In normal times, this newsletter went out every Monday with recommendations and every Wednesday with a piece of original writing, and I aimed to get both out early in the mornings. You might have noticed that my consistency has fallen off. A lot of Wednesday posts become Thursday posts, or Monday morning recs become Monday afternoon recs.
Early on, my struggle to write on time came from the toll that the pandemic was taking on my mental health. More recently, it’s been a combination of factors: occasionally I am out protesting when I should be writing, and I can’t plan ahead for these things because I can draft something over the weekend only for the news to drastically change before Wednesday and invalidate whatever I’d started to write. In other words, the post can often either be on time or good, but not both.
I don’t aim for my writing to be “positive” — I’ve said before that I think that positivity content tends to be bullshit intended to keep everyone comfortable — but I do try to be useful. This week, the Wednesday post is late for all of the above reasons, but also because I’m struggling to come up with something useful to say. When I’m not publishing fully goofy nonsense, I generally try to use this newsletter to examine some angle of a past or current zeitgeist and make sense of the bigger picture. I’ve been trying to do that with the present moment since the protests began. I have the somewhat rare circumstance of both living in a major city and having been laid off at the onset of the pandemic, so I have the time and opportunity to participate in the actions here New York. I’ve been able to share that perspective in this newsletter, but this week that perspective is just that I’m really angry.
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On Sunday, I participated in the Queer Liberation March, which started as an alternative to the corporate Pride parade in NYC. This year, it was the only Pride parade, because the corporation-sponsored version was cancelled due to COVID. I thought it was encouraging that this was the only display of queer solidarity: a march demanding justice for all with signs calling for the protection of trans people, the abolition of the police, and much more. After my group finished the route to Stonewall, we stopped at a bodega then circled back past the march on our way to the subway. There was some kind of commotion happening, so we got closer to see. Someone fleeing the scene told us that the cops had attacked the protesters and were pepper spraying them.
I’ve been out to Occupy City Hall a few times as part of the demonstration demanding that the City Council cut at least $1 billion from the NYPD in the budget they’d vote on at the end of June. Hundreds of activists worked far harder than me to make sure that the space was occupied 24/7. We flooded our council members’ inboxes, voicemails, and social media mentions begging them to listen to their constituents and give us the budget we demanded. The City Council still failed us, shifting $1 billion from the NYPD to the Department of Education to put more police in schools.
The same day that the budget vote went through, it was announced that Amy McGrath beat Charles Booker in Kentucky. The race was extremely close. I sure wonder what the outcome might have been if the state hadn’t cut the number of polling places from 3,700 down to 170 and left the most populous counties (with the highest number of Black voters, incidentally!!) with just one polling place each.
Time and time again, millennials and Gen Z are smugly told that we should just vote for progressive candidates if that’s who we want in power, and then polling places are so limited in college towns and major cities that it’s almost impossible to vote. This is why I’m mad all the time! It just keeps getting worse!
I have more time to be politically active now because I’m no longer trapped by a 40-hour workweek. (Funny how that works, isn’t it? It seems convenient to those who don’t have to struggle to survive that the ones who do can’t be out on the streets to protest injustice every day.) But I also have more time to learn about horrors that I couldn’t possibly imagine before, even as someone who tried to be well-informed. This post isn’t about “allyship fatigue,” a fully bullshit term that ignores that the experience of being Black in America has been exhausting for literal centuries. Like I said, I’d like this post to be at least somewhat useful, and nothing could be more useless than complaining about how hard it is to care about other people’s problems. This week I’m trying to figure out how to be the most helpful, how we can make an impact quickly enough that no more lives are lost instead of settling for incremental change.
I genuinely want to know what the answer is. Minneapolis is the only city in the country that has announced that it will completely disband its police department. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also the only place where protesters burned a police precinct to the ground. Is that seriously the only way we can get those in power to listen to the people they serve?
These past few months have revealed such a strange disconnect. During an unprecedented health crisis, the government didn’t cancel rent, didn’t provide meaningful relief to people to stay home, didn’t even enforce the most basic fucking rule to stop the spread. And yet, all over the country, people who have lost their jobs are scraping together what they can to flood GoFundMes with donations to help those who need it most. Where is our tax money going? When will we finally tax sociopaths like Jeff Bezos who are hoarding more wealth than could conceivably be spent in the remaining time humanity has left before our species succumbs to global warming-related extinction?
Occupy City Hall still stands, and the autonomous zone that the protesters have created is beautiful. Volunteers work in shifts to dish out plates of hot food for whoever wants it. Snacks, waters, and Gatorades had also been provided by volunteers and are there for the taking. There’s a charging station, free wifi, an ongoing report of available nearby bathrooms, and a lending library with books that anyone can borrow. Educators provide lessons at scheduled times. Musicians perform. Organizers remind everyone to direct any homeless people they see to stop by if they need anything at all.
All I know right now is that the people are supporting each other. The police don’t keep us safe. The government doesn’t take care of us. So I’ll continue to help in the ways that I can and encourage everyone else to do the same. It doesn’t feel like nearly enough. But it’s something.
You can read more about abolishing the police here.
If your elected officials are disappointing, please make their lives hell.