[Be The Change] Why ‘Defund The Police’ Isn’t As Radical As It Sounds

With the perseverance of the 2020 Black Lives Matters movement, I’d like to focus catchphrase that has everyone up in arms – defunding the police.

👊🏿👊🏾WHAT does it mean to Defund The Police? 👊🏾👊🏿

First, let’s just start with a few simple definitions – first, let’s just talk about what it is for something to be defunded. From the Cambridge dictionary, to defund is to stop providing the money to pay for something.

With that out of the way, now we need to focus on the matter at hand: what does it mean to defund a public community service, funneled by our tax money? I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure every person who pays their taxes deserves to know where the money is funneled through – regardless of the programs. Schools, hospitals, transportation – all get defunded, all the damn time; but, we still have them as public, societal programs.

We’re not saying eradicate and abolish the police, or decline to fund them entirely – we’re asking that communities, cities and states take a harder look at both where the funding for their police, their training and their equipment come from and the proportional rate of funding compared to other helpful civic functions – public housing and assistance, education reform, child protective services. We’re asking for a reinvestment of Black and BIPOC lives.

Rob Rogers | Defund Police

Now, we could probably try and chant “re-evaluate and redistribute our tax money through better channels of public service than a racist police force because it’s killing people“, or we could shorten it to “Reform the Police“. But let’s face facts, those slogans simply aren’t as persuasive, powerful or conversation starting as a protest march thousands of vibrant faces deep in a beautiful display of the complexities of the human condition, screaming “DEFUND THE POLICE” in unison.

• In 2019, the police murdered 1098 US citizens

• Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.

• There were only 27 days in 2019 that the police did NOT kill anyone


👊🏿👊🏾WHY are we asking to defund police departments?👊🏾👊🏿

Our current police system is rigged against Black and minority communities, and needs staunch and inherent reform from all directions. From the salaries of those at the top, to the training – or lack thereof – for new officers, and the vast stockpile of militarized weapons police forces are receiving.

“…we have everything from office equipment, clothing, tools, radios. But then we have some pretty heavy-duty things, things like armored vehicles, assault rifles, grenades and something called a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP), which was invented by the Department of Defense as a counterinsurgency strategy to be able to fight IED attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Karim, Marketplace Morning Report

If you’ve watched any of the protests at all, you’ll notice LRAD cannons and tanks, armored vehicles and oodles of tactical gear; a stark contrast to what we’ve seen the medical community supplied with in the wake of COVID-19. Since moving up to Seattle a year and a half ago, this city has become a new home to me – and because of that, I’ve taken a vested interest in how our city has been handling the protests. Statistics provided are from USA Today.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 115896358_10108235282075537_2139149364256992582_n.jpg

Population, 2018: 744,949 (20th most populated city in the US)

Police dept. funding as % of total budget, fiscal year 2020: 27.2% (5th largest out of 50 largest cities)

Total police budget for fiscal 2020: $409 million (17th largest)

Total city budget for fiscal 2020: $1.50 billion (19th smallest)

Law enforcement employees per 100K: 262 (123rd highest out of 634 cities with 65K +)

Total law enforcement employees: 1,954

Violent crimes reported per 100K in 2018: 680 (111th highest out of 634 cities of 65K +)”


👊🏿👊🏾HOW does defunding work?👊🏾👊🏿

The actual, literal act of defunding is simple, it’s just not easy: all you have to do is reduce spending to the department while moving that money to social services better suited to assist the entire community. Here’s the rub – to get there you have to go through policy makers and politicians; the same ones who are potentially bankrolled by part of that same budget you’re asking to diminish.

How Much Do U.S. Cities Spend Every Year On Policing? [Infographic]

Defunding the police does not necessarily mean getting rid of the police altogether. Rather, it would mean reducing police budgets and reallocating those funds to crucial and oft-neglected areas like education, public health, housing, and youth services. (Some activists want to abolish the police altogether; defunding is a separate but connected cause.) It’s predicated on the belief that investing in communities would act as a better deterrent to crime by directly addressing societal problems like poverty, mental illness, and homelessness — issues that advocates say police are poorly equipped to handle, and yet are often tasked with. According to some estimates, law enforcement spends 21 percent of its time responding to and transporting people with mental illnesses. Police are also frequently dispatched to deal with people experiencing homelessness, causing them to be incarcerated at a disproportionate rate.

via @thecut
Don't Understand #DefundThePolice? Here Are 8 Online Activists and  Resources That Might Help - BUST

Our educational system is in disarray, many districts using outdated text books or without enough materials for all students. There isn’t enough job training for the unemployed and homeless communities to get them back on their feet, nor are there enough resources to bring citizens out of homelessness – even though there are thousands of high rent apartments that are empty. Our veterans aren’t taken care of appropriately when they return to the states. Mental illness has run amuck and there could be a vast focus on that for the betterment of society.

