American policing can’t be reformed

I know all my friends want police violence to stop as much as I do. But we must understand that there are no reforms that can change the values at the very foundation of American policing, and those are white supremacy, patriarchy, and violence. 

We don’t need kinder, gentler slave catching patrols. We don’t need cops that learn to behave better only when we are filming them. We need to starve (defund) the beast while we reinvest in structures designed for community care, restorative justice, and public safety. 

We don’t need to have all the answers to know that the current systems are unacceptable. Let’s educate each other and start having conversations about what comes next.

If you need a place to start, Eight to Abolition and the BREATHE Act offer a way forward.

adrienne maree brown

some of us are never surprised

Wow, I have so much to say about this tragically historic moment in time that we are living through, starting with we fucking told you so.

But while I try to get my head together to write something more articulate than that, here is a new poem from the brilliant visionary adrienne maree brown.

what is unveiled? the founding wound. (poem/directive)

January 7, 2021

a body is always a body
individual or collective
(whole or in many pieces)
alive or, later, dead
a body is always vulnerable

a wound is always a wound
singular and deep
or many cuts, slowly, blood everywhere
left untreated, unstaunched, denied
a wound will always fester

the first wound happens within
the violence of birth
the expulsion from the illusion of safety
from the idea that someone (else)
will do all the labor

and some of us keep looking everywhere
for placenta, for mothering
for acceptance of our worst choices
to be told we are so special
to be named a favorite child

some of us learn to work
we are given tools, lectures, practices
we are given the blessing of knowing
that work to nourish the collective
is a sacred path for our lives

some are only taught to eat
given the title to land that isn’t ours
judged for the speck of dirt under our nails
set to race against even our own kin
for the neverending victory of more

some of us are black
still nauseous from the boat’s hold
still catching our breath from snapped ropes
still oiling our calloused field hands
and still wounded

some of us are white
still synonymous with impossible purity
still given no songs from the earth
still taught to master nothing but superiority
and still, wounded

some of us are red, yellow, brown
still made to feel tertiary to the plot
still dismissed for all we remember
still claiming we are human, not terrorist
and, still wounded

some of us are never surprised
never apoplectic when the stench hits us
what rots at the core is known, documented
it is tangible, moral, American, spiritual
it is the founding wound

gray only at the surface
brittle black where the injury began
a rainbow of bruising everywhere
green mold making life in dying flesh
but the pus, the pus bursts white

we are well past the age of turning inwards
of seeing the open wounds on our souls
of stepping into our shadows with truth light
of seeing we were shaped, and can change
of believing the wound is who we are

we know the smell of decay on breath
we see the swollen cracking flesh of infection
it is not rude to acknowledge the stink
to wonder if it is viral, venom, survivable
to look for the laceration(s)

things are not getting worse
they are getting uncovered
we must hold each other tight
and continue to pull back the veil
see: we, the body, we are the wounded place

we live on a resilient earth
where change is the only constant
in bodies whose only true whiteness
is the blood cell that fights infection
and the bone that holds the marrow

remove the shrapnel, clean the wound
relinquish inflammation, let the chaos calm
the body knows how to scab like lava stone
eventually leaving the smooth marring scars
of lessons learned:

denial will not disappear a wound

the wound is not the body

a body cannot be divided into multiple living entities (what us will go on breathing?)

the founder’s wound is the myth of supremacy

this is not the first wound, or the last

we are a species before we are a nation, and after

warriors, organizers, storytellers, dreamers – all of us are healers

the healing path is humility, laughter, truth, awareness and choice

a scab is a boundary on territory, between what is within and what is without, when the line has been breached

stop picking at the scab, it slows the healing

until we are dead, and even when we are exhausted and faithless, we fight for life

we are our only relevant hope
we are our only possible medicine

a body is always a body
wounded, festering, healing, healed
we choose each day what body we will shape
with the miraculous material we’re gifted
let us, finally, attend to the wound
let us, finally, name the violence
let us, finally, break the cycle of supremacy
let us, finally, choose ourselves whole
let us, finally, love ourselves
whole.

http://adriennemareebrown.net/2021/01/07/what-is-unveiled-the-founding-wound-poem-directive/

Ruby getting arrested in Graham, NC

None of us are free until all of us are free

One year ago today, I and eight other lovely humans were arrested by the Graham Police Department as we attempted to walk to the Alamance County Detention Center and hold a Jewish-led ceremony to say #NeverAgain, to mourn the many who have suffered at the hands of ICE, and to protect the ICE detainees currently held by Alamance County’s racist sheriff Terry Johnson.

