Welcome to Issue 52.2 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
Today’s news, fermented:
Around this time last year, I signed up for a four-session class with Movement Generation about the idea of course correction. The idea is that we as a species—as a result of imperialism, extractive and settler colonization, institutionalized racism, patriarchy, capitalism, so on—are waaaaay off course.
So now, we course correct…or we don’t, and things get worse.
One of the biggest things that stuck with me after this class was the idea that we have to start planning for what happens when we win, what structures we put in place when barriers to transformation fall, and what leadership looks like when there is an opportunity to grow beyond the corruptible power we idolize in our current systems.
Amid the uprisings for racial justice last year, Movement for Black Lives developed the BREATHE Act, a visionary piece of legislation that would do many of those things. Will it pass, given the oppressive design of our legislative apparatus? Who’s to say—but without a vision, it is easy to forget what we’re fighting for.
Another outcome of the uprisings was an uptick in engagement in local politics. We know that federal/state blame-passing and toe-stepping is an old American game; changing city, county, and state policies from the ground up can be a smoother path to progressive legislation than at the national level.
Further, this renewed fervor for local governance points to the fact that most communities are better fit to govern themselves than anyone else—communities know what they need.
I don’t know anything about Boulder, really, and neither do I know much about Atlanta. Regardless—the people impacted by mass shootings in Colorado and Georgia know that it is not viable to constantly fear another horrifying event such as these. Yet, the first headline I saw after Monday’s tragedy was ‘bipartisan divide on gun control re-emerges in the Senate,’ not ‘the US has mass shootings because we can’t protect communities from angry white men who can buy guns when they are upset.’
And this is where the renewed interest in local government comes in. What if Boulder and Atlanta could quickly implement the kind of gun control that would protect them in the future?
Going even further, local governments are choosing to invest in not just harm reduction, but repair. Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, just launched the nation’s first (government-funded) reparations effort. New York City (under de Blasio, grasping at straws to cover his endless failure to do anything worthwhile at all), just announced a new racial justice commission tasked with ‘dismantling systemic racism.’
What remains a bit unspoken in coverage of Evanston and New York City’s efforts is the larger vision. We have little evidence that all the other systems that exist (capitalism, real estate markets, so on) without extraction of and oppression towards a group or groups of people.
So as we begin to repair, it is reasonable to expect that these other systems will begin to crumble. As the Combahee River Collective asserted,
“If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”
As those systems fall, how are we practicing for the moment when we must start to govern ourselves?
We must intend to bloom, I think, as these persistent city wildflowers.
Back next week from the superb Latifah Azlan.