understand sex and sexuality.

Feminism vs. Patriarchy

For generations now, feminism in its many iterations has done an amazing job of pointing out the terrible impacts of patriarchal masculinity. And, increasingly, feminists have focused on how patriarchy hurts people of all genders.

With the rise of the Internet as a dominant force in so many people’s lives, though, the resistance to feminism has only grown louder and stronger.

The power of the Internet for organizing Men’s Rights Activists, Pick Up Artists, and other anti-feminist groups has meant a surge in numbers of those who see feminism as “anti-male” or who despise the ways that feminism subverts patriarchal masculinity.

And ironically, these groups prey on men who feel hurt, who feel insecure, who feel entitled to sex, but who struggle socially and can’t find fulfilling relationships.

MRAs and PUAs tell insecure men that the problem is feminism, not patriarchy, and in doing so, fuel a particularly violent online (and offline) misogyny.

Yet the hurt and frustration these men face when it comes to sexuality is almost always directly tied to the ways in which patriarchal masculinity distorts male sexuality – which is a battle that feminism fights.

In her book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, bell hooks describes patriarchy as the single most life-threatening social dis­ease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation.

If we are ever going to engage men more fully in dismantling patriarchy and ending misogyny,we need more men to understand how the messages we receive about sex hurt more than women. These messages hurt us in myriad ways, too.

Thus, though I could likely unpack just about every message about sex that we receive, I want to analyze five of the most prominent messages men are taught about our sexuality.

1.  ‘Sow Your Wild Oats’

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

Everyday Feminism

Stop Thinking Like a Perpetrator: 4 Ways to Better Support Survivors of Sexual Violence

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence and Rape Culture

It’s been heartening to see the ways that sexual violence is being discussed more comprehensively and holistically in public discourse these days. More than anything else, the credit for this development rests with the brave survivors who are choosing to speak out and tell their stories while pressuring colleges, universities, and all levels of government to be more responsive to the needs of survivors.

From Know Your IX and SurvJustice, to brave individuals like Zerlina Maxwell, Angie Epifano,Wagatwe Wanjuki, and the countless others who are stepping up to share their stories, we’re witnessing a movement.

This movement has transformed many universities’ approaches to sexual violence prevention and response, and it has even made it to the U.S. Congress and the White House, with Obama standing up for all survivors of rape in a way no other U.S. president has done:

Yet whenever a movement for justice makes strides forward, there is the inevitable backlash.

You’ve got the Todd Akins of the world trying to parcel out what’s “legitimate rape.” You’ve got the Glenn Becks (or at least his employees) mocking people whose experiences with sexual violence don’t match their narrow concept of rape.

More recently, resistance came in the form of a “logic puzzle” of sorts from the ever-infuriating, self-appointed spokesperson for all atheists, Richard Dawkins:

dawkinstweet-e1409323864883

Fortunately many people spoke out powerfully against Dawkins’ “example:”

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These conceptions of sexual violence attempt to lay people’s trauma on a spectrum with one end being “shut up, it’s not that bad” and the other end being “legitimate rape.”

All this ends up doing is denying the realities and pain of survivors.

Simply put, this is perpetrator logic. Perpetrator logic says that the person impacted doesn’t get to say whether something was traumatic. The only opinions that matter are those of the perpetrator and those who defend their actions by writing off some violence as “lesser” than others.

Perpetrator logic claims that rates of sexual violence are exaggerated by feminists who define the term too broadly. After all, defining “rape” so broadly might actually mean that I’m a perpetrator of violence, even if it didn’t look like what I picture a rapist to be.

The impact of perpetrator logic, then, is the silencing of survivors. When you know people won’t believe you or give you the public and private support you need to heal, you’re far less likely to share your experience, even with loved ones.

When you’ll be shamed and questioned, you are far less likely to speak out publicly about sexual violence.

And when you know you’ll be treated like you’re the one who did something wrong within the legal system, you are far less likely to report to the police. And some wonder why rates of reporting are so low!

Collectively, we need to move away from perpetrator logic. We need to move away from that logic which attempts to define for survivors what their experience was, and we need to empower more survivors to find the healing they need.

Here are four important things we need to do in order to abandon perpetrator logic:

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

BGD Editor in Training Program

Challenge to White Folks: Take The Black Girl Dangerous White Privilege Bucket Challenge

I was recently challenged by a dear friend to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Coming from this friend, the challenge was particularly poignant considering that her father was recently diagnosed with ALS, and just watching the video where she challenged me brought me to tears.

However, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do the challenge.  It’s not that I have a problem with the ALS Foundation or with people’s participation in the challenge.  It more had to do with what I saw on my social media at the height of the challenge.

When most people were participating in the challenge corresponded to a pivotal moment in our nation’s history: the protests in Ferguson, MO after the extra-judicial killing of Michael Brown. Virtually every person of Color I knew (and some White folks acting in solidarity) were posting about Ferguson, offering analysis and updates of what was happening on the ground.

But from the mostly-White youth that make up the vast majority of my Facebook fam, silence on Ferguson and a whole bunch of Ice Bucket Challenge videos.

This is not to say that there should not be young White youth participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was just wholly indicative of a problem of perception in the U.S. right now:

According to a Pew Research Center poll released Monday, 80 percent of African-American adults answered that the shooting and killing of the 18-year-old Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, raises important issues about race, while 18 percent answered that the topic of race is “getting more attention than it deserves.” White adults polled held very different opinions: Thirty-seven percent answered that the case is raising important issues while a plurality, 47 percent, said the topic is receiving too much attention.” – Source

There’s no question in my mind why 80% of African Americans knew Michael Brown’s killing raised important issue about race: Black and Brown people in the United States live the reality of state-sanctioned police violence against their lives, bodies, and communities every day in the U.S.

That’s simply not a problem very many White folks face. Yes, in the lowest wealth White communities, the problem of police brutality is understood, but by-in-large in the U.S., we as White folks have no idea unless we’re choosing to step back from our privilege and to listen to people of Color who must live with this violence.

So when I say this lack of attention among young White folks to Ferguson was a problem of perception, what I really mean was a that it is a problem of White privilege: the privilege to close our eyes to the truths of endemic racism in the United States (of which police violence is but one iteration).

Thus, my hesitation to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge stemmed from my desire to see a different social media landscape among the White folks in my network.

The Black Girl Dangerous White Privilege Bucket Challenge

That’s why I was delighted to see my friend Sarah participate in and challenge me to join the Black Girl Dangerous White Privilege Bucket Challenge.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you likely have read at least one post from the brilliant Black Girl Dangerous, as I love the work done there and tend to link to them fairly often.

But Black Girl Dangerous does more than host a platform for Queer and Trans People of Color to offer their voices, analysis, truths, stories.  Black Girl Dangerous is a revolutionary organization that challenges the Cis-, Straight-, and White-dominated media landscape.

That’s why the Black Girl Dangerous Editor in Training program is so important, and it’s why I accepted Sara’s challenge in the White Privilege Bucket Challenge.

From the BGD website:

The mission of the Black Girl Dangerous Editor-In-Training Program is to educate more queer and trans people of color in writing and editing specifically for online independent media. Online indie media sites have specific needs with regard to writing and editing. This program will focus on gaining those specific skills.

Many of us who have the most to contribute to important conversations happening in indie media, including conversations on race, gender, queerness, economic injustice, disability justice, issues affecting youth, etc., have the least amount of access to the training, education and experience needed to be successful in contributing to and leading independent media movements. Continuing our commitment to amplifying the voices of queer and trans people of color from all walks of life, BGD will train queer and/or trans people of color in online media editing and writing over 6 months. Participants will learn the skills necessary to write well for the web while also learning to effectively edit the work of other writers, to contribute to and build quality platforms. Participants will have the opportunity to write and edit for BGD, and to carry those skills into their own future indie media projects.”

So having taken the challenge and made my donation, here’s my video:

Why Challenge White Folks (Particularly White Men)?

Since releasing the video a couple of days ago, I have had a few White people ask me why I’m challenging White people (but particularly White men) to take the challenge.  One person asked, “If this is an issue that affects people of Color, why don’t they fund it?”

My response to that is two-fold:

1. This does not just affect people of Color. Being shielded through our privilege and our media from the lives voices of people of Color hurts us, as it ensures we live in a painfully isolated echo chamber. When we change the structures that deny Queer and Trans People of Color access to mediums for having their voices heard, we all benefit.

2. Simply put, White people need to be willing to redistribute our wealth.

In the United States, White privilege doesn’t just mean benefitting from little advantages throughout our day. For most of us, being White has meant that we have access to economic opportunity that ensures, as Ta-Nehisi Coates made so clear in this brilliant piece, that White poverty and Black poverty in the United States are not differences of “degree” but are poverties of a wholly “different kind.”

In turn, part of being accountable to our privilege means being willing to give as much as we’re able to people of Color-led efforts at realizing justice.

If we say we stand for justice, we have to put our money where our mouths are.  And a great way to do that is to give to the Black Girl Dangerous Editor in Training Program.