Each one of those functions is something that has been defunded over time, and each one of those could use reinvestment – let’s face it, that pseudo-utopian version of the United States would be beautiful, with education, access and housing for all; we could actually make America great again. Not to mention, that providing those social functions would help eradicate the future need FOR MORE law enforcement.

👊🏿👊🏾WHO would step in to... 👊🏾👊🏿

In the US, the police deal with far more than just crimes – they also deal with civil disputes, mental health issues, drug abuse and overdoses, as well as family disputes and domestic violence calls.

Let's Talk Defunding the Police in Canadian context - Canadian Cultural  Mosaic Foundation

In each of these situations, an officers lack of diversity or community training can be costly – when you’re a Black American, they can also be deadly – as we’ve seen with Jacob Blake. One look at the infographic and it’s painfully obvious that many of the reasons behind crime are wound up in mental health; and by in large, that’s something that we do not tackle as a society – drug use included; if we had better funding for programs aimed at curtailing drug additions, as well as an end to the drug war – which by in large targets BIPOC communities as well – our society would get back on the right foot again.

In lieu of police serving more social functions with no psychological or sociological background to assist them, we could send in trained mental health professionals; for non-threatening emergencies, we could simply rely on the same EMT crews that are dispatched for car accidents.

👊🏿👊🏾WHEN? The time is NOW. 👊🏾👊🏿

With the Breonna Taylor verdict, or non-verdict, on all of our minds – I know people are angry, upset, outraged. We’re taking to the streets, we’re demanding change – but what we need to do is demand it from the right people. That isn’t the President, or the Executive branch – it starts with your local officials for your city, for your county – and for your state.

Find your local officials here.

We need to remember to vote not just every four years, but every year for state office and every two years for congress. Register to vote, double check you’re registered and if voting by mail or absentee be sure to turn in your ballot as far ahead of time as possible.


Do your own research on local and state government, and truly try to understand how they’re spending their money. How are you going to be a champion for the people today – how are you going to ensure that Black lives not only matter, but are an equally important and integral part of our gestation as a nation? Which side of history are you going to be on?

Hands on Wisconsin: What does "Defund Police" mean? It's complicated |  Opinion | Cartoon | madison.com

[Be The Change] The Modern Perpetuation of American Racism

Protests over the death of an African American being arrested by Minneapolis erupted into violence.

Take a little trip back in social history, back to when the slaves were emancipated and went off to find their own land to call home; as a people – we were taken from a continent, had many native rites, traditions and languages extinguish – and then forced into a world where we were considered 3/5 of a person, then to where we weren’t allowed to own property, open a bank account, vote, go to “good” schools in “good areas”.

Fast forward to now, and these ideas have compounded with dangerous ideologies – those that protect and serve, protect and serve the majority. There is no equality, and most of all – there is no equity. Before the Civil Rights movement, Compton was supposed to be the new African American utopia – it’s why my family moved there. In the Civil Rights movement, we saw an uprising of people who were done with this indoctrination – and it was brought down by those who were supposed to protect and serve them; guess what: we’re seeing it again.

The agenda being set up, is one that is supposed to discredit and decimate the “legitimacy” of a group of people who are asking to simply be treated as HUMANS. The destruction of property is not the destruction of a people, or a community; but if what’s valued are capitalist ideals, then this sends a message – one that historically, and unfortunately, has not been listened to. And if I have learned ANYTHING from my history classes, it’s that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes until we learn from them.

So, what have we learned this week:

1. Protesting your rights to “wear a mask” and “go back to the beach” because you’re bored is fine, but protesting the human right to be treated equally somehow is not.

2. Former Presidential Candidate, and potential Vice Presidential nominee Amy Klobuchar oversaw multiple cases involving said officer, and declined to prosecute.

3. The ex-officer that was arrested has been charged…but only with third degree murder / manslaughter. This should have been second degree, or a hate crime. We’re literally saying that the death of George Floyd is no different than selling someone bad drugs; racism and ignorance are not a “bad drug” – they are detrimental mentalities which lead to the destruction of human life, vis-a-vie second degree.

