So it’s happened again, another unarmed young Black man who posed no threat whatsoever shot in the back multiple times by police officers. Amazingly, as of right now Jacob Blake is still alive, despite being shot seven times at point-blank range by someone who was attempting to murder him.
I just had a student lose a younger brother– a nine-year-old– to a gunshot. And neither of these things will ever stop, because America loves guns more than it loves children or Black people combined, and white people in this country will put up with absolutely anything so long as they can see people of color nearby who have it worse than they do.
I finished up with my classes today and decided to do something I don’t do very often, which is go take a swim in the pool by myself. Before I did, I spent a moment randomly scrolling through TikTok and found a video by a Black woman who was clearly reacting to Blake’s shooting. I duetted the video– which, for those of you who don’t do TikTok, is basically that app’s version of Twitter’s comment-RT, but did mine over a black background and just put “Nothing I need to add here; BLACK LIVES MATTER” in my side of the screen. I was basically just doing a signal boost.
(Which turned out utterly unnecessary, as the account I was duetting was MUCH bigger than mine, but whatever.)
Well an hour later I got out of the pool and discovered that my most famous TikTok video is now one that I don’t actually appear in. It’s gone very mildly viral (very mildly; I only have about 40 followers and don’t have much reach there) but for some reason it was getting a lot more commentary and Likes than usual, especially compared to the number of views.
And, man, y’all, there’s a whole lot of racists on TikTok. I am desperately tired of white people who somehow in August of 2020 still want to pretend that any of the following are true:
That “All Lives Matter.” No, they don’t, and this has been explained to you repeatedly, and I assume at this point anyone who says this is either a racist or too stupid to live.
That “Blue Lives Matter.” There is no such thing as Blue Lives, and you are a racist— and an asshole– if you try this one. Cops choose to be cops. This is not a thing.
Oh if you just follow instructions you’ll be fine. Not true, not at all. Especially when there’s five different cops all barking different sets of instructions at you. Also: Tamir Rice. Also: Philando Castile. Also: Charles Kinsey.
If they weren’t doing anything wrong, they’d have been fine. Also not true! See: Tamir Rice again. See: Breanna Taylor. See: Botham Jean. See: Atatiana Jefferson.
Cops kill Black people because cops in this country are racist and overfunded and overarmed and utterly fucking out of control. The police are a street gang with no accountability whatsoever. I also had to contend with this piece of risible horse shit today:
Oh, I absolutely do want to do these things, and frankly I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t. And I am far from the only fucking one. Shut the fuck up, Joy Behar, and take your idiot bullshit with you. I’m not in the mood.
At any rate, I’ve discovered that you can’t delete comments on TikTok once they’re made, but you can block commenters, and I’ve been making sure that no one gets a chance to be dumb twice. Because unless I actually do get paid to educate you, I don’t get paid to educate you, especially for something that by this point in this year of all times you should bloody fucking already know.
I went on a little bit of a tear this morning about incrementalism, police reform, and the “defund the police” … movement? Hashtag? thing, and it occurs to me that part of the problem is that I don’t know what to call it. One thing that has been true about me for a while is that I am nearly always in favor of taking small steps that get me closer to an overall goal. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the goal, or that if the chance arrives to achieve the goal I won’t jump at it– but if we have a chance to move closer I’m always going to take it even if it doesn’t solve all existing problems anyway. The notion that we can make progress toward solutions is one that I believe in pretty strongly.
To wit, health care: I think health care should be free or close to it at the point of delivery and that everyone should have health insurance, and I believe health insurance should be covered by taxes. I don’t necessarily care about how that is enacted– if you can put a plan in front of me that has a chance to pass and keeps for-profit health insurance companies in business while enacting that goal, or at least part of that goal, chances are I’ll support it. I think ultimately we need to move away from the notion of for-profit health insurance– that, in fact, it is a moral abomination– but it’s not going away tomorrow, and in the meantime anything we can do to keep people alive and fight off living in a world where medical bankruptcy is a thing is good. I am a realist, though, and I live in America, and I don’t think that private insurance companies are getting abolished tomorrow, so I’m not going to stomp my feet about Medicare for All and hold my breath.
Similarly, police reform. This is complicated to talk about, because when we talk about “defunding police,” the meaning of that term slides around kind of hideously depending on who you’re talking about. I am always entertained when I hear elected officials or, really, anyone talking about guns and saying things like no one is coming to take away your guns, because I am absolutely coming to take away your guns. Similarly, there appear to be a contingent of people who, when they say “defund the police,” they mean exactly that, and then there’s another contingent of people– who may or may not be trying to appropriate the phrase from the first contingent– who actually mean “cut their budgets, but keep them around.”
Those are not the same thing, and that’s kind of a problem.