Thus, White folks, you should give.  Now.

White men in my life, I am particularly challenging you to give.  If all you can afford is $5, give $5.  If you can afford to put them up over their goal with a huge donation, do so.  But give.

As of the time I publish this piece, the fundraiser is a little more than halfway to its goal, with $11,673 left to raise.

Black Girl Dangerous Editor in Training Program

If (I’m sure mostly White) people can fundraise more than $55,000 for some damn potato salad, we should be able to get BGD at least that much.  If not, let’s get them to $25k.

Ferguson

In Solidarity with Ferguson, Act Locally: 5 Things White People Can Do to Combat Racist Police Violence

Scott Olson/Getty Images, Found Here

Like countless others around the country, I have been wrapped up in pain, anger, and concern over the killing of Michael Brown, the police cover up, the protests, and violent police response to those protests.  It’s been concerning (though perhaps not surprising) to see the state-sanctioned displays of White supremacy and utter contempt for the constitutional rights of poor Black people (especially with recent restraint used by institutional power when White protestors were pointing weapons at federal agents).

Perhaps what’s most concerning, though, is how this situation is described by White acquaintances, friends, and family who are not actively engaged in anti-racist action.

Some responses blame the victim: “Michael Brown was a criminal.” “If the protestors would just be civil, the police wouldn’t react the way they have.”

Other responses express naive shock and outrage: “How could this happen in America?” “Clearly the police in Ferguson are corrupt.”

But what seems to be missed in many of these reactions is that this is not a problem of Ferguson, MO. This is a problem of every single city and municipality in the United States of America.

As a result, there is a need to take action.  If you are able and are called to do so, consider joining the Black Lives Matter Ride to Ferguson on Labor Day weekend.  If you can’t head to Ferguson, consider financially supporting those who are taking part in this historic ride  (link takes you to Darnell Moore‘s fundraiser, but there are others linked below his to support as well).

However, those of us who cannot travel to Ferguson might feel like there’s nothing more we can do. Yet when we understand this as an interconnected problem of power and oppression, we immediately open up a world of action locally.

After all, when we as White people see Ferguson as an isolated problem, we actually contribute to the wider problem of White supremacy in our systems because we forever treat the problem as “over there” rather than right here on our home cities.

As a result, there is a need for us as White people (particularly since we often easily move from issue to issue and cause to cause) to see protests in Ferguson as part of a wider movement against the state-sanctioned extra-judicial murder and brutalization of people of Color by police and their proxies.

And when we realize that Ferguson is part of a history and a movement against police brutality that disproportionately affects communities of Color, we empower ourselves to act locally for justice.

5 Ways to Act Locally Against Racist Police Violence

1. Know Their Names, Say Their Names

Every 28 hours, a Black person is killed by police or those protected by police in the United States. That doesn’t even account for the Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander, Indigenous, or (most often low-income) White victims of police extra-judicial killing.  Nor does this number account for all of those victims of police brutality who survive but must live with the trauma and injuries from this violence.

Thus, no matter where you live, people locally are being impacted by police (and proxy) violence.

An important place for you to start, then, is to do the research to find the names and stories of those locally impacted by police violence.

Alonzo Ashley, Source

When I lived in Denver, activists were organizing to hold police accountable for the murder of Alonzo Ashley.

In Minneapolis, activists are working to hold the police accountable for the murder of

Terrance Franklin, Source

Terrance Franklin and for the beating of Al Flowers for demanding to see a warrant when police invaded his home.

By knowing the names and stories of those locally impacted by police violence, you ground this movement in your community and you open the door to local action.

2. Raise Awareness Locally

Once you’re aware of the police violence affecting local communities, you can help raise the consciousness of those around you. Local awareness and engagement is vital for changing policy, police training, and civic practice in your community.

More often than not, White folks are totally oblivious to this violence and/or blame the victims for the violence taking place. Thus, there is a particular need for us to call other White folks into the conversation about police brutality.

Whether through social media or over a dinner with a friend, look for ways that you can help those who are unaware understand the problem of police (and proxy) violence in our cities and towns.

3. Pressure Local Power Holders

Once we are aware of the problem, we have to do more than bemoan the issue within the comfort of our homes.  We have to hold local power holders accountable to creating change.

Particularly for those of us with access (as a result of wealth or connections), there is a need to press mayors, city council members, alderman, police chiefs, public prosecutors, and other local power holders for change.  When they ignore you (and they likely will), keep contacting them. Set up meetings, and email them regularly.