If you’re curious on formal definitions – and given that 1st degree involves pre-meditation, this is how it breaks down in Minnesota:

2nd Degree: Any intentional murder with malice aforethought, but is not premeditated or planned in advance

3rd Degree Murder: Murder is not based on having the intent to kill. This charge may also result if a person sells bad drugs. The maximum penalty for murder is up to 25 years in prison.

Manslaughter: any killing committed as a result of recklessness. (also, Recklessness: lack of regard for the danger or consequences of one’s actions; rashness.)

4. Our President can somehow pull up random quotes from historical racists but somehow doesn’t know who Frederick Douglass was….oh, right, and he’s inciting a larger race riot by literally saying “LOOTING LEADS TO SHOOTING”

5. During this morning’s show, the CNN crew reporting on the events live were arrested on air by the police – let that sink in. That in America, where we pride ourselves in free speech – the police came in and took the whole crew in. What type of message does that send?

Finally: “A riot is the language of the unheard”

If you have never felt that you needed to protest, take to the streets, and raise your voice simply to be heard as an equal: Congratulations on whatever incredible privileges life has awarded you. Are you your brother and sisters keepers? Do you realize that a rising tide raises all ships? Then shape up and wake up to the realities of the current moment.

[I Can’t Breathe] A Mixed Message

Confusion rains down in waves, stemming from an ocean of emotions that well up in your bright eyes and rush through your veins, your tangled hair mirrors the modern tangled state of affairs we live in while the complexities of modern society beg your outlying community to define you and defile you, place you in a neat little box for the comfort of those that surround you.  

We exist in a country founded by our lightest of skinned forefathers, yet America was never meant for us – we’ve built this country on our hands and knees, with our blood, sweat and tears; yet, America was never meant for us.  It’s an ideal that was struck into rock and yelled from the mountain tops as true and sacred – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness –  but that was never meant for us; constitutional amendments granting us security, sanctity and safety protect our white brothers and sisters, but that wasn’t meant for us, either.  Us – the others, the colored, the separate; us – the multicultural and different, the dichotomized and the disenfranchised; us – the stolen nationalities and original tribes of this land.

In my 31 years on this planet, I’ve always understood that to be intrinsically different from the people who founded and funded this country would never be easy – but we’re currently living at a time that could rival what was started in the 70s.  For the millions that can be shoved into a box on a standardized test asking if we’re “White”, “Black” or “Asian” – there are millions for which world isn’t black and white in the way we’re treated; nuances exist for us on a sliding scale of grey that ranges from biracial, multicultural to polyethnic.  We’re different, and we know it.  We’ve existed in a continuum of absolutes which we refuse to abide by – not “cultured” enough, yet not “white” enough, curious why Sun-In turns our hair orange and our freckles multiply in the sun; we’re on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out, trying to make sense of an upside down world that we didn’t ask for, and that our children will have to ascribe to. One of the few, if only, truths about being of mixed background is that your children will be too, as are their children, and our children after that; one of the only other truths, is that the world will treat you apart from its whole. 

We live in a world where people are more comfortable with the differences of others if they can label them or put them in a societal ‘box’. Mixed children have always raised an inquisitive eye by society but the good news is in the last few generations, America has become an incredible mixing pot for multitudes of races, ethnicities and cultures, opening eyes, hearts and arms to a kaleidoscope of colors. As someone that’s lived through it, the best thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your kids when they get to an age where they can really understand their heritage and how beautiful it is – because truth be told, it will always be a conversation piece of dialogue. Especially now that a new Civil Rights Movement has emerged.  It’s been lurking behind us for years, if not decades, while remnants of the original movement swept under the rug during the age of the Vietnam War have slowly resurfaced. The rights we fought so hard to attain, the equality that we worked so very hard for – they still have never really been our own.

And now, halfway through 2016, we’re bitterly basking in an awkward afterglow of our cumulative mess. Just half a year has gone by, yet our American cops have killed upwards of 590 civilians – the same people that are entrusted with helping and saving our lives, the same people we are told to implicitly trust with the rules and regulations of our society.

