The inaugural episode of Conversations had to include Angela Peoples.
Unlike so many of us, Peoples has range. She’s a seasoned organizer who has a keen sense of Black activism’s past, present and future. Currently, she’s the director of Black Womxn For and co-founder of The South. And she’s a personable, hilarious interviewee who can easily translate complex thought processes to those who may not be as well-versed in the scholarly side of Black activism.
That’s why I keep coming back to her guidance for envisioning a world without police: “Actually imagine the world that you want to live in. What is the outcome that you actually want when you’re in a car accident, when there’s someone who’s without a home and you see them and they need care? Or there seems to be drug sales that are happening in your neighborhood to children that you’re concerned about, what do you actually want to happen? And then, think about what actually happens when you call the police.”
An America lacking carceral consequence and no police to enforce said outcomes can be difficult to conceptualize. But Peoples, whose love for her people is so evident, gingerly walked us through this and more during our conversation. Above you can watch our chat—produced by Britt Pullie and Faith Smith—and below is a transcript of the discussion.
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Q-Tip Mondays. I’m Julia Craven. With me, I have Angela Peoples. She’s the Director for Black Womxn For and co-founder of The South. I’m really happy that you were able to join me for this. I’m so happy.
Thank you for inviting me, Julia. I’m really happy to be here, especially today, especially right now. This is a really, really good time for this conversation.
I agree. Yeah, let’s just hop into it. So I’m super interested to hear what you think about the current wave of protests versus the protest against police violence that we saw between 2014 and 2016, because this moment feels a little bit different.
Yeah. I mean, it feels a lot different to me. I think that this moment, it builds and sits on top of the moments, and the work, and the mobilizing that happened, that was sparked by Mike Brown’s death and the uprisings in Ferguson. And even before that, with the murder of Trayvon Martin and the mobilizing that happened in Florida. What we’re seeing today, and what we’ve seen over the last few weeks is not even a rebirth, but a leveling up of the work that has been… And also even just an exposing of the work that has been done.
One of the things that I always laughed a little bit about, in those years between the moments where it seemed like Black Lives Matter was on the news every single day, and now it’s folks would say, “What happened to Black Lives Matter? Where’s the Movement for Black Lives?” And the reality is that folks were working. Folks have been in cities like Minneapolis, in cities like Washington DC, in places like Atlanta. In places all over the country, people have been building, they’ve been working to create demands of their local politicians, and to build a community that could withstand and respond to an uprising like this.
And so, what we’re seeing now, what’s different now is I think that folks have learned a lot of lessons, a lot of hard lessons, a lot of pain, a lot of challenge, a lot of principled struggle, honestly, of organizers trying to figure out, what does it mean to be in a movement? What does it mean to take on white supremacy, to call in our allies or call them out when we need to? How do we do that in a way that actually moves us forward and doesn’t just sort of keep having those same conversations over and over again?
The other thing I think that we’re seeing is the results of when you hear people say, “Defund the police,” that’s a demand that is coming from the reality that we don’t just want police to be arrested and charged and convicted of murdering Black women and children and men. It’s not actually safety or justice if an officer is arrested or fired. We need systematic transformation. And so when you hear people say, “Defund the police,” that’s because we recognize that simply arresting an officer, simply charging them, wasn’t going to be enough for us to actually live the lives that we want to.
Right. And that’s what feels different to me, is it feels like the prior bulk of protests that we saw between Ferguson and 2016 around the time of the election, it seemed like those were a bit more focused on reform, and now abolition and defunding the police has become a mainstream conversation. And, of course, that narrative has always been around, but that was not something that me and you would have been having a conversation about on Facebook Live a couple of years ago.
Absolutely. I think that part of what we’re also seeing, frankly, is that some of those reforms were tried. You know what I mean? A lot of police forces adopted body cameras. That was a call that came out of the initial protest in 2014 and 2016. Some was like, “Okay, we got body cameras.” Body cameras didn’t work. Increased training didn’t work. Some of these community accountability forces haven’t been working, right?
