22 Comments
Feb 1·edited Feb 1Liked by Courtney Martin

I'm so glad you're interrogating publicly the "always follow Black women" trope which has emerged in the last handful of years. It is an idea that comes from a truism of all systems based on hierarchies of power, that those at the bottom by necessity often maintain broader and deeper levels of insight about the nature of the system than those farther up the ladder. It's how you survive. Black women, based on their intersectional oppressions, are those people in America. But leaning on them to save us, particularly us as White women, IS simply racism wearing a velvet glove. On par with exoticization and all the other ways that we put BIPOC on pedestals while simultaneously undergirding the status quo.

And at the same time, there's just so much to keep track of these days. It's nearly impossible to formulate an informed opinion on every blessed thing. So, for me anyway, "trust Black women" is the starting place. If I want to understand something social/systemic I'm gonna start with what Black women are saying about it (or indigenous women, or AAPI women, or Latinas, etc.) and then continue learning and formulating from there. Trusting Black women is the starting place, and not the end of our obligation by a long shot.

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Excellent article on such a terribly complex subject

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Ask better questions. Yes. Thank you Courtney.I’ve been reading your words for years and consider you a trusted voice and a friend of sorts. Big appreciation for what you share.

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Feb 1Liked by Courtney Martin

Once again, you are an amazing and thoughtful writer. What happened, I believe, is rooted, in part, in our American need to shove the responsibility of "safety" onto a small group of heavily armed people. This makes brutality inevitable. In reality, we must all be responsible for safety in a community. You see the same mentality regarding our schools; educating our kids is outsourced to teachers and too many of us refuse to be involved. It's everyone's responsibility. We all need to step up and see things in a community lens.

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Feb 1Liked by Courtney Martin

Courtney has given us such ample wisdom and information here at a time when we join in grief over this tragic violence in Memphis. In addition to the sources that Courtney has noted, I'd like to recommend the remarkable ideas and example of Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Barnard '81). She spoke yesterday on a panel organized by Barnard that addressed issues of anti-Semitism and racism. Her eloquence was overwhelming as she invoked the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi on love, compassion and nonviolence.

An important aspect of her message was the violence towards Muslims in the U.S. and around the world. The attack last Monday on a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan that left over 100 dead leaves us to ask how Muslims could do this to other Muslims? (see NY Times, 2/1, pp.1,12).

Rabbi Kleinbaum's invocation of Gandhi echoed the message of James Baldwin in "The Fire Next Time". This reading is imperative, and his opening letter to his nephew ranks as the most compelling of all his magnificent writings. Baldwin concluded: "We, with love, shall force our [white]brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it." DD

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Feb 1Liked by Courtney Martin

I absolutely love the last part of the James Baldwin quotation. Miracles become disasters in the real world.

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Feb 1Liked by Courtney Martin

Thank you, Courtney, for asking these tough questions. I have been thinking a lot about the militarization of police forces and how that has corrupted the culture of protection and law enforcement. SWAT teams armed to the nines and called out unnecessarily to show their might — this happened in the town where I live this week, a raid on the wrong house resulting in destruction and trauma. The so-called Scorpion Unit in the Memphis PD, a sort-of special ops unit trained to pursue the worst bad guys ruthlessly and with little thought for general public safety. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more perceived crime on the streets, the more hard-core response, leading to mistrust of cops in general, especially among more vulnerable communities, leading to perception of more crime on the streets, etc. Police departments are constantly asking for more money for better equipment (bigger guns, high-tech protective gear) and more training (read: tactical training in militaristic response), certainly not what's needed and not what has worked in any American community I'm aware of. I grieve for Tyre and Memphis, my former home town, and for all of us in this rush to dominate and obliterate rather than understand and repair.

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founding

Miracles and disasters, heaven and hell. We can't find the middle ground because we aren't grounded in collective practices of care and sharing. We need to tear down the police stations, but we also need to simultaneously be building the practices that will replace them. I was just re-reading this provocation from Alexis Pauline Gumbs, from her book Undrowned: “What if school, as we used it on a daily basis, signaled not the name of a process or institution through which we could be indoctrinated, not a structure through which social capital was grasped and policed, but something more organic, like a scale of care. What if school was the scale at which we could care for each other and move together.”

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Feb 1Liked by Courtney Martin

Thank you for these powerful and poignant words, Courtney.

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I actually heard that the modern police department model came from Sir Robert Peeler in the early 1800s in London, which he did out of necessity to curb the high crime rate at that time. Most other western countries adopted his model. Read the short summary part of the article below to see his name. https://www.britannica.com/topic/police#ref36606

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