Waking up this morning, I was overcome with a range of emotions, from determined to hopeful, to downright terrified. I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because adversity has never stopped us, and it won’t now.  I’m hopeful because change has needed to come for a long, long time and I believe we have it within our reach to actualize it.  I’m hopeful because I have another day to make a difference in the world and fight for what I believe in. But I’m also scared. I’m scared because the rate of racial intolerance is exponential, because there are so many that quite obviously are not living freely, because my brothers and sisters of minority races all over this country are fighting to be treated as equals and fighting so the second amendment actually applies to them instead of only to our lighter skinned peers, I’m scared that a family member might be the next victim, and I’m scared because the same police that are supposed to protect and serve are the ones taking lives of those they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. I’m scared because it’s not a minority versus police issue, it’s an everybody versus the police issue that the media has swept under the rug – that the media is building into a race war and I’m scared because the American population is letting it.

There’s a line that’s been drawn in the sand, and I’m scared because I don’t know where we go from here. Being bi-cultural and black has amplified my feelings even more, especially when the shootings and lynchings are reminiscent of a time that I thought we already made it through and now it’s clear that the civil rights movement was only silenced, not won.

Am I white enough to pass? Or am I black enough to get shot? Questions I never thought I’d have to ask but here I am, wondering what my life’s worth on paper.

Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that; fear does not drive out fear, only love can do that. But the hateful and afraid are the ones ruling our country and acting out, and they will until we can bond together, forget our skin colors, ethnicities and creeds and love each other;  we need to raise each other up, instead of holding each other back – and we – we the darker skinned, we the less fortunate, we the impoverished…. – we need our friends, peers, brothers and sisters of all origins to realize that for us to survive as an American society or an American community, we cannot hold our equals down and we cannot ask them to take less than what they deserve.

We need to use our voices and our intellect to educate the uninformed and ignorant, we need to rise up as a people and say “this is not working; fix it.” We need to systemically fix our judicial system and change the tactics used by the police. The police need demilitarized weapons, and they need training in multicultural awareness, racial tolerance and empathy. As a community, we need to vote for and elect our policemen the same way we do for politicians – and we need to hold them just as, if not more, accountable.

We collectively need to right the hundreds of wrongs done by our forefathers and theirs before them, but we have to do it together because we’re all we have and this world is all we’ve got.


[Write On] Listen Up and Get In Formation

We’ve started the year with two cultural schools of thought, on one hand there’s the loud and slightly ridiculous Stacey Dash phenomenon and on the other, we have the #OscarsSoWhite. So thank goodness that the Queen is back to shake things up and push us forward, Queen B that is. This past weekend, just the day before her highly anticipated Super Bowl collaboration with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, Beyonce dropped the world on it’s head with the release of her latest empowered single,’Formation’.  More than just a song, ‘Formation’ is a statement – ‘Formation’ is a movement;  ‘Formation’ is an ode to the rise of Black Feminine Energy – and it’s time to get in line.

Let me back up for a second.

After 31 years on this pseudo-green Earth, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that the ideas of race, ethnicity, cultural adversity and then diversity run rampant in my veins. If you are who you surround yourself by, I’m socio-culturally middle class, with a multicultural twist. Minority Report, Oreo, Chocolate Sprinkle. My nicknames say it all, but it runs deeper.  When standardized tests were distributed in school, I always took longer than everyone else figuring out which box to check for ethnicity – what if I didn’t see my box? Does that mean I didn’t matter – do I not count? Can I check more than one box?  Where do I fit in here?

The multiracial, only child of a split family, I always had issues reconciling my ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and the notion that they might invariable be two different identities were always kept at bay.  Remember Sun In? That shit turned my hair bright orange, not to mention warnings about sunscreen never seemed to apply to me.  When my dad remarried to my step mom and the three of us would go out together, people would infer I was adopted; fast forward twenty years later, and they mistake my fiance for their son.

Spot the Amanda

 

Silicon Valley born and raised, I grew up in the tiny and incredibly educated suburb of Menlo Park with my mom, and Palo Alto then Los Altos with my father. They were nice areas to be raised in and all that jazz, but let’s get one thing real for a second, they’re not the most diverse areas of the country; in fact they’re pretty monotone, sometimes painfully so. Whether it was with family, or in social endeavors, I always felt like the technicolor sheep of the family – never fitting in and always standing out.

Mentally, sonically, emotionally, I grew up in a boombox, self-identifying with Hip-hop and rap, including Janet Jackson’s anthemic Rhythm Nation 1814; but academically and socially, I attended programs where, in one way or another, I was the diversity. Whether it was attending Castilleja Middle School during the academic year, or their BRIDGE Program over the Summer, I wavered between a drop of milk in oil and a drop of oil in milk; an ever ebbing cascade of racial complexities that arose from a bi-cultural background that up until that age hadn’t been explored. Then, by the time I transferred back into Public School as a Junior in High School, Menlo Atherton High School had gotten national recognition with a center spread in ‘Teen People” as the most diverse yet segregated High School in America.