So all have been these reforms that have been tried. And organizers and abolitionists have been saying for a long time, “We cannot reform police. We cannot reform the system. We need to dismantle it, defund it, and reimagine safety.” As these reforms have been tried, and we still see video after video after video of the police harassing, killing, murdering, lying about all of these things, it’s become clear to more people that we simply can’t reform, that these adjustments can’t be made in a way that’s actually going to be sustainable.
And there were frustrations at the time. I remember many organizers saying, “Reform isn’t the move.” But part of what is required also is a level of community education, and public education, and increasing awareness.
That’s why organizing matters so much. That’s why being connected to different formations and different organizations that are trying to really change the awareness, change the analysis, change the way that we all are thinking about and imagining safety, that is what has brought us to this moment of saying, “Actually, when you bring up a reform agenda, we know what that means and we know that it’s not going to work. It’s not going to bring the systematic change that we need.”
So what do you say to people who get antsy when you talk about abolishing the police, people who don’t have the framework and can’t really imagine what a world post-police, as it exists currently, looks like?
I will say a few things. The first thing I would say is to actually imagine the world that you want to live in. What is the outcome that you actually want when you’re in a car accident, when there’s someone who’s without a home and you see them and they need care? Or there seems to be drug sales that are happening in your neighborhood to children that you’re concerned about, what do you actually want to happen? And then, think about what actually happens when you call the police.
For many people, when they talk about what they want, they will name some version of a community intervention, right? Because we have this awareness, especially for Black folks and people who live in the areas that are overpoliced, that have a lot of really heavy police presence. We see on a day-to-day the response and what happens when the cops show up, and it’s almost never the outcome that you want.
Then I also would tell people to think about, does the current policing system actually solve crime? Does it prevent crime? Does it prevent? And again, thinking about what do we consider as crimes? I think one thing that we can’t take for granted about what’s happening right now is this moment where we’re seeing police use excessive force against protesters, simply for demanding dignity for Black lives. Seeing them use really aggressive force juxtaposed to seeing Donald Trump and all of his cronies on TV every day doing a lot of things that seem really clearly to be against the law to many of us, without any consequence.
So a lot of folks I find are asking, “What is criminal? Or what should we be considering crime? And what harms are we putting resources in to actually address, versus what harms are having the most impact on people?” So that’s a conversation that I see more and more people having of, we want to talk about, we need the police to prevent crime and to keep us safe. But then we see a lot of things happening in our lives on a day-to-day that are not making us safe, and that are caused because of a lack of resources. Then we see the police getting all of this money, but not being able to address any of those harms.
So I think that when people are sitting and wondering, “What do we do if we abolish the police?” Think about what you actually want to happen and how close or far away that is from the reality based on our policing system right now.
Right. No, I think it’s great that you said all of that because I personally have not seen a well articulated argument that really explains how the police operate as a functional institution, especially when so much data and evidence shows us that there are a lot of issues with policing. I mean, just a myriad of problems.
So the Minneapolis school district broke their contract with the police department, and I would love to get your thoughts on that because policing in schools is just super problematic.
Yeah. Seeing that headline last week really gave me chills. I have a young daughter, and thinking about the chance for her to go to school without having police there, just really… I was so inspired and hopeful for that. There has been a long campaign and a long effort led by many organizations talking about, Monique Morris in her book about the pushout of Black girls and being criminalized in school, or the Advancement Project and their campaign to get police out of schools.
There’s been a long ongoing effort, and I think that what we’re seeing in the case of police in schools and school boards like in Minneapolis, the L.A. teachers, folks in Portland, all making moves now, it’s a result of many years of pushing and making the case that we don’t need police in schools. And I think policing in schools, or the idea of ending a police contract is a really great example of thinking about, what are the alternatives? Because right now there are much more what they call resource officers or police in school than there are nurses, counselors, social workers, even adequate food and space and teachers.
Last summer we saw all of these teachers taking to the streets saying, “We need more resources for our students. We need more support.” And you hear governors and state legislators saying, “We don’t have the money. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the money.” But yet there are tons of policing in these schools, and these contracts are very expensive and the equipment, all the things that go into that.