Half of the group is STILL being charged, but the nine of us are fortunate to have the freedom to not be detained while we await trials. Unfortunately others are not as lucky. With COVID the jail is even more inhumane than ever. Please donate to Down Home North Carolina’s bailout fund to free as many people as possible:

NEVER AGAIN Ice Out of Alamance

Graham 9 Update

Here is a personal statement and an update on the Graham 9 – the group arrested at a Never Again Alamance protest last November.

On our first trial date, one member (who was charged with “masking” if you can believe it) received a Prayer for Judgement. The rest of us are charged with failure to disperse. Two had trials and were convicted. Those judgements will be appealed. The rest of us (including me) are now scheduled for trials in November and December.

The Burlington Times News wrote a quick story about the gathering we had before the trial with supporters, who came to walk us to court. They included an excerpt of the comments I made that morning as well as very thoughtful remarks from my co-defendant Xavier Adams.

Here is the full text of my statement:

I grew up next door in Orange County, and I’m here to stand with my neighbors both new and old who have had enough of the childish tantrums, violent threats, and racist intimidation in Alamance County.  Sheriff Johnson must go, and he can take all the city and county officials that coddle racists and arrest racial justice supporters with him.

I am old enough to remember life before ICE. I was 30 when the planes struck the twin towers on September 11. To many of us at the time, the whole idea of a Department of Homeland Security smacked of nationalism and violence. And sure enough it has grown to become a source of xenophobia, violence, and human suffering for nearly 2 decades now. ICE is our gestapo: terrorizing communities, abandoning people in concentration camps, and tearing families apart.

As a Jew and as an American, I have a moral obligation to stand up for the rights of all people, not just those who look or act like me.

As a parent I have an obligation to try to make this world a better place for my son and all the kids he’s growing up with in these unfortunately historic times.

And as the descendant of immigrants who were also demonized and ghettoized and exploited, I know that today’s immigrants are my siblings coming to the United States for a better life just like my ancestors did.

So when I learned last year that Terry Johnson was not only terrorizing women and people of color of Alamance County with his authority but also taking money from ICE to lock up innocent migrants in the Alamance Detention Center, I knew I had to come to Graham and join with others in calling out his racism an in humanity.

This summer in Graham demonstrations have continued for civil rights, Black lives, and freedom. Unfortunately we’ve also seen a lot of ugly white supremacy on display. Many around NC and around the country have looked on in horror as Alamance County officials have not only allowed actual neo-Nazi and neo-Confederates to swarm the streets and intimidate people, but in fact have arrested peaceful demonstrators who had the audacity to simply disagree with racist symbols and policies.

Absentee ballot in a mailbox

Vote by mail now, while you still can

Given Trump’s on-going incitement of white supremacists to intimidate voters at the polls, is anyone still wondering why they should vote by mail?

I put my ballot in the mail on Monday without even leaving my house. It was picked up by a mail carrier (working so late that they were wearing a headlamp). Today, Wednesday morning, I got a text from http://northcarolina.ballottrax.net that it’s on the way to the Durham County Board of Elections! So easy. The hardest part was finding an adult to “witness” my absentee ballot.

screenshot

The BallotTrax system is reliable and safe. Certainly safer than I feel about going to vote in person. If you don’t think Trump’s pals will find more ways to make voting harder, riskier (because of COVID) and scarier (because of white supremacists) in the next month then you are definitely not paying attention.

Why tempt a very uncertain future when you can safely vote from home? Republicans want you to to not trust the USPS, but mail carriers are on our side. They’re working their butts off to make sure our votes get delivered and BallotTrax (thanks to NC’s excellent Attorney General Josh Stein) ensures ballots will be counted.

Crowd of protesters facing sheriffs deputies and riot police

Challenging racism and saving souls in Alamance County

Ten months ago, I joined hundreds of Jews, immigrants, and our friends in Graham, North Carolina to say “no more” to the the cruel, racist, and unnecessary practices of ICE and to call out Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson‘s enthusiastic enforcement of their white supremacist agenda. I was arrested at that demonstration, along with nine other lovely human beings.

In the months since then, two things have become even more clear than before. One, our government has no regard for civil rights, human dignity, or democracy and will stop at nothing to promote the interests of the rich, white, and powerful at the expense of everyone else. And two, there are some people in and around Alamance County that will happily and shamelessly attempt to shut down peaceful dissent if it in any way challenges their racist assumptions about the world. (Alamance County is the home base of neo-confederate ACTBAC.) But we’ve also learned that there are even more people in and around Alamance that believe that Black Lives Matter and that protest is patriotic, and they’ve been bravely showing up in the streets of Graham for the past several months.

