The Murder of Walter Scott, Abolition, And Alternatives to “Carceral” Reform

Another blatant murder of a Black man, Walter Scott, by the police state. The narrative hasn’t changed, the police murder a Black man, Mr. Scott, and then cover it up with all the power of the state, the murderous cop plants a taser next to the victim, to bolster the cop’s story that the cop was “fearing for his life.” and the state’s  initial response was that this shooting was justified.This would have remained the dominant narrative except for a video. A video that clearly showed the victim, fleeing, weaponless, and being shot in the back. There has already been a lot of thoughtful, rageful, and mournful pieces written about the lies told by and about our police state and our criminal “justice system.” I have been unsure what, if anything, I have to add to the discussion. However, I have been thinking about an additional angle – feminism, social justice movements, and the prision industrial complex. The Marshall Report, just released a piece about child support and the number of men who fear the police because of warrants for failure to pay. It is here: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/04/10/why-was-walter-scott-running?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_source=opening-statement&utm_term=newsletter-20150410-154 The fathers’ failure to pay child support is a major problem for single moms and has been claimed as an issue by conservatives and feminists alike. This is a real problem – divorce being a major catalyst for driving mothers into poverty. However, arresting fathers and putting them into jail for failure or inability to pay child-support is nonsensical, no one can pay anything while in jail. So why would advocates fight for legal mechanisms like arrests for failure to pay child-support? I think that questions affords us a place for self-reflection on the legal reforms that social movements fight for. Movements led by an upper/middle class white(mostly) professionalized class usually equals “reforms” that contribute to the strength of the police state and expansion of the prison industrial complex. When white feminists advocate for these solutions, radical, women of color, groups like INCITE! refer to it as “carceral” feminism. Victoria Law in the left magazine, The Jacobin, defines it as,”… an approach that sees increased policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary solution to violence against women.”  Kimberle Crenshaw, in her groundbreaking piece, Mapping the Margins, Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Color, first pointed out the obvious in her critique of Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) – that solutions that rely on the state to stop violence will INCREASE violence against working class women of color and non-citizens. And outcomes for interaction with police will be different for a white middle-class woman versus a poor Black-woman. Obvious – if anyone had actually paid attention the experiences of Black women and the US state. The same state that previously legalized the bondage, commodification, and rape of Black enslaved women could hardly be trusted to stop violence against Black women. To understand our history, is to understand that the law, as an outgrowth of the capitalist state, has always regulated Black bodies and Black labor in order to maximize white, capital, profit. So when we call for the state to ensure that men pay child support through disciplinary tactics like probation and incarceration, we are just enabling the capitalist, racist state to continue to regulate/enslave Black and Brown bodies. When we call for mandatory arrests of accused wife abusers, we are doing the same. When we when demand hate crime legislation we are doing the same. When we call for the end to human trafficking through the demand of more prosecutions, we are again empowering the state to continue to arrest more Black and Brown people. That is just how it works. Money that pours into the our criminal incarceration system only goes to building a more sophisticated police state and creation of more state sponsored violence. It will never end violence. This is why I am an abolitionist. This is why you should be one too. There are alternatives to calls for reform that don’t strengthen the police state. Instead of calling for the arrest of fathers who can’t or won’t pay child-support, we can join in coalitions calling for full-employment, fair jobs, $15 and a union. Instead of calling for the independent review boards of the police, diversity in the police, or more community policing, we can call for reparations and the dismantling of the police force. Instead of calling for Hate crime legislation, we need to reduce the thousands of acts that are now called felonies in our criminal incarceration system. Instead of calling for the end to deportations for some of us but an increase in deportation for the “criminal”, we could say that they/we are all our family and demand full legalization and the end of deportation and detention for all of us. As I am writing this, I see more articles calling for the same. Like this article by Mychal Smith of the Nation, http://www.thenation.com/blog/203873/abolish-police-instead-lets-have-full-social-economic-and-political-equality Abolition. Reparations. Full Social and Economic Equality. If you want to read more: read Michelle Alexander’s book, the New Jim Crow, Angela Davis’ book, Are Prisons Obsolete, and INCITE’s website, and many more sources, that I don’t know yet!