And so, I think that schools are a really great example and a really great place to start right now. Get the police out of schools and then move those resources around to get the care that kids need in school right now, so that there isn’t that higher rate… And that’s also about preventing “crime.”It’s about preventing crime. Having more resources into schools means that you can prevent and change or adjust some of the outlying issues that come up and that might move someone to have to interact with the police department.
And just having police in school, it really speaks to how we criminalize kids and just the way the kids act and the issues that children have, particularly when those kids are Black. So yeah, I never really understood the idea of criminalizing a child who is acting out, criminalizing a kid who has ADD or ADHD. Maybe they just need somebody to talk to, right? They don’t need to be arrested.
Right. When you put law enforcement in the calculation of school and of education, it forces any institution to judge a child based on these adult standards, the standards that we set by adults, not the standards that we set for children, you know what I mean? It’s not as if these resource officers are specially trained to deal with children or to address adolescent issues. They’re just police officers.
Part of it is, again, because school districts and states, they don’t have the resources that they need, the money that they need to have those counselors and those social workers and those alternative institutions in schools, so they just shortcut it and say, “Well, we’ll have a resource officer and they can deal with all of the things.” But those resources officers, they’re not equipped to—they’re equipped to police and to patrol and to enforce, they’re not equipped to teach and to learn and to support.
Again, it really goes back to asking people when they’re raising questions about, “What will we do without the police, or how could we abolish the police?” What do you actually want to happen when your child acts up in school? Think about that, and then imagine what’s happening now because the police are there.
And as we know, being tough on someone who needs help is not… You can’t bully people into being better.
Another thing that I really want to get your take on is, there have been so many protests for Black lives globally. I really just want to ask you what you think the movement looks like going forward.
Yeah. This is a really exciting question. I mean, I would just say hold onto your seats, guys. It’s going to be a really powerful, a really intense summer, for sure. What we’re seeing right now, what we saw in Minneapolis, the community holding their elected leaders accountable in real time, that’s where this movement is headed. That’s what we’re going to be seeing. Folks are mobilizing across the country, putting forward similar demands to defund the police.
Folks have already been running these campaigns, have these demands, shout out to the group here in D.C. where I’m living that has been trying to hold our mayor accountable, who has not been prioritizing Black lives despite what it says on 16th and Pennsylvania Avenue. This is a movement of folks that are going to be putting pressure on candidates especially, you know this is an election year.
There’s going to be a lot more elected officials who are going to have to answer the question, why are we giving hundreds of millions of dollars to this police force that is literally killing us, in real time, and we’re watching it happen on our televisions, why? And what are you going to do to address that? What are you going to do to address this systematic impact of racism and white supremacy across our government?
And something that we did with Black Womxn For is really modeling what it means to be accountable to candidates. It’s not just about election day. It’s not just about election year. If you want our support, you want us to register voters for you, you want us to get people out for you, you want us to flank you when you’re pushing some policy position? Cool. We have some asks too, and those asks need to be met. And if you don’t meet them, we’re going to come and hold you accountable.
For elected leaders that want to be in that right relationship and want to be in that accountable relationship, I think you’re going to see they’re going to feel what it looks like to be flanked and supported by a community that isn’t just simply about donations or kickbacks, but is actually about a collective effort towards progress and accountability, not just for this group or that group.
The other thing I would just say is that I’m a part of a group of folks that has been thinking about, what does it mean to really get at the root of, what is the foundation of the challenges that are coming up day after day after day? We see that especially when you talk about policing, but this is a stance across issues of disparity, the foundation of policing just like the foundation of the U.S. economy is built through chattel slavery and maintaining white supremacy, white male dominance.
And so, if we actually want to have a conversation about moving forward to an America that gets to realize and be who she actually says she’s going to be, then we need to have a movement towards telling the truth, reconciling that and building towards reparations. I’m working with a group that’s trying to build that movement right now. We’re really excited about helping to support the folks that are acting right now to hold police accountable in building momentum across institutions to really break and shake that foundation so that we can rebuild to be who we need to be as a country.