When I drove to the Never Again protest on November 24, I wasn’t aware there was a Confederate statue in Graham. I learned later that the Sheriff had sent his troopers to the town square to protect it from the imagined threat. Meanwhile, we were four blocks away attempting to peacefully march to the Alamance Detention Center so that we could say the Mourner’s Kaddish, sit shiva, and observe other Jewish rituals in remembrance of the many people who have died in ICE custody. Unfortunately, the racist Sheriff Terry Johnson would not allow this to happen. Ironically, once we were arrested we were transported by the county directly to the same detention center that they prevented us from walking to!

Ruby getting arrested in Graham, NC
Photo of me (Ruby Sinreich) being arrested by Officer Ellis of the Haw River Police Department at a protest against ICE and Sheriff Terry Johnson in Graham, North Carolina on November 24, 2019. Photo by Anthony Crider https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrider/49118904508/

As Jews we have a special responsibility to remember the horrors of government-backed xenophobia, the dangers of draconian law enforcement, and the nightmare of illegal incarceration and family separation. When we say NEVER AGAIN, we must mean it. We cannot idly watch the actions of federal, state, and local government as they gradually but steadily march toward fascism. Those of us with privilege are called to spend it now in many forms of resistance large and small to stop the gears of authoritarianism, save people’s lives, and in doing so, save our own souls.

This summer, nonviolent protesters speaking out for Black lives and against the Confederate statue were arrested on a public sidewalk. (The ACLU of NC sued the town of Graham over their anti-protest ordinance and won.) And in recent weeks, as we have learned about a tragic and predictable COVID-19 outbreak at the Alamance detention center, people speaking out for health and human rights were arrested for such nonexistent offenses as swearing in the presence of a police officer.

It’s now undeniable that Alamance County officials have a racism problem, and that elected leaders are not concerned about the health or human rights of their residents. Alamance has the biggest prison COVID outbreak in the state of North Carolina with over 100 cases (out of just about 400 incarcerated people), far surpassing big cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. Thankfully the wonderful people of Down Home NC are working to free as many people from this nightmare as possible by raising bail funds.

In this new context of weekly demonstrations for and against racism in Alamance County, the town of Graham’s reactionary attempts to squelch free speech, and the increasingly grim reality of living in an uncontrolled pandemic stoked by racism, toxic masculinity, and ignorance, the nine of us arrested in Graham last November are scheduled to have our second appearance in court next week! You can show your support for us by donating to the Alamance Mass Bail Out.

Never Again Action in Graham (2019 Nov)
Enjoy scrolling through this album of Tony Crider’s excellent photos from November 24, 2019 in Graham.


Mapping police brutality

I’m sure this only scratches the surface because it only tracks incidents of police violence that are reported on Twitter but I really appreciate folks (including Durham lawyer Greg Doucette) for putting this together.

See also The Guardian‘s site The Counted, which they created to track police killings in 2015 because no-one else was even doing it.

Pence, McConnell, & Trump

It’s not incompetence

I cannot understand people’s insistence on believing that Republicans are failing because they are incompetent. They are extremely strategic, they just don’t have any intrinsic morality. They will grab all the money and power within reach, and they’ll believe it was right if they don’t get caught.

Even in the areas where they simply lack the skills or capacity needed to govern, that is a strategic choice. They don’t want there to be an effective safety net, schools, public health, transportation network, public safety, healthy environment, or anything that connects us socially or culturally.

People who are poor, sick, isolated, scared, and hopeless are easier to manipulate, especially by authoritarians that appeal to the worst parts of human nature, ie: Republicans.

Rant inspired by this Twitter thread:

simulation results

Quarantine for kids

After screaming into the void for weeks on Twitter about the desperate need for massive testing and rapid social isolation, we are now living that quarantine life. Like many parents I am trying not to terrify my child (and myself), but unlike many parents I will not sugarcoat things. Especially after spending decades talking about how our political leaders are failing us, I am not going to lie about the fact that we are all suffering now because those failures have come home to roost.

I know my child thinks I am going a little overboard with this quarantine business, so showed him a few visuals to help him understand. These were the most helpful things we looked at today.

  1. Washington Post simulator showing the difference in infections between different policies such as partial quarantine and social distancing. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/
  2. The now-ubiquitous #FlattenTheCurve chart show how rapid spread will overwhelm the medical system. This available everywhere, we looked at https://www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation
  3. A young man from Wuhan’s TikTok videos that show his experience in Wuhan (start at the last one). https://www.tiktok.com/@danielouyang