Welcome Home Artchan (& our messed up immigration system, plus real questions about the Pilgrims)

You may have looked at our picture above and said “Wait! She said there were 3 kids, but they are only 2 in the picture.” Or maybe you didn’t notice because the picture looks so much like a commercial for a TV sitcom that you were too busy imagining yourself as the cool auntie/uncle that stops by to teach the kids how make spitballs or farting sounds with your armpit. But back to the task at hand – who is this mysterious 3rd child and where did he come from?

Artchan is Charina’s 5 year old son and to explain why he just now joined us – I have to do a brief run-down of our messed up immigration system. More than 22 years ago, my mother, as a naturalized US “citizen”, petitioned for one of her sisters and her brother to come here as “legal” immigrants. I put “legal” in quotes because “legal” and the corresponding “illegal” and “citizen” and “immigrant” are all just fluid, legal, constructs. Our society changes the meaning – for instance in this country’s creation story – what are Pilgrims anyway? Today, they would be called EWI’s – illegal aliens who Entered Without Inspection. A lawyer today would have to tell Captain John Smith – “I don’t care if you marry Pocahontas – you can’t get legal, and if you leave for England, you will be banned for 10 years from coming back.”

The tragedy of it all is that the average wait for a family/sibiling petition for someone from the Philippines is 20 years.  Can you imagine? A lot of life can happen in the span of 2 decades. In my Aunt’s case – she became a mom and then a grandmother by the time her petition came through – 22 years later. Which left Auntie Alecia and her daughter Charina with a terrible choice – because the petition would allow Charina as an unmarried child under 21 to come under the petition, but NOT Charina’s son/Auntie’s grandson – Artchan.

Of course, in an age of forced migration caused by massive global, economic inequality this is a story that is well worn with tattered pages for millions of the people of the world. The 3rd world IS the 99%.  Just go into any western union and see the ads for sending flowers to the funeral/wedding/graduation of a son/daughter/abuela/spouse  that a migrant worker has had to miss while toiling away in the shadows of the 1st world.

The heartbreaking thing is that those in the Global South are so used to making these “choices” between a whole heart or surviving the trash heap that they were thrown into by unrelenting capitalism, that the impossible choice become commonplace. Of course – if given the chance to go the US, the land of milk and honey, you go. It’s like winning the ultimate lottery in the global monopoly game. If you didn’t take it – what would it say about the game?

After Charina arrived with that green card in hand – she could petition for her son. That took 3 years. Well, actually after 2 years she was approved, but then when we got all the paperwork together – we called the visa center and they said “Well yes, you did have visa BEFORE, but NOW we are backlogged again, so we can’t give you a visa anymore.” So back in line we went, and every month we had to check a “Visa Bulletin”, that would tell us whose number was being called. Every month we crossed our fingers and held our breaths. And then after 6 months of this, his number was finally called again. This time, all our paperwork was already iin, so the process went smoothly.

This July, Charina was able to bring her baby with her. And we are so happy to have him here. But, it is bittersweet, his family back home misses him terribly, especially his father. His father will never get a visitors visa to come here – he would be deemed a flight risk.

But still. We welcome Artchan into our barangay! We had been saving a spot for him for the last few years. Our hearts feel better now that he is here, with us, but really he has always been in our hearts while we waited for that golden ticket.

Welcome aboard our barangay!

What is a barangay anyway? Pronounced like “bar-ang-guy”

Wikipedia has this to say about barangay:

“When the first Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, they found the Filipinos having a civilization of their own and some living in well-organized independent villages called barangays. The name barangay originated from balangay, a Malay word meaning “sailboat”.”  In pre-colonial times settlers from Malaysia and Indonesia came in these boats, and settled in villages in the Philippines. Nowadays, barangay refers to the smallest unit of administrative government, it’s like a barrio or neighborhood.

In our case, our Brooklyn barangay consists of one loft, seven people, lots of love, struggle and dishes to wash. We are Filipinos, immigrants, Jewish, Americans, radicals, students, organizers, one lawyer and 3 children – afloat in the unbearable hipness of being in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We often have extra passengers that stay on our sofa. It is quite a ride, and we thought maybe you would want to join us!