Right, because a lot of people don’t even realize that modern day policing is a derivative of slave patrols.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And if you imagine why they would have a slave patrol, and then you put that idea or that notion on top of what you experience today, it makes so much sense. The way that the police sort of hunt Black and brown men, capture them in ways that don’t seem to have a lot of rhyme or reason, and they take them away and families can’t get ahold of them, are not able to track them down, and really just use force as a way to move and control people around.
The connections are very, very clear. What we need to do is to build a movement to tell those truths, to get the US government to recognize that, to apologize, and to make it right through reparations.
The last thing I want to run by you before we… Because we have a few questions from people who are watching. So, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.
Talk about it.
Coronavirus is still a thing. As much as it seems like some people would like to forget, it’s still a very real threat. And so, we’ve seen these mass protests against state violence during a crisis. What does that say about the urgency of addressing racism, which is the reason why more Black people are dying from coronavirus, the reason why more Black people have lost their jobs, et cetera.
Totally. I mean, I’ll say a couple of things. One, we are still in the pandemic. So please, if you’re out on the streets, thank you for being in the streets. Thank you for protesting. Please wear your face masks. Shout out to the movement for Black lives that is equipping people with beautiful face masks. Please stay six feet, wash your hands, all of that because we’re going to need each other. Three months from now, six months from now, we really are going to need people so please take care.
I would just say that in terms of the urgency question, I think it really speaks to… Oh, and I’ve been talking about this to a lot of folks that people are making the connection, maybe not verbally, but certainly cognitively between seeing report after report after report of disproportionately Black whole families being killed by the coronavirus because of a lack of access to healthcare and because of being at higher risk, because of our work and all of these things. Right?
So people are seeing these stories about Black folks and brown folks dying at disproportionate rates, and that’s moving them and agitating them in a particular way. Then they’re also seeing this video really, really violent images, not just of George Floyd, but the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the killing of Breonna Taylor. All of these things on top of each other, I think really have blown up frankly, the imagination and the apathy that some folks might have felt towards showing up and going to the streets for Black lives.
So I think that there is a lot of urgency. I think frankly white folks feel like they need to be… Folks are almost wanting to be held accountable for this, which is also again, why we need to have this truth and reparations process, because people are wanting to be able to find a way to make it right. People are seeing that at our core, it’s just not working.
And so, I think that the amount of folks that we’re seeing in the streets, especially white folks and non-Black people of color, is indicative of even in this pandemic, the fact that people are connecting the dots between racial and economic and health disparities, and are also willing and ready to make whatever sacrifice might need to be to make it right, which is inspiring and exciting.
So it’s up to us, for those folks that are wanting to be in that community, to then get connected to organizations whether organizations that are working with other white folks or other people in their community, whether it’s teachers or health professionals or retail workers, any folks that are in your community. Find that core of folks and figure out how you can get organized, how you can be pushing back. Black folks in workplaces across the country are figuring out how they can band together to hold their employers accountable.
All of that matters and it’s important that we get together and stay connected and stay in community, and don’t just wait for whatever the politicians are going to do or whatever’s going to happen on election day, or whatever any other entity or individual might be doing. It’s on all of us to stay connected to move this movement forward to the next stage.
All right. We have quite a few questions. Let’s see where we should start. Katherine asked, “Why do y’all feel like the Black Lives Matter movement was ‘controversial’ up until now? What was the factor that made the world care this time around?”
I can’t say one factor but I do think that it’s a couple of… I would observe and name a couple of things. One is there has been a lot of work in the last six years and even before that but I think particularly in the last six years, to change the conversation about race, whether it was in newsrooms, right?
Whether it was in our schools, whether it was folks showing up in sports, the issue with Colin Kaepernick. There’s been a lot of conversations and a lot of repetition of this messaging of Black lives. It’s not as if police weren’t killing Black folks between 2017 and 2020. They definitely were. And folks were definitely mobilizing and organizing for that. But it’s that repetition that we’re hearing over and over again in the media, in movies.
