Originally posted November 4, 2020.
I know many of you are still anxious about results yet to arrive, so: let’s highlight some results that we know.
Because here in Cali — especially here in LA — there’s things worth celebrating. Prop 17 restored full voting rights to formerly incarcerated people. Prop 20, which would have increased sentencing, was voted down, as was Prop 25, which would have replaced cash bail with an even-worse system of algorithmic profiling (psst algorithms are super racist, pass it on).
Locally, we passed Measure J, which allocates 10% of county discretionary funds towards community alternatives to policing and incarceration. We’re the largest county in the country; we’re more populous than forty goddamn states! Imagine if the entire state of Michigan voted for such a measure. That’s the impact that Measure J will have.
We also voted out Jackie Lacey as District Attorney. BLM Los Angeles has been actively and visibly organizing and protesting Lacey for three-plus years now; in her time as DA, 626 people have been killed by law enforcement in the county. In 625 of those cases, she has done nothing. Her replacement, George Gascon, has an actual record of investing in restorative justice programs. And yes — being a white guy gives him leverage and privilege to dismantle the system of power in which he is entrenched, which Jackie Lacey did not have. That is real. It is also a good thing to have Jackie Lacey gone.
There are other results from Cali that are less promising (Props 15, 16, and 22, in particular). And I don’t think it’s an accident that the Good Things focus heavily on anti-carceral politics, because anti-carceral organizing has been happening in this state for decades. This organizing has been tireless and dedicated in the face of many defeats and setbacks. It has been community-led, grassroots, and helmed largely by women of color, especially Black women. And it’s just bearing fruit now. We are just now undoing the worst and most monstrous effects of the punitive system that earned so much electoral support in the 90s here in California.
Which is to say: this shit takes time. It takes time and effort. But if we can unwind the carceral state here in its most expansive and entrenched form in the entire world — home of the “Golden Gulag,” as named by Ruth Wilson Gilmore, one of those Black women abolitionists and optimists who has been leading this fight for decades — we can do it anywhere.
Our commitments are the same as they were yesterday. They are the same as they were in June, marching in the name of George Floyd. Our commitments do not change, even if the presidential results do.
“Organizing” might sound like an abstraction. It’s not. You can do it wherever you are, because organizing is just about building honest, empowered relationships; it’s the practice of love and connection. It doesn’t have to be protesting in the streets (it can be!). It can happen in your neighborhood, in your church, at your workplace. Organizing a workplace has been where most of my time has been spent over the last year. If you want to talk about that, and discuss how you can organize your workplace, drop me a line. I’m happy to chat. Even if we haven’t really talked in a decade — I’d love to talk to you. Take the risk of it being a little awkward. Love is always risky. But isn’t the whole point of all of this to build a politics of love?
On another note: yesterday I had my first colonoscopy, because it felt fitting to spend election day seeing up my own ass. So some other happy results: I am cancer-free and polyp-free, which is a big deal given family history.
I was able to do this because for the first time in my adult life I have good health insurance. For much of my adult life I have been uninsured. I was two years delayed on getting a colonoscopy, even after my brother’s doctor told me to get one ASAP, because I did not have access to health care. Because we live in a system that says that my brother’s life is quite literally worth more than mine; that because he is a high earner, and I am low-income, he deserves access to lifesaving care, and I do not.
There are people in my life who love me in personal ways, who have offered care and support, while still supporting a system that quite literally did not care whether I lived or died. This is a hard thing to live with, and it is why we must organize. Because we cannot simply understand love as something gentle and interpersonal and easy. A politics of love must be fierce, and systematic, and risky. Anything else is just comfort.
Truth is rarely comfortable. But if we want to be free — from the carceral state, from white supremacy and patriarchy and capitalism and from all the ways we imprison ourselves to accommodate these hierarchies and harms — it is the only way forward.
I love you. And the truth is: we can do this.