Serendipitous to consider it now, but it was around that same time that Destiny’s Child came out with their debut, self-titled album.  In a moment where I couldn’t find a cultural footing, somehow, with them, I found resonance, a voice, a mainstream media identity – or in my eyes, hope.  At 16, while away at an out of town basketball tournament, I walked into the room while several of my teammates were discussing their disgust with interracial relationships.  As I slowly sulked into the shadows, shuddering at each syllable, I faintly but distinctly overheard the words “…they shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”  My heart and ego sank in time as my head hung low for the duration of the tournament.  After, in an effort to reconnect to my roots, my aunt escorted me to a seminar in Los Angeles for Young African American Women; around the same time, I became a camp counselor in West Menlo Park and was quickly adopted under the wing of East Menlo Park’s more diverse subset of counselors where I became a master domino player, learned the proper way to eat fried chicken, not to mention the difference between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.  And in whatever down time I could muster, I buried my head in multicultural literature from James McBride’s The Color of Water to timely tomes from Danzy Senna, Caucasia and Symptomatic.

Combined, the ideas drilled in my head lead me to believe the next large sociocultural revolution would be a mixed race revolution, and we would be leading at the helm. But invariably, the events themselves, made me feel even more alone.  It was then, that the idea was finally and formally drilled into my head that there was a difference between being genetically ‘African American‘ and culturally Black.

Beyond the entertainment value, viral witticisms masquerading as lyrics and a host of regal outfits – the video  contains a not so subtle history lesson delivered with a passionate one two punch in under five minutes.  Starting with  emotional imagery and vocals that ask ‘What happened in New Orleans‘, Formation’ delves into the modern Black experience,  exploring the nuanced variety of genetic variability. Cascading through Southern cityscapes and landscapes, including estates and plantations, ‘Formation‘ offers a bevvy of emotional imagery: a cop car – and city -underwater,  a breakdancing toddler stalling a line of police with their hands in the air, ‘Stop Shooting Us’ haphazardly spray painted on an otherwise barren wall and coordinated feminine empowerment.

Imagery that grew only stronger with her performance the next day at the Super Bowl’s halftime show; decked out in gear halfway reminiscent of the 1970’s Black Panther movement spliced with Janet’s Rhythm Nation video, Beyonce urged a generation to mobilize and get in ‘Formation’.  The end result was a provocative performance of a ‘visual anthem‘ sure to live in cultural infamy.

Fast forward to three days later, and you’ll meet exactly what’s wrong with this country and could invariably elect someone as ignorant as Donald Trump; In light of the controversial dance ‘Formations’ and dress during her performance invoking the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and supposed dissent against the police -not to mention a display of their own cultural ignorance – protesters are heading to NFL’s New York Headquarters on February 18th . Not only have people willfully avoided history textbooks or contextualizing social issues like the suffrage and civil rights movement, but on top of that their ignorance has become ego driven arrogance; and I’m not sure what frustrates me more – an echoed rhetoric that minorities, especially women, are only here to entertain and not educate, or the idea that people are more offended by the message of the song than the actions that drove the creation of this performance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I never paid much attention in my European History classes and found most of my United States history courses beyond boring; but when it came to the Civil Rights Movement, I had an uncanny desire to devour all available knowledge. And I know this: The Black Panther Party was made of revolutionaries that fought for a culture that had been undermined for their entire cultural history to be recognized as equal.  Yes, they were born out of the failed non-violent Civil Rights Movement of MLK Jr and Medgar Evers but the movement didn’t promote violence, it promoted fairness while protecting the community from the racist behaviors of others while simultaneously pushing citizens to police the police – an idea that is still echoed in today’s society.

To the calls of it’s Football and not Hollywood, last time I listened to Sportscetnter I got a whole earful about girlfriends and wives, houses and style; things that invariable have jack all to do with competitive sports.  And now, we’re taking a critique to a traditionally all white variety of Halftime Entertainment.  So for a second, let’s talk about the NFL.  Let’s discuss the amount of sex crimes and prostitution rings that are cracked down on during high profile games every year, the egregious amount of drunk drivers that get into accidents leaving games or the fact that from start to finish, NFL games are riddled with advertisements parading the US Military as a revered enterprise. Yet a five minute segment that gives weight to a population more often misrepresented and underrepresented in mainstream media receives a bevvy of backlash? It’s time that people get their priorities in formation