It’s this idea, this notion of Black lives mattering. Also the lifting up of how racism and white supremacy shows up in all of these institutions, has created a drum beat that folks can’t deny and now has given people the rhythm to march to, do you know what I mean?
So we were beating that drum for a long time and now folks have heard it so much that even the most off-beat person can vibe. And I think that that’s a part of what we’re seeing. That’s how we know that movements and organizing work is that we were beating the drum, we’re going to continue to march and you’re going to hear it so much that you get to join us. You’ll feel the rhythm and you’ll join us. You’ll be able to come in.
Right. Even if you on one and three, you’ll feel it. You’ll feel it. I would just add to that. From the news side, I do think that the shift in how news organizations cover racism has played a really big role in it because so many people… And also Twitter. Just the thing that struck me as so different about Ferguson and everything after it was that people were able to tell their own stories and share what was happening themselves. And they didn’t have to defer to reporters who at the time were still very much taking the word of the police officers. And as we know, that narrative if it’s half true, that’s a good story. And that’s just what the evidence suggests. So I definitely think that Ferguson and social media just pushed newsrooms to do a better job, which in turn got more information out to more people.
Yeah. And also it helps that there’s a blatant white supremacist, unapologetic white supremacist in the White House that says something racist every two weeks and folks are at home like, “What? That’s the stuff that we whisper to each other. We don’t say that on live TV.” I think that there’s a little awakening that folks are having of feeling a little bit uncomfortable of seeing who the United States of America has lifted up to be their leader, our leader and are wondering now, feeling that that being a very controversial perspective and wanting to align themselves at something different.
Even if they don’t completely understand what the Black Lives Matter, or the movement for Black lives is meaning, folks are clear that they don’t want to align themselves with this blatantly racist man in the White House.
Right. Another question we got is, would you share your thoughts on 8 Can’t Wait? Do you think the changes proposed are enough?
I don’t think the changes that are proposed are enough. I think that both from what the call from the communities have been, and what research and our knowledge over the last few years has shown us, is that reforming policing does not work. What needs to be done is a complete re-imagining of how we keep our community safe and where we’re putting those resources. And so, the 8 Can’t Wait campaign initiative, there’re a couple of things that I think are particularly challenging.
One is that it offers reforms in a way that requires more resources to policing, like more training, different review boards and things like that. That’s more money into policing, which is a part of the big problem, right? There have been different charts and graphs that I’ve seen on social media the last few days, showing just how significant the city’s police budget is versus its education budget. And so, defunding the police is just a call to defund police and take resources out of policing because it’s violent and harmful to our communities, but it’s also a call to invest in education, invest in healthcare, invest in alternatives to punishment, alternatives to incarceration.
The idea of an 8 Can’t Wait kind of plan says, “Let’s continue to tinker around these edges while we’re ignoring the systematic and the foundational problems.” And I would just lift up if folks are looking for more information about some alternatives, the 8 to Abolition campaign was just put out by my good friend K, who is @sheabutterfemme on Twitter, and a bunch of K’s homies. But it gives you eight points for how you can get from where we are now to abolition, and defunding the police is one of those eight points. But it’s just a part of it, right?
And so if you’re thinking about, we need a plan towards actually addressing the harms that we’re facing and not maintaining the system as it is, then you really have to ask yourself, what would it mean to reform a system that was at its core rooted to hunt down and capture Black folks who were running away from chattel slavery. If you’re thinking about trying to reform that policy, that institution, it’s going to be really, really hard and damn near impossible.
So if we want to build a world where all of us are safe in our communities, then we actually need to completely remove that form and that way of policing and of law enforcement, and really reimagine what we’re trying to keep safe, who we’re trying to keep safe and what does that even really look like? And I just don’t think the 8 Can’t Wait campaign does that. I think it also gives frankly politicians an out. We have people in these streets that are literally talking to their mayor, talking to their city council, “Tell me to my face that you’re not going to defund the police and invest in the education system. Tell me to my face.”