And then there are organizations like #8cantwait, which has its own problems, namely surprisingly dodgy statistics and studies for something Sam Sinyangwe has put his name to, as he’s always seemed like a pretty straightforward guy. I would take that 72% number with a grain of salt. But I do think that enacting these types of policies would, in fact, reduce police violence, and even if the goal is (laudably!) to eliminate police violence, maybe we do things that aren’t going to get us all the way there in one stroke anyway because they’ll help? Some of those 8 items would even increase police budgets, or at least would without commensurate cuts elsewhere– training costs money, for example– and that’s an automatic nonstarter for (some of) the Defund folks, especially the Defund/Abolish wing. I’m willing to spend some extra taxpayer money if it keeps people alive.
And, of course, there is the fact that Eric Garner (and, I’m sure, others) was killed with a chokehold that has been banned in New York since 1993, so clearly the policy didn’t keep him alive. But laws don’t actually stop crime! We know this! It’s not controversial! What laws do is allow us to punish people when they commit those crimes, and you can’t go after a cop for using a banned chokehold if the chokehold isn’t banned.
It is utterly ludicrous, to me, to claim that you want police violence stopped and to simultaneously be against enacting a policy that police can’t use chokeholds. And I would like to see better data on how well these policies work— if police departments having such a policy doesn’t change anything, then by all means don’t bother– but I don’t see much of a down side in banning something like a choke hold while we try to collect better data. I mean, that should lead to fewer people being choked, right? It surely won’t lead to more choking.
I am sympathetic to the lower-case D defund people, and I’m absolutely willing to listen to the defund-and-abolish crew; I just downloaded Alex Vitale’s The End of Policing (because a paper copy cannot be found, which strikes me as a good thing) and I intend to read it soon, and me being me I’m sure I’ll find other books about it to read as well. But my initial feeling is that such a thing isn’t going to fly in America. I’d love to be wrong, but I live in a country where 40% of the populace still approves of the syphilitic Adderall addict in the White House. We are not abolishing the police anytime soon even if it’s a good idea.
So what sorts of things do I think we should do? Here, have a list in no particular order:
I really don’t see any reason not to encourage wholesale adoption of the #8cantwait agenda. It’s not going to solve all of our problems, but even if it doesn’t help as much as I hope I certainly don’t see it making things worse.
Police unions should be abolished. Police are not workers. This is a big part of the problem, because Republicans don’t want to criticize police and Democrats don’t want to criticize unions. They’re not the same as workers and they shouldn’t have the same protections. Police unions have to go.
Police should not even carry guns most of the time. I’m okay with keeping one in the car or something but the vast majority of police work does not require the cop to be armed.
It should be widely recognized that killing someone on the job is literally the worst thing a cop can do. No police officer who has killed someone, justified or otherwise, should still be on the streets. I don’t mind them having desk jobs, but once you kill somebody you should be done patrolling.
Police should be required to be licensed and degreed (four years!) to at least the same extent as teachers are. Police licensure should be temporary and revocable in the case of misconduct, and there should be at least state-by-state databases keeping track of them.
Police officers dismissed for cause or who have their license revoked in one state cannot move to another state and apply for a new one. Similarly, this information should be public– you can look up my teachers’ license; I should be able to see theirs as well.
Review boards with actual teeth, staffed by civilians.
“Kettling” and blocking access to public transit during protests should be banned. Protesters should always have the option to leave, particularly when “failure to disperse” is something cops arrest protesters for.
I want a nationwide, comprehensive, detailed, publicly accessible database on the use of force by police departments.
Deescalation training should be mandatory, frequent, and used. Again, I want the police held to at least the same standards that teachers are.
Use of tear gas, LRAD devices, rubber bullets and any sort of other military hardware by police officers is banned, and the sale of surplus military hardware to police departments is ended immediately. Tear gas is a fucking war crime if you use it on opposing armies; there is no reason for its use to be so routine against American citizens.
Any officer found to have turned off his or her bodycam or covered his or her badge number and/or name while on duty is fired immediately, end of discussion, no exceptions.
Tangentially related, perhaps, but private prisons should be abolished. We can talk about prison abolition in general sometime if y’all like but private prisons are an obscenity.
End qualified immunity.
It should be illegal for police to have sex with people in custody, because are you fucking kidding how are there not already policies against this???
Police should have to carry malpractice insurance the same way doctors do. Settlements are paid out of that insurance fund or out of pensions, not out of taxpayer pockets.
Police are not automatically dispatched when a call to EMS or fire departments is made.
Police are provided with free and ready access to counseling and mental health services.
That’s a start, I think; I’ll add into the list as the day goes on if I come up with more. None of these policies are going to stop police violence, of course, but again: you have to decrease police violence before you can stop it.
Yell at me in comments if you like, but be aware I am a bit short-tempered today.
4:06 PM, Monday, June 8: 1,954,236 confirmed cases and 110,845 Americans dead. The site I pull this data from had spiked to over 116k dead earlier today; it’s rolled back now, so I assume there was some sort of data entry error.
The boy’s hair is getting into his eyes, and we have been threatening him with a haircut for a few weeks now, but higher-priority things keep getting in the way. This morning, as my wife is leaving to take the Great Old One to the vet for a check-up, she asks me if I can get his hair cut. Yes! I can do that, and for once we do not have ten thousand other things that need to be done today.
I call the place we’ve been using. Someone answers the phone.
