Can You Say “Epidemic”?

This blog did not begin as a blog devoted to the problem of state violence or sanctioned violence against African Americans. (It didn’t even begin as a blog singularly devoted the problem of racism.)

It began as a blog devoted to thinking about the connections between the self, the social and the spirit. How these connections shape our diverse individual lives, and how these connections shape the contours of our collective life.

It remains such a blog.

So the nature of the recent posts–over and over again focused on state and otherwise sanctioned (i.e., socially tolerated, expected, accepted) violence against African Americans is saying something to me about that collective life: about its contours and the kind of formation those (racial) contours are wreaking on our individual and collective souls.

Today from the Black Youth Project. The experience of D’Paris Williams. Twenty one years-old, employed, student, “packing a cupcake” when he was assaulted by police last Friday. Several folks who attempted to come to his aid were assaulted too.

In other words, San Francisco joins the list.

Detroit too. Video clips of officers humiliating African American men too disturbing to watch in full.

Des Moines? In my home city it looks like profiling too. But also: disparities in who gets arrested for marijuana violations (Blacks at a rate eight times that of whites), African American children flowing out of schools and into the criminal justice system at unspeakable rates (17% of the student population, but 38% of those young people arrested in school), and among the highest disparity in the union (sometimes the highest) between the percentage of Blacks in the state relative to their presence in our prisons. (Shout out to AMOS and the multi-faceted approach it’s taking to get citizens of Iowa active in saying “NO MORE!” to these realities. Local Des Moines-ites, there are lots ways to plug in here.)

Many of us understand how these things come to be. The most accessible explanation of late is Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. If you haven’t read it, you must.

But it’s well past time to move beyond shaking our head at these situations or nodding along as we read books like Alexander’s.

Today I just have three questions for you:

1. What’s happening with policing in your city or town? (Is your “hometown” of xxxx on the list too?)

2. What are citizens there already doing about it?

3. Are you showing up?

image created by Ted Lyddon-Hatten

image created by Ted Lyddon-Hatten

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