An 8 Can’t Wait campaign, it lets those elected officials off the hook to say, “Well, this is another thing that a lot of other activists and a lot of other people are trying,” which just isn’t true and it does harm to the work that folks have been doing for the last few years, decades even. You can say a few years.
We have a question from Laura. She says, “I am the wife of a police officer, and I would like to know how to have conversations about reform. I am 100 percent behind you, but how do I have the conversation with him?” I don’t know because I like to argue, so I can’t answer you. I will let Angela answer that one.
Yeah. That’s a tough question. I have some friends and family in my life whose family are also in law enforcement, and we’re all having that conversation right now. I think that the place to start is really sharing your story and sharing your perspective. This has happened with a lot of issues in politics and in general. When we’re trying to persuade someone or change someone’s mind, we immediately go to like, “These are the talking points. X percentage of these million dollars, X,Y, and Z.”
What I find is most useful for me, particularly talking about policing and abolition, is to start from your own personal journey. I wasn’t always someone who believed in abolishing the police or abolishing prisons. It took me some time to get there. And I think being clear and being open and honest about that, and also being clear that we don’t have all of the answers. I may not have all the answers, but what we need to do and what we can commit to do, and I think that one thing to ask your husband to do is to commit to do something different.
We may not have all the answers. And a lot of people like to say, “Well, how are you going to deal with this situation, and that situation, and this situation, and that situation?” Some of those we have answers to, some of them we don’t. But we do get to commit to figuring them out together in a way that recognizes that what we’re doing now just does not work and is not going to work.
Then the other thing I would just say is a lot of people try to bring up this question about jobs. A lot of Black folks work in the carceral system. A lot of Black people, a lot of working class Black folks are in police. And so the question comes, “Well, what would I do? What will my job be?” And again, this is about opening it up to the alternatives. It’s not as if we say “defund the police” and then everybody’s fired tomorrow.
It’s about making some changes to the systems and the way that we imagine policing and safety, that can create other jobs and other opportunities, other openings and other ways to use our resources than simply grabbing someone up or putting a gun in someone’s hand and saying, “Tell these people to get in order.” Do you know what I mean?
It’s a process, but right now we’re seeing that decisions can be made very quickly and in real time, that can have transformative outcomes. I think the best example is in a matter of two weeks, we’ve seen the Minneapolis City Council go from, “We’re going to fire these officers and we need to move to reform,” to, “We’re going to dismantle the police department, and these are the ways that we’re going to do it.”
Right. Which really speaks to, I think, how “rioting” works. It does compel people to be like, “Oh wow, folks are really upset about this and maybe we should take them seriously.” And so, that actually we have a question about Black police officers. It’s from PJ. It said, “How about more Black police officers in black communities?”
I have written about this before. Black police officers don’t really change the ways in which police interact with communities just because everyone is Black. It’s really more about the system. It really is systemic because Black police officers can be just as forceful if not more forceful in Black communities, because the system is pushing them to prove themselves. So I just don’t think more Black police officers or diversifying the force is necessarily the answer here. I mean, history just shows us that that also has not worked.
Totally. I completely agree with you. It’s not about the individual, which is again why you see kind of an evolution of where the movement was. It went from calling for indictment, calling for arrest, calling for guilty verdicts on these individual actors. We’ve moved and evolved from those individual asks to a systematic ask, an institutional ask, which is to defund the police. Because these one actor, two actors, individual people, that’s actually not a solution that’s going to stop police from killing black folks or frankly stop the police from beating protesters when they’re out in the streets demonstrating.
Right. Exactly. And let’s see what those three got. Okay, let me rewind that because I jumped a question, because we were on Black police officers. So Christina asked, “As people and institutions as diverse as Mitt Romney, Gushers , Muriel Bowser and Garfield shaped pizza—uh, okay—publicly acclaimed that Black Lives Matter, do you worry that the messaging of the campaign may become diluted and less meaningful?”