When you reach out, here are a few specific, measurable things you can call for:

  • Demand Police Body Cameras – We live in an age that allows incredible surveillance of police behavior for accountability purposes, but only a small minority of police forces prioritize the technology for this accountability. Body cameras, a simple and inexpensive addition to the police uniform, have been found to reduce incidents of excessive police force by as much as 50% where used. Costing as little as $199 per officer (plus hosting and transmission costs), this not only can reduce the violence committed and protect citizens from violence, but it can protect police who are doing their jobs legitimately.  Plus, limiting police brutality also ensures that cities don’t need to pay out millions in settlements in civil suits, so if you’re talking to someone who values tax savings over considerations of human life (yes, they exist), you can show how cameras actually save tax payers money.
  • Demand Accountable Civilian Review - Having cameras and accountability procedures is ineffective unless there is a legitimate and empowered civilian review authority with actual teeth to hold police accountable. After all, when footage from body cameras or dash cameras is held and stored by police, it’s far too easy for footage to conveniently disappear (“Oh, that camera was malfunctioning that day”) when there’s an incident of police violence. Thus, if your city doesn’t have a civilian review authority with actual teeth, demand one. The local police union will fight to ensure it is ineffective, but civilian review from members of the community most affected is a powerful tool for change.
  • Demand Independent Police Liability Insurance – Currently city governments are on the hook financially when their police officers brutalize citizens, yet police unions are powerful enough that local politicians rarely hold police accountable.  However, insurance companies that care about their bottom line would have no problem holding police accountable when they abuse their authority.  Thus, a simple thing to demand in your municipality is for police to be required to pay for their own liability insurance as a condition of employment in the police department. If they brutalize citizens and end up losing a suit, the insurance companies will make it quite expensive to hold insurance or will drop the officer completely, thus ensuring that the person can no longer be employed as a police officer in your city. Simply put, hit them in the pocket book to hold police accountable. Learn about the movement in Minneapolis to require police to purchase their own insurance.

4. Join The Movement Against Police Brutality Locally

Everywhere that police are brutalizing citizens, people are organizing to hold police accountable. If you live in even a medium-sized city, there’s a good chance that your city has an organized group working against police brutality. Connect with the local organizers and organizations that are demanding change. Not sure who those folks are? Show up to local protests against police brutality and ask about who the organizers were, or connect with local activists via social media and ask how you can help.  Then work to build trust and volunteer your time and energy to help!

Keep in mind, though, that as White folks, it’s not our job to be in charge.  Offer your support, but recognize that you don’t need to be in the limelight or in a leadership role. There are powerful activists in every community with the lived experience and history in activism to lead. If we’re just coming to the movement, it’s our job to listen, learn, and support.

5. Connect and Collaborate with Nearby Movements

Knowing that this is a problem in pretty much every community in the country and knowing that there are seasoned activists who’ve been standing up to this problem for generations, connecting with multiple organizations in an area can help build a wider movement.  Maybe they are already connected and learning from one another, but if they’re not, a simple way to help is to network and learn from others nearby who are doing the work to hold police forces accountable.  The more we connect our efforts in the age of digital media and communication, the more effective we can be in ensuring that violent, racist police forces (and the powers above them) cannot act with impunity.

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Regardless of how we engage, we have to engage. As we are far less likely to be impacted by police violence directly, but police violence hurts everyone as it tears apart any hope for true democracy.

Sure, there are White people who are beaten or killed by cops, and they are more likely to be low-wealth White folks.  We need to understand, though, that while fearing state-sanctioned violence is a daily reality for most people of Color in the United States (but particularly for Black, Indigenous, and Brown people), it’s just not something most White folks ever consider.

And finally, to those who immediately jump into the #NotAllCops defense upon hearing criticisms like those in this piece, stop. No, not all cops are actively participating in the murder and brutalization of citizens, but this is about more than the racism of individual cops. That’s why there are plenty of police of Color who contribute to the problem.

This is about a system of oppression that since its inception has used the implied or active violence of police forces for everything from slave patrols to re-enslaving escaped slaves to beating civil rights marchers to brutalizing people of Color in order to crush the hopes and dreams of those for whom this country was not made.

Simply put, “America is not for Black people,” and one of the most foundational roles of the police is to protect and maintain the status quo in a system of oppression.

Other resources:

Donate Supplies to Protestors and Organizers in Ferguson

Stay up to date with the Black Lives Matter Ride and Donate to Riders like Darnell Moore

Showing Up for Racial Justice – Police Brutality Action Kit

12 Things White People Can Do Now Because of Ferguson – By Janee Woods

12 Things White People Can Do About Ferguson Besides Tweet – By Kate Hardin