Tonight I went to my cross-class dialogue group, a pretty cool bunch of folks trying to wrap their heads around who they are and where they fit in relation to others. Class is the subject we don't know how to talk about. It's just not polite. So we gather in each other's homes once a month and politely transgress. Tonight's postprandial discussion centered on this, The Story of Stuff. A lot of information, brilliantly delivered.
A few hours earlier, I went on Kevin Cole's show at KEXP to talk about Real Change. We're their featured Audioasis group this month, which means we get a bunch of PSA's, a couple of interviews, and a benefit show this Saturday at the Sunset Tavern. The two-minute scheduled interview went on for ten. Kevin was cool, I was on, and the thing just flowed. I got to talk about the I-100 jails campaign, say we do "kick-ass organizing," and utter the phrase, "The more hell we raise, the bigger the checks people write." Which, actually, is true.
When I got back to Real Change after the interview, I found that a public defender had called about one of our vendors. He hasn't been around. Turns out he's been in jail for about two weeks after being arrested for standing while Black. Apparently, it's a criminal offense to loiter in a high drug crime area. You don't need to have drugs, sell drugs, or even be on drugs. All you need to do is have low enough status to get tossed in jail for nothing and be powerless to do a fucking thing about it. And no one has lower status than a homeless Black guy.
The volunter who took the lawyer's phone call gave me twenty bucks toward his $150 bail. Someone from my cross-class dialogue book handed me another twenty. I'm thinking that if I ask around, by noon tomorrow I've got his bail and we can spring him. He could, from what I understand, sit there for months over this matter of standing while Black. I think I'm starting to understand why Seattle thinks they need a new jail so damn badly, and why there are nearly ten times as many Black people on average jailed in King County than are represented in the population.
As I was writing just now, The Story of Stuff was playing in the background, and the narrator reached her conclusion:
There are people working on taking back our government, so it really is by the people and for the people. All this work is really important. But things are really going to start moving when we see the connections. When we see the big picture. When people across the lines get united, we can reclaim and reform this system into something new. A system that doesn't waste resources or people. Because what we really need to chuck is that old school throw-away mindset. ... Some say it's unrealistic, idealistic, and it can't happen, but I say the ones who are unrealistic are the ones who want to continue with the old path. That's dreaming. Remember, it didn't just happen. It's not like gravity, something we just have to live with. People created it. And we're people too, so let's create something new.She was talking about stuff, but we throw away people as well. One leads to the other. And the mass incarceration system that has one in 99 Americans behind bars isn't mandated by natural law either. Just twenty-five years ago, that didn't exist either. We made it, and we can make it go away.