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this, because I live in DC and I saw the Black Lives Matter mural that Mayor Bowser put up. And I was shocked. I was shocked in a way of like, “How dare you, Mayor Bowser?” There have been a number of Black folks that have been killed by the police, even just in the last two years, Mayor Bowser has said nothing of remorse or challenge or adjustment. “We love our police, we have to work with them.” That just doesn’t track with the experience of Black people in D.C. that I know.
She’s increased their funding and she continues just to sort of cape for them no matter what the harm is that they do. And so I really loved and appreciated the organizers of Black Lives Matter D.C. and BYP100 D.C., that added to that mural made to say, “Black Lives Matter equals to defund the police, just so that we’re all clear on that.”
But I think that to the question of the message being diluted, I think it’s two things to think about. One is, if you study social movements in moments of mass change, it does sort of require a bit of critical mass. You need your message, you need this issue and this story to reach a level of saturation across the country or just with the general public in order for the big transformative change that we’re seeing.
Think about the Civil Rights Movement. When that movement first started there was very little support, even among Black folks, right? But as you kind of grow and grow, it does become a bit of a mantra and becomes saturated, like I said in the media or in the discourse. And that’s a good thing. The reason I’m not so worried about the message being diluted is because I know that there are organizations, there are formations, there are leaders that have been around for many years and ones that are growing, that are emerging, that are popping up right now as we speak. That are going to be pushing the message further, that are going to be building…
It’s not just Black Lives Matter now, it’s Black Lives Matter and defund the police. It’s defund the police and abolish prisons. It’s abolish prisons and give us reparations. Do you know what I mean? I feel so confident in folks’ ability to hold the line of wanting to have as many people as possible aligning with the vision and showing up for Black lives, with also holding a strong firm line on what our demands actually are.
And that’s why it’s important to be leery of campaigns like 8 Can’t Wait, because that’s one of those ways that the message can get diluted. Yeah, you might have these mainstream leaders or even people Kim Kardashian talking about our issues and that’s fine. But if there’s also then that counter voice, that can be seen as a representation of the community or what the movement demands are, that are also saying that more watered down version of the demands, that’s where it can get dangerous.
But I just feel really confident in what I’ve seen in the community of organizers that I’ve been able to work with for the last few years, that we’ve got this, and we’re going to be welcoming more folks into our movement and into our organizations. Helping people to hold that line and that message, to get what we need and not just what the elected officials have decided is palatable for them.
Also just to add to that, I feel like companies and corporations and politicians saying, “Black Lives Matter.” I mean, they’re really just generating a statement of fact, like it’s true Black lives should matter, anyway. And I see it as just pushing a more truthful narrative, Black lives do matter. We should do something to address the system of policing in this country, we should address economic inequality, et cetera.
It looks like we have two more questions left.
Because I’m keeping you over time.
No, I’m loving it. Let’s do it.
We’re just going to take over the live stream, like this is going on forever, it’s never ending. Recently de Blasio, Mayor de Blasio in New York, for watchers who may not know who that is, has mentioned cutting six billion from the NYPD budget of 90 billion dollars.
Really? I mean, who knows?
I would have to fact check that, but he wants to cut a sizable portion of money from a sizable budget. So the question is, do we as a community have a say in where that money will be reallocated? If so, how do we exercise that right?
Let me fact check that.
Yeah. We do and we should and we can. That’s why it’s really important to get connected to different efforts in your communities that are trying to figure out where that resource allocation goes. There might be a way for the Mayor to put in his budget but there is a review board of community groups, representative of folks from different bureaus or other kind of… Is it 90 billion?
I really just want to fact check that now.
But yeah, I would just say that there are definitely ways to have a say in that. Also, part of what is really great and what’s happening around the country is for example, we have groups like the Movement for Black Lives that are saying, “Defund the police and invest in these things, in education, in health care and mental health, and housing.” And being able to talk about that and be connected to other communities and other advocacy efforts towards increasing budgets for education.
I mean, I used to do education advocacy for about six years and I can’t tell you how many conversations we had about what part of the education budget we were going to cut so that we could fund this other really important part of the education budget. It’s like, “No, stop that. There is this whole other thing that isn’t actually adding value to our communities. It’s actually costing us quite a bit.” We haven’t even touched on the lawsuits and the money that cities and states have to borrow in order to pay wrongful death suits and harassing lawsuits because of the police’s behavior.