“Hi, do you have appointments available this afternoon?” I ask.
“We’re open until three,” the person on the other side says.
That is … not what I asked, and something about her tone gets directly on a nerve for some reason. A moment or two of slightly confused but pointed questions reveals that yes, they’re more or less free all afternoon and I can pick whatever time I want, and I make an appointment for noon.
The correct response here, by the way, is something along the lines of “We’ve got open spots all afternoon, what time would you like to come in?” I feel like this isn’t a complicated interaction, y’know? Probably happens a few times a day, at least? I asked about appointments. If you’re wide open, say that. Don’t get snotty with me and tell me your hours as if they weren’t right there on the website I used to find your phone number.
We’ve been using this place for a while, because they’re nearby, reasonably priced, and kid-friendly. There has always been a bit of Jesusiness about the place, but it’s never been too terribly overwhelming; they sell shirts and the shirts have a Bible verse on them for some reason along with the logo of the barbershop. That’s been about it. I live in fucking Indiana; I’m used to it.
Today when I got there their front door had been redone to include the two images in the above picture, and, well, welcome to the Don’t Want None Won’t Be None zone, folks. If I were to deliberately design a logo for American Christofascism I could not do much better than a cross with a thin blue line graphic imposed on it. My rule for when I allow my politics to influence decisions that shouldn’t be political (like where should I get my kid’s hair cut once every two or three months) is that if you make sure I know where you stand, I’m going to judge you accordingly, and if you don’t, I’m not going to go looking for trouble. And these folks have now officially crossed a (thin, blue) line that makes it perfectly clear that my business isn’t wanted there, and they’re going to get what they want from here on out.
Now, note here that 1) I have never had any problem with any of the employees, and I’m not even certain who actually owns the place; and 2) I am perfectly willing to let this rule apply to me; I wear my politics on my sleeve around here and anyone who is, say, unwilling to buy my books because of that is absolutely encouraged to make that decision. Everyone is welcome to not spend their money on my work for whatever reason they like, regardless of what I might think of the reason. I don’t actually get to have a say here! It’s your money!
And, well, when it’s my money, if you’re gonna make sure I get greeted with Jesus and Blue Lives Matter before I walk into your place of business, well, I’m gonna keep on walking. Sorrynotsorry, I guess.
Today is super exciting. It is Friday, and yet I am home with my wife and son, who I get to spend an entire day with, and none of the three of us have to go to work or school! Friday is always one of my days off, the boy is out because his school is doing parent/teacher conferences today (ours was last night; I was gratified to learn that, insofar as such things exist at my kid’s school, he’s in the high reading group) and my wife took the day off because my wife never takes days off and as it turns out if she doesn’t take every Friday off for the rest of the year she’s going to lose a lot of vacation days for no good reason. So we’re all home! I got up and had a cup of coffee and now I don’t need to hustle to get to work!
Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot in the last couple of days and there are more books I want you to know about:
First, let’s talk about Corey J. White’s Killing Gravity, a book billed as book one of the “Voidwitch Saga,” which is awesome because my main takeaway from this little novella is that I want a lot more of it. Tor has absolutely been killing it with their novella imprint; these are short books but I have most of a bookshelf dedicated to them already and I’m getting to the point where if I find out a new one is out I buy it instantly without further investigation. I’ve never done that with an imprint before.
Anyway, Killing Gravity is compared to Firefly on the cover but I don’t find that to be an especially apt comparison; I think for most people what they look for in a Firefly lookalike is the sense of humor and this book is emphatically not funny. It’s a 160-page exercise in tone and badassery and gene modification and bioimplants and psychic assassins and shadowy corporations and lots and lots of psychokinetic murder and oh there’s also sort of a flying squirrel? But it’s not funny. That’s not a complaint; most books don’t have to be funny to be good, but you do have to be funny to remind someone of Firefly. The prose is a particular standout here; this is one of those books where it’s so distinctively written that it almost doesn’t matter what it’s about– the writing is that good– but it’s an awesome setting and a cool story too and I really want to see more of it. (EDIT: March of 2018!)
The second book I just read this morning, and will almost certainly take you less than an hour to get through cover to cover. You Have the Right to Remain Innocent isn’t so much a good book as an important one.
The premise of the book’s pretty damn straightforward, and the author isn’t especially subtle about making the point over and over again: don’t talk to cops. Don’t talk to cops, don’t talk to cops, don’t talk to cops. Don’t talk to cops if you’re innocent, don’t talk to cops if you’re guilty, don’t talk to cops at all unless you have your lawyer sitting right next to you, in which case your lawyer will tell you not to talk to the cops, or unless you’re telling the cops clearly and unambiguously that you will say not one word until that lawyer is sitting next to you.
Sounds pretty simple, right? That’s not really a book all by itself, but this is America and folks need to be constantly reminded of simple shit like this, so the book is full of examples of the cops and prosecutors fucking innocent people over who were stupid enough to “head down to the station to get things cleared up” and ended up in jail for crimes they didn’t commit.
Don’t talk to cops. If that statement isn’t obvious to you, read the book a couple of times until it sinks in.