"The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer."
We are all waking up. Going to work. School. Doing laundry. Taking naps. We are looking to get warm. Do good. Help out. Understand.
My years long interest in public education and what that means as far as access relies pretty heavily in my belief in systems. For the most part, it's a crappy thing to believe in. Systems fail us or our neighbors almost every day. Recently, my community has been having a conversation about who deserves access to what, as it pertains to public school. We have this amazingly brave and bold policy in Portland Public Schools called the Racial Equity Education Policy. The board adopted it several years ago and they have been painstakingly bringing the practices of our system in line with the policy. The policy basically states that all decisions need to be made with an equity lens: who has been historically negatively affected by the decisions we make? Who will be disproportionately affected by these decisions? It's goals are to reduce the achievement and behavior gap between historically under-served populations and white students. It is noble. It is REALLY hard to implement.
"Great!" You say. "I'm all for racial equity!"
Well. It's really hard to move systems that favour privilege without making people really uncomfortable. Portland is exceptionally bad at it. Generally. If it favours the liberal masses, the bearded cyclists, the multilingual vegetarians, or the boutique environmentalists, <other pacific northwest cliche>… Well, bring it on. If it instead, favours the poor, the black or brown, the disenfranchised….?
Get in line.
"We want you! We just need to make sure you don't make us uncomfortable!"
This is a problem. Policy props up privilege. It often legitimizes the very worst of intentions. In Portland, the policies of red lining and racial discrimination are built into our systems. What's worse, our celebrated individualism has created a system of "choice" in our schools, in our gentrifying neighborhoods, and in our legal system that favours only the people who know how to use it.
But you don't live here.
I get that.
But my guess is that you live somewhere that is held together with systems built to favour privilege. Your courts, your city council, your PTA (mine too!) is probably built on the status quo. And the status quo is usually nasty.
A friend of mine who works in the juvenile justice system, says that it's nearly guaranteed that if your parents are able to hire a lawyer for a first offense, you will almost never see the inside of a detention center. Pity those who's parents cannot.
There are terrible, terrible scenarios of justice miscarried in this country (and everywhere). They are framed as outliers and extenuating circumstances and the narrative around "just doing his/her job". In the face of this, here's what I'm asking, begging, pounding on the floor for you to do: challenge the system that works for you. Ask WHO loses when you benefit. (Win-win scenarios are almost always in the eye of the beholder.) Unpack your privilege. Drop the bootstraps. Put yourself in the shoes of Tamir Rice's mother, Eric Garner's wife or John Crawford's children. Ask WHY the system works for you. Get yourself really uncomfortable. Let yourself get angry.
This might only work if you deeply love people who are marginalized by the system. I mean, like, really LOVE and care for them. If you don't, then add that to your list.
"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."
Take yourself out of line. Make room. Cry out. Do better.