So this is an institution that is not only harming us but is sucking resources out of our communities in a way that we really need to be rethinking about, and the way to offer your input is to stay connected to those different organizations. Maybe you can’t show up to every city council meeting, maybe you can’t even show up to every organizing meeting, but if you sign up for a text thread, if you sign up for an email, if you make a donation, that is all a way to stay connected and to help inform the ways that those resources are reallocated.
Right. And so just to contextualize the question we got, the total budget for New York City is 90 billion and de Blasio has proposed cutting some of the six billion dollars of that budget that goes to the NYPD. And six billion dollars is a lot of money.
It’s a lot of money.
That’s a lot of Virgil’s. So the last question is from Laughin’ Lorber. I hope I’m saying that correctly. And it’s a really good one. “How do I explain to boomers that defunding the police doesn’t result in anarchy?”
Well. I would start with saying we haven’t always had police. Not in this way, and there wasn’t anarchy before that. And two, when we did have police it was intended as mostly a way to maintain protecting property and in one case, slaves, or protecting wealth in later iterations. Again, it just kind of goes back to the question that I asked.
Of course anarchy may not be your goal, it’s some people’s goal. Anarchy may not be your goal or it may not be your ideal outcome but the question to ask is, what is your idea of it, and are the police actually offering it? Do the police actually create the order that they claim that they do? Or in the case that we see in protest after protest, riot after riot in the cities, are they actually seeding chaos? Are they actually creating violence? Are they actually adding to the disorder, into the mal-intent of our society and of our country?
Again, not individual police officers. I’m not trying to say this one person is bad, this one person is evil. The institution in and of itself is not adding value to us, right? In some ways it is facilitating the “anarchy” that we see in some of our communities. So to me the question to really start off with is, what do you want to see? What does your ideal outcome look like, and is that what you’re experiencing with the police? And is there a way if we had just a little bit more resources or a lot more resources in the case of six billion dollars in New York, if we have a lot more resources, what might we do? What could we do? What could be possible?
That certainly isn’t anarchy, and actually isn’t the harm in the violence and the fear that so many of us live in because of the police.
Right. I think that anarchy is scary and it’s very easy for people to latch on to scary things, and I think that when you latch onto something like anarchy, you’re just really playing into this bigger racist psychodrama about what will happen if we don’t have police around or if we don’t have some sort of hierarchy in our society to keep certain people behaving a certain way. So I’m not worried about anarchy either, I don’t think that will happen.
No. And I also think that what you’re seeing with these different brands that are coming out for Black lives is because they see the economic writing on the wall. They see that actually, the people aren’t going to stop fighting for Black lives and for our dignity. And the unrest, the distress, the sort of scuttlebutt that this is creating, is impacting people’s bottom line. And so people are also recognizing that racism isn’t profitable, not for them, not in this moment.
When it was profitable, I’m sure these companies were like, “Meh, I don’t know. Mmh, not our problem.” Now that it’s not so profitable, they’re making a shift in their mindset … Right? So both companies see the value in making the adjustments and changing the way that we think about policing or responding to movements, kind of trying to change the way that we think about policing and so, they’re also investing…
I think you can see the signal of these companies being down as a signal that we’re not going to be moving towards anarchy.
Right. Okay. Well, that’s it. Thank you so much.
I wanted just to say, if you’re looking to follow me, you can follow me on Instagram @mspeoples or on… I’m sorry, Instagram is @ms_peoples. I also just launched a website for my group called, The South. It’s thisthesouth.com. We have political streetwear and we create content that helps folks express their politics and live their politics. So check us out. And Julia, thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun.
No, thank you. I was so happy when you said that you would do it. I feel like you are just brilliant and you always just have your finger on the pulse of things. So I was very, very grateful that you said yes.
Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. We should do it again.
I agree. All right. Well, thank you, everyone for watching.
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