Capitalism killed everything, even our courage: Lessons from the first ‘How to NOT call the cops EVER’ workshop
by Poor News Network
“Due to the multitude of lies and stereotypes that permeate our capitalist society about poor people and people of color, we all have collectively bought into the idea that we need to call 911 to be safe,” said Jeremy Miller, organizer and revolutionary family member of POOR Magazine and Idriss Stelley Foundation and co-organizer of the recent How to Not Call the Police EVER workshop.
The first of this series of revolutionary healing and liberation workshops led by us post-colonized, gentrified, displaced, disabled, incarcerated, indigenous and unhoused peoples at POOR Magazine/Homefulness and Krip Hop Nation was a powerful mix of scholarship, prayer, art and poor and indigenous peoples theory like we live and walk at POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE. One of the many liberation ah ha’s that emerged from this day was Jeremy’s comment. That made us unpack even deeper the impact of colonization and its subsequent invention of stolen land and stolen people protectors known as police on something as essential as our thinking, our spirits and, ultimately, even our courage.
Thanks to this false post-colonial, white-supremacist notion of “safety,” the corporate notion of cleanliness, which equates into the complete absence of humans in our racist, classist “clean” cities landscape, and the cult of independence that separates us from our elders, our communities, our cultures and languages, we are all alone, living with strangers, outside of elder circles, outside of our own bodies and even our cultural ways of protecting ourselves and our communities.
This is yet another unnatural, bizarre and dangerous aspect of colonization. What happened to our collective ability to hold each other, to “be there for each other,” to stand up for ourselves and our fellow community members when they or we face “danger.” How is it that we have given away our own instinctual knowledge.
And this is not just a white people problem or the tendencies of white people. As a matter of fact, this is a multi-cultural epidemic with white supremacist, capitalist domination as the root cause and all of us as the victims.
The immediate impulse to call 911 is exacerbated by racism and classism. White people and light-skinned people of color will more likely be “afraid” based on their racist biases against peoples of color and therefore call 911 or the cops over “crimes” that are completely racist and classist, such as the scary “homeless” people being in “their” neighborhoods – even though we are doing nothing but being in our cars, sidewalks, parks etc. – or other crimes like shopping, sitting in our cars, walking, sleeping, like so many, if not all, of the recent and historical victims of police murder.
But then it’s also us. Disemboweled by colonization, stripped of our courage, our ability to stop and stand up, speak up, stand by or even “handle” an issue, we are quick to call the paid killers in to “handle it.” This is a mistake not made just by a lack of courage but of the lack of us giving up our love and care-giving tendencies to industries.
We have built elder ghettos to take care of our parents, elders and disabled people, age-grade institutional schools to “take care of our children,” therapy industries to “take care” of our problems and on and on. In the end we are not only unable to take care of things we have come to believe are “scary,” but also we can’t take care of things that take “too much” work hassle. In essence not only has the lie of civilization swallowed our creativity, ethics and spirit, it has made us collectively too lazy to even be human.
In our 10, 11 or 15 things you can do to NOT call the police ever list, we talk about building up a community circle. This takes a while. You can’t trust people overnight that you just met. But it is an essential part of decolonizing our lives, our bodies, our communities and our families.
“I work in a local middle school and I am considered a ‘mandated reporter,’ so if I don’t ‘report’ when I suspect child abuse, I could get in trouble,” said a participant in the workshop. In addition to critiquing the white supremacist lies of police calls as the option for help, the relationship between poverty, racism and police calls, care-giving, police and the non-profit industrial complex, we tackled the extremely difficult issue of “protecting” and caring for children above all else.
We spoke together on how the protection of children is not solved with a hashtag, a website, a poverty pimped grant or a Facebook post. It takes long wraparound, indigenous care-giving. It takes love and a different way of operating in the world – words and moves by Sister Samsarah Morgan and other decolonized people of color birthing movements.
It takes revolutionary street social workers and community care-givers and co-mamas like Mama Jewnbug, Mama Laure McElroy and Vivi-T from POOR Magazine, mama teachers like Mama Blue, Mama Tracey Bell-Borden and Mama Sue Ferrer and me and the school circle of mamas we create at Deecolonize Academy who refuse to EVER call CPS or APS but do constantly call each other and our fellow grandmothers and aunties to help and counsel and love and support children and their parents in struggle
We also spoke on other decolonized solutions rooted in poor and indigenous people-led theory and self-determination, movements like the Auto-Defensas in Mexico and Barrio 23 de Jenero in Caracas, Venezuela. In both places, the people kicked the police out of their town. And in both cases, as on this stolen land, violent crime went down.
Organizer Sylvia Ronen pointed out that we can call the fire department directly instead of the cops when what we are really asking for is medical emergency help.
The day was packed with more prayer, spirit, lessons and ideas than could ever be translated to a mere written document, but suffice it to say the conversation to move our colonized and confused minds away from the 911 call was deep and healing and in one afternoon brought us closer to a collective understanding and overstanding of our own community’s power, strength and ultimately non-police engaged autonomy.