Build a new one

New York Times source

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new reality that makes the existing reality obsolete.”

Bucky Fuller

It’s heartening that the protests are so widespread and mostly peaceful. The New York Times map indicates that nearly all 50 states have some sort of direct action. I like to think that the past few months have given us a bit more empathy. We’ve seen how this virus disproportionately affects the marginalized and vulnerable in our society, including people of color. We’ve also seen how indiscriminate it is, that none of us are quite as safe and comfortable as we thought.

I can’t live with myself one more day, knowing how unsafe and uncomfortable so many of my brothers and sisters feel on a daily basis, virus or not. I’ve known for years that it’s up to me to use my privilege as a light-skinned, middle-class person to help change the system. Short of treating everyone I meet with respect and kindness, I’ve been stymied for what else to do. That’s a blatant cop-out, I realize. Being busy or confused is no excuse.

This whole system of policing and “justice” is so flawed and broken. No wonder we are stymied by its complexity and seeming inevitability. Is it even possible to fix it?

In my work, we sometimes renovate and repurpose old buildings. We first have to determine whether the foundation and the main bones of the structure are sound. There is no sense putting all that effort into fixing up something that is rotten at the core. Some buildings, despite their historical significance or even the local fondness and nostalgia for them, are not worth a gut rehab. Better to tear it down and build something solid and new in its place.

Apply this to policing and criminal “justice.” Given the foundational beliefs of social hierarchy, racial superiority, and violence that underpin these systems of oppression, I think we have a tear-down on our hands. We are fortunate to have many good examples of people working to build a new reality, from community policing to conflict resolution, prosecutorial reform and prison reform. It’s a systemic problem and it needs systems-thinking solutions. Education, housing, healthcare, a fair living wage—everything is part of this system. We can’t solve one problem without addressing the rest.

While this may seem even more overwhelming, if we start with a simple truth, we will be guided at every step of the way. That truth is this: that everyone is precious, everyone is needed, everyone belongs, and everyone is worthy